Sunderland/Blackpool: Dodgems, Sound Issues and Floating Feet

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So as I warned you all in my last post I wasn’t able to post last week due to the fact that I was going straight from Sunderland to Blackpool. Having said that my journey from Blackpool to Bristol, conveniently leads me through London with a day to stop off at the studio and post this. So here it is, my combined Sunderland and Blackpool blog post.

Although Guildford was really the beginning of the tour, it didn’t feel like a tour until we got to Sunderland. Since Guildford was just close enough to London to commute every night Sunderland was the first place I was staying away from home.

There were also a few little changes to show as in Guildford we’d had no fly bars which meant we couldn’t fly in any scenery from above the stage. Of course Sunderland is a massive theatre and has plenty of fly bars so of course all that scenery went back in. Just as soon as we’d got used to one version of the show suddenly there’s all these heavy bits of scenery that are all to happy to drop on your head…but only in a blackout so you literally won’t know what hit you. The first night in Sunderland was a bit tense, it was a new stage with different challenges and scenery and everyone was still knackered from the first week, but as far as I can remember nothing went wrong. Having said that I can’t remember what I had for lunch today.

The rest of the week generally went without much of a hitch. Although there was a bit of panic with a dodgem at one point when it decided to take on a mind of it’s own and head for the front row of the audience. But there wasn’t much of a problem. The Sunderland Empire is a massive theatre and we had some truly amazing audiences especially towards the end of the week.

Then it was on to Blackpool, via a short day trip to see my Grandparents in Yorkshire of course. The Blackpool Grand, despite being a very lovely theatre, was not without it’s difficulties. The stage, for a start is on a rake, meaning that it’s slightly higher at the back than it is at the front. Sounds like a great idea as it means that characters like mine who hang around upstage in the background quite a lot also can still be seen by the audience. The problem with it is that after a while it really takes it’s toll on your legs, especially your knees!

The second main problem we had was that there was very little space backstage. The biggest effect this had was that there was no space to run round the back of the set if you needed to come on from the other side. Instead you had to go down a flight of steps, along a corridor that led you underneath the stage and then back up another flight of steps. This adds a good few seconds to your journey, which doesn’t sound like much, but in a show like Dreamboats where there are musical cues all over the place, it really makes a difference. The show is pretty exhausting in itself but combined with the sub-stage corridor and the rake and after a week you’re pretty knackered. It probably sounds like I’m moaning but I’m not really. Having these new challenges thrown at you each week keeps your brain in gear. It’s part of the fun of touring and is almost a way of keeping the show nice and fresh.

In my blog about Guildford I mentioned that we nearly stopped the show on our first night. Well in Blackpool we had our very first show stop of the tour. It was fairly early on in the week (Tuesday I think) and I’m still not entirely sure what happened. We came out of the first number, “Let’s Dance”, and as usual headed straight into the scene, introducing all the characters. Suddenly there was a very loud, high pitched ring blasting out into the auditorium and onto the stage. Despite this the scene continued, even when all our microphones went dead, until stage management stopped the show. As I said, I’m still not sure what caused the sound to go haywire but according to the show’s sound technicians the solution was switching off the sound desk and switching it back on again. Thankfully the show didn’t stop for long and we were up and running again within a few minutes, but it was rather exciting and it definitely got the audience on our side! I think that night we had some of the biggest cheers we’ve ever had during the curtain calls.

One other very cool thing that deserves a mention is the fact that we’ve had lots of programmes to sign these last few weeks. It’s weird because I’d assumed that no-one would want the autograph of the guy that stood in the back but apparently lots of them do. This is the first show I’ve done that’s been high profile enough to warrant people wanting to meet you afterwards and it’s very cool. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we come out of the stage door to a sea of fans every night, but once of twice a week there’s usually someone who wants to meet us all for a brief moment. It’s cool because: A) I love the fact that people care enough about the show to want to meet us, and B) because a few years ago I was that guy who wanted to meet all the cast afterwards. If anything it’s made me realise how much of an incredible journey I’ve been on over the last five years.

You’d think that would be enough excitement for one week but there was more! You can’t really go to Blackpool without going up the Blackpool Tower. I mean, come on, you’ve got to do haven’t you. So Saturday morning, a couple of hours before our first show of the day, a small group of us all trouped Britain’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. It surprising how much there is there. You also get to poke your head into the famous Ballroom and we were lucky enough to see a live organist on the old wurlitzer organ, although sadly we weren’t around when it rose out of the ground. They’ve also got a 4D cinema in there which, yes is a bit gimmicky, but it’s good fun all the same. Then, it’s onto the main attraction, the tower itself. Apparently it takes seven years to paint the whole thing, which makes me wonder if they ever stop. Surely by the time they finish at the top it’s time to start on the bottom again. Mind you, while we were up there I only saw one guy painting so maybe that’s why it’s takes so long. Once you’re up there, one of the coolest things about the tower is it’s glass floor, hence the photo of my foot that appears to be floating 300 feet off the ground! It’s very weird the first time you go on it but you soon get used to it.

So that’s it I guess. I’ve been back in London overnight to see my family before heading on to Bristol today. By the time you read this I’ll probably already be there. I promise you won’t have to wait two weeks for another update this time. I’ll be in London next weekend too so you can expect another post from me then…because I know you’re all hanging on my every word.

Thank you if you’ve seen the show in either Sunderland or Blackpool. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you’re coming to see it in Bristol then I suppose I’ll see you soon!

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