Bryony Rutter on Pocket Dream

Bryony on touring with a whole group of men

Bryony on touring with a whole group of men

"What's it like touring with an all-male acting company?" My talkback starter for ten on a mild September day in Hampstead. Wow...No nice, gentle 'do you buy the costumes or are they made?' kind of question to warm me up, this inquisitor was straight in there. Thankfully, I can't remember what benign waffle I replied with at the time - although I know it was all because I was desperately trying to stay away from the obvious: yes it can be a little smelly and rude sometimes (like girls can't be, right?!), and no I haven't fallen in love with any of them (though I do adore them all, but that's different). So what's the answer? What's it been like?

Well, with this all-male company, it's been wonderful fun. And very, very silly. Let's face it: we were doing a one hour version of the Dream with (among other things) two boys playing girls in nighties, one boy playing a girl with blown-up rubber-glove breasts, some funky dad-dancing (if that's possible), and not one, but two, fart gags. And we were playing it to hundreds of school kids - all wonderfully vocal in their responses: howls of laughter, shrieks of astonishment, and a brilliantly grown-up 'tut' at the 's' -word.

And along with all the silliness, it's been a great privilege. Luckily for me, since I really didn't have much to do during the show (shhh, I was very busy at all other times), I had the joy of watching the performance many times: which meant I also got to watch the audience. It's been a privilege to see all those young faces - to watch uncontrolled giggling, intent listening, joy, concern, disbelief - and to know that somehow Pocket Dream has made a difference. For some, it was the first Shakespeare they'd seen (see more!); for some, it was the first time they'd been to the theatre (go more!). For some, we were exam-aides (don't forget the bits we cut!), and for others we were warm-ups for their own school productions (hope they went well - fart gags or not!). And in every school and theatre we toured to, there were people asking questions, finding out more, wanting to know how theatre works. It's a privilege to share some of what we do with a young, inquisitive audience.

And offstage? Well, that was, unsurprisingly, hilariously bonkers. Folllowing Jonathan's update at Hampstead, we had a busy week in Kent (sadly, on our afternoon off we discovered that Whitstable had the afternoon off too, so no oysters), a fly-by to Bedales school (alma mater of our very own Ed Hall, now more readily remembered by the company as the school with the longest 'walk of shame' in fairy-basic costumes), and a border-crossing to Wales (where 'a-build-your-own-hotel-room' episode was balanced by beautiful beaches). And then there was Aberystwyth. It's true, there is photographic evidence of five of us in a hot-tub in a howling gale on top of a Welsh hillside, but as the camera belongs to Bridget, the only other girl on the tour, I'm kind of hoping she believes in female solidarity...

So, what's it like touring with an all-male company? Well, really, it's like touring with any other company: there are cues to give, tea and biscuits to buy, skips to haul and socks to wash. But when all that work is accompanied by a daily rendition of a vamped-up, beat-boxed 'Purple Haze' number, with kids and adults alike reeling with laughter, the work is pretty much like play.

I couldn't tell from the tone of voice whether the talkback questioner (significantly a female) just thought I was a bit crazy, or was angling for my job. May be a bit of both...

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