Southampton: Dogs, Big Audiences and Understudies

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So remember how a couple of weeks ago I started off my post exclaiming at how big the theatre was in Bristol…that theatre has nothing on Southampton. The photo above gives a good idea of how it looks but you don’t really get a feel for the scale of the auditorium until you stand on stage and look out at it. It still surprises me that I’m actually in a show this big, that’s playing this kind of venue and doing well in it. 

The Southampton Mayflower is our biggest theatre of the tour and, not surprisingly, it provided us with our highest ever audience which was somewhere close to 1,800 people! Earlier in the week I sent a tweet which went along the lines of: ‘To all the drama school who refused to accept me, take a look at where I’m working this week’ which was then followed by the same picture of the auditorium. Funnily enough it’s also turned out to be one of my most popular tweets with several retweets and mentions and replies. I don’t know what it is about the Southampton Mayflower but it just seems to attract attention.

Of course it hasn’t all been fun an games this week. Those of you who keep an eagle eye on me on Twitter (Hi Mum) will have noticed that on Monday I tweeted about a lost dog that we found. It’s kind of difficult to explain the whole story on Twitter when you’re limited to 140 characters so I’m going to do my best and explain it here instead.

So after the first performance we were heading back to the Jury’s Inn in Southampton where quite a few of us were staying for the week. Just as we were approaching the hotel we came across Ben (those of you who have seen the show will know him as Norman) who had found a dog, on it’s own, howling and barking in the middle of a busy road. When the rest of us turned up he had managed to get it over to a crossing platform in the middle of the road and we all crossed the road together making sure the dog got to the other side.

At this point lots of phonecalls were made which are a little difficult to remember but I think initially we called the RSPCA and got no response. Naturally after that we called Police to see what we should do with this dog, as it had a collar but no name tag or phone number on it. The Police said they would send someone out to us as soon as they could but 40 minutes later we were still waiting for them turn up.

Eventually we saw a Police Car come round the corner and assuming it was for us we flagged it down. Instead it turned out they were tailing some guy who just happened to have walked by less than 30 seconds ago so they couldn’t stop. It also seemed that they couldn’t take the dog in a car and that we were actually waiting for a Police Van to become available. I don’t know how rough Southampton is but it doesn’t put me in good faith that there were no available Police Vans on a Monday night!

After the Police car moved on we called the Control Room again to see how much longer it would take and what we should do in the meantime. By now we’d been outside with this dog for over an hour. The Police gave us a 24 Hour Hotline for the RSPCA which we called up and were met with, quite frankly astonishing news.

The RSPCA refused to take the dog.

We called and told them the situation, that we’d found a howling dog all on its own, limping from it’s back leg, blind in one eye and shivering like mad and the RSPCA didn’t want anything to do with it. It wasn’t that they didn’t have the resources to get out to us, it wasn’t that they couldn’t do anything because it was out of working hours, they literally just didn’t want anything to do with the dog. They said unless it was dying they wouldn’t come out. Again we pointed out that the dog was half blind, limping and howling it’s head off and if left on it’s own it could have easily died but they responded by telling us it was probably an old dog and would die anyway. This is the RSPCA!

Sorry but that’s completely unacceptable. The RSPCA is an incredibly rich charity whose main purpose is to prevent cruelty to animals. All year round we see adverts on the TV asking us to donate whilst showing us success stories that have been made possible with previous donations. They very gladly take your money but the minute you call up needing them to help a stray dog they don’t want to know. That is shocking, disgraceful and disgusting on several levels. I would like to make it very clear again that they refused to help this dog, not because they had no resources available at that time, but literally because they couldn’t be bothered. I really can’t explain how angry about this I am. It is the RSPCA’s job to help yet they didn’t.

We called the Police back and told them the situation. The Police were also shocked at the response we got and told us they would be calling the RSPCA and I really hope something comes of that. In meantime we were told to tie the dog up and leave it if we couldn’t stay with the dog. Well of course we weren’t going to do that. We’d spent nearly two hours out there with this dog and we weren’t going to abandon it now. Various calls were made to local vets who were all to happy to take the dog but all said it was the RSPCA’s responsibility to get the dog to them. There was actually a point were we were going to call a cab and take the dog to the nearest vet ourselves until suddenly various breakthroughs were made.

Eventually a group of locals walked past who recognised the dog and said it belonged to a local homeless man. The story they told us was that he’d had his head kicked in earlier that evening and the dog must have got lose in the fight. They wanted to take the dog away with them there and then, but we were initially reluctant as we thought it might need the medical attention of a vet. Luckily as things were getting a bit tense the Police Van turned up.

You’d think that’d be the end of the story but no, the Police took these people away to go and find their Homeless friend. Meanwhile the RSPCA had somehow been convinced to come and collect the dog. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why they suddenly changed their minds after two and a half hours of telling us they didn’t care, but the next thing we knew they were sending out a van. The homeless man wasn’t anywhere to be found so when the RSPCA turned up they took the dog. The RSPCA guy didn’t look particularly pleased to be there and after saying nothing we were left to explain how we’d found the dog howling and limping in the road. When we’d finished he basically shone a torch at the dog and practically threw it in the back of his van before driving off. By the time it was sorted it was 2am and we’d been out there for close the three hours. I won’t go on another rant because I think you all get the idea of how annoyed I am but it really was disgraceful behaviour from the RSPCA all round.

Later in the week the dog was sighted back with it’s owner. I don’t know how it got there and I don’t know if it was treated at all but it certainly looked happier than it did on that night.

Time to leave all that behind now. I’m skipping from the Monday night very quickly to Saturday afternoon. I know this is a long post already but I do want to give a little mention about our very first show with understudies on. Since Bristol there’s been an illness going round the company, I mentioned in my last post that it hit me particularly bad in Swansea, but so far no-one has missed a show. This week the bad luck came to Anna who plays Donna, and for the final show in Southampton we had to have the understudy on. In all fairness she did remarkably well to do as many shows as she did before going off.

With a show like Dreamboats where there are so many live musicians onstage, having understudies on can get a bit hectic and so we spent most of the time in between shows rehearsing the two people who would cover Donna and (because of the way the understudies work) also Daisy. Pretty much all I want to say is a massive well done to Tara and Rachel for coping so well with such short notice and limited rehearsal. They really pulled it off and I know that the whole company are really proud of them for keeping the show going, even if it was a bit seat of the pants at times!

So that’s pretty much it for this bumper blog post. So much has happened this week that I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface but despite an odd start and a hectic end it really has been a fantastic week in a fantastic theatre. All that’s left for me to say is, ‘Bring it on Lowestoft!’

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