God Rest You Merry Gentlemen (And Ladies)

I am singing Christmas songs as I shuffle around the house trying to recover from last week.  There is nothing quite like doing a Christmas show to up your levels of festive spirit (and there's nothing like doing the take-down of a set in 90 minutes for covering you in bruises).  I am tired and sore, but very happy.

The Christmas Workshop was, in the end, a pretty magical experience - both for us and for audience members (of all ages).  Things I'll treasure (and there are so very many of them) is the memory of an entire audience singing 'Silent Night' in British Sign Language with the cast, of various mums crying at our Capra-esque scene in a train station, of a teenager asking us if the Elf Rap was downloadable (soon!) and of a tiny wee lassie who wasn't even 3 holding aloft a Christmas Tree bauble while everyone in the room egged her on, so that the whole audience could hear a Christmas message.  Memories are made of this stuff.


Warm up - Yes. Jennifer Bates is completely off the ground...

The dictionary definition of 'Ensemble' is "the general or total effect of something made up of individual parts".

I believe that the kind of magic that happened this weekend is a total effect made by the collective effort of the group of talented individuals who became The Christmas Workshop Ensemble.  And that that collective effort - joyfully undertaken - will always create a performance that lets individuals lift what they do to a new level or into a new area.

In theatre - as at Christmas - it's just as important to give as it is to receive.  It makes for a better performance, a better experience.

Ashley Smith, Brian Ferguson, Ben Dunn, Eilidh McCormack, Elaine Stirret, Jeremiah Reynolds, Jennifer Bates, Matthew McVarish, Maite Delafin and Simon Donaldson worked wonderfully as an Ensemble and made a Christmas Show to remember - not only performing but creating, writing, composing, designing, playing, singing, signing, propping, recording, editing, costuming, marketing, creating set, staging and lighting....they did absolutely everything and The Christmas Workshop was truly their own.

In this show the sense of a group effort was particular effective (Christmas shows are Ensemble pieces by their very nature) and it was also particularly relevant. Next week Jeremiah Reynolds (Sparks the Elf) - a pivotal member of our Ensemble - leaves Scotland to return to his (original) home to America.  The Christmas Workshop was his last show with us for a little while and we are all going to miss him enormously.

Jeremiah has been with the company for a long time.  He began with a residency at our Fringe Playrooms a couple of years ago, has been in a number of our productions, countless workshops and 6 weeks ago he played Hamlet in our Lab at the Tron Theatre.  In addition to acting, writing, editing film, doing voiceovers, rap and rollerskating he found our venue - The Glasgow City Free Church - for The Christmas Workshop and floated the idea of us making a temporary theatre space inside their building.  Then he built it with Ryan Smith, spending a whole day up a ladder hanging snowy white drapes.

He bakes - beautifully (and a lot).  In fact he cooks for people at the drop of a hat.  He has sailed, walked and run so many bits of Scotland in his time here he puts the rest of us to shame.  He trained here - at RSAMD - and he's taught here. He's been here so long his accent is undefinable.  He's been a best man.  He's danced at a number of weddings.  He has a kilt. He has singlehandedly introduced Thanksgiving to dozens and dozens of Jocks. He knows, cares about and is cared about by, more people than I think I've ever met.  In short - he left his family and friends in America to come here when he was just a young 'un (something I think is both brave and hard to imagine) and in the years he has been here he's made Scotland his home.  And now he is in the enviable but difficult position of having a family and friends in two different countries.

And The Ensemble are by no means alone in knowing that they'll miss him like a heartache when he moves.

But you know what? We say 'pah' to geography.  We say 'pah' to physical distance.  We say 'pah' to different time zones. We live in the age of transatlantic travel, email, skype, messaging and social media.  2 years ago Ailsa Watson, Jake Stewart and myself put in a bid for an world wide arts network - The Lunar Society.  We worked out about  a dozen different ways to stay connected to artists and do great collaborative work, no matter where someone was based.  The bid was unsuccessful but the ideas were great and we have every intention of using them so that Jeremiah remains an Ensemble member.

As they were taking down the set on Saturday Brian said to Ben "You know that's it, right?".  He meant that if you'd done a good bit of work with us we are unlikely to let you go.  That once you're in, that's it, in some form or another, you're stuck with us. I think that's a good thing.  And Jeremiah is too much a part of what we do to imagine that flying to another country will really put much of a dent in that.  The great thing about an permanent Ensemble is you don't shape the people to the work, you shape the work to the people - wherever they are.

So who knows what that might mean?

Travel safe Jeremiah.  Take care. Let's see what the next part of the adventure brings....

all our love

The Poorboys