We’re well into the swing of things now! After our first week, tweaking things as we went along to adapt to our environment and technical demands, Under The Market Roof has officially set up shop! Generally the cast are called at 6pm each evening to receive some notes from Liz regarding the previous evening’s performance (although later in the week, we’re let off the hook as it were) - before we crack on with helping the production team set up. I say help - the crew have deftly set up all the technical equipment, so our principal and supporting cast help assemble tables, chairs, fairy lights and blankets. We move like a well oiled machine - and that’s before any mulled wine gets in our system!
Monday's show saw us contend with Storm Ophelia - or at least the remnants of her anyway! We had to adapt the performance space ever so slightly to accommodate the windy weather; we put the sides on the marquees to help block the worst of the gales, put extra weights on things (I probably could’ve done with some in my boots to be fair) and put to bed the tablecloths in favour of some silver tins to weigh down the menus
and perishables! We were very fortunate and nothing particularly went awry - save a few empty take-away tea cups being bolstered into the breeze! Audiences still turned out in a great number and the added element of unpredictability only seemed to add to the excitement! By Tuesday, things had calmed down considerably and we could return to business as usual - although it was still particularly chilly with the breeze, so we kept the sides of the gazebo’s on… not that it stopped people from cocooning themselves in red blankets - at times when I looked into the audience, I thought I’d found myself in a live version of E.T! It’s funny that I notice how different the show feels each night, depending on which members of our supporting cast are present. Not all of them can commit to every show, so although some perform every evening, others dip in and out - they all bring such a different energy to performances, it really is a joy to experience! Such is the wonder of ‘live’ performances - every evening is different!
Following a lovely review in the Chorley Guardian (http://www.chorley-guardian.co.uk/news/market-play-goes-down-a-storm-in-chorley-1-8809353), ticket sales began to fly and Wednesday’s show was a sell-out - and what a wonderful audience; we have people from as far as Keswick and Manchester, as well as our lovely local Chorley folk! For me, I really felt like I relaxed into the performance, being able to really connect with both audience and actors, as well as listening and responding as if for the first time. In short, it was a show that I ruddy-well enjoyed (and in hindsight, possibly my favourite of the entire run)! By Thursday, we got the news that we had sold all of the seats for the remainder of the run - standing room only! What a way, to end the week! Alas, after escaping somewhat unscathed by the British weather, thus far, our luck ran out and Thursday’s show was a wash out! After battling through Amageddon-style traffic, I arrived at the market to find extra marquees had been assembled at either end of the performance space to provide extra shelter. Mind you, I think I escaped relatively well - I didn’t even need a towel at the end of the evening, as the main deluge abided until the end of the show! Phew!
Friday’s show was to another packed-out audience, not even any room to stand and unbeknownst to us, was to be our last performance! As Saturday rattled around, so did that dastardly Storm Brian and with predicted gales of 47mph, cancelled trains, flooding on local roads and motorways - the decision was made to cancel the last performance. The entire team were absolutely devastated, but the safety of our audience, cast and crew couldn’t be put at risk. This decision came late in the day - I found out around 5.30pm, when I had already arrived in Chorley and it suddenly felt like there wasn’t a full stop on Lisa’s journey. When you know you’re telling a story for the final time, there’s a distinct buzz and raw urgency that undoubtedly ends up leaking into the performance, but I hadn’t had the chance to release that energy into a show. But such is the nature of the beast - its an outdoor show, in late Autumn and as such, very much at the mercy of the elements (which in fairness has been part of the charm of the piece)! However, to say we were disappointed doesn’t quite cover it; after all the hard work, around 100 people including family members, friends that had travelled hundreds of miles and excited locals all missed out on discovering Lisa’s story for a final time - but everyone was so understanding and supportive. It just goes to show what a success this whole venture has been - to see just how much this story has touched people and drawn them in to Chorley market.
Our spirits couldn’t be quelled and regardless we headed to Speakeasy for the ‘after-show’ party to celebrate the success of the run. Speeches were made, presents exchanged and possibly even a few stray tears shed. We all departed the evening in various states of inebriation, with the crew having to return to the market the next day to commence the ‘get-out’ - packing down all the equipment, set and costumes into vans, returning them from whence they came. As the shutters came down on Chorley Market for one final time, the UTMR team dispersed - some to work together again on other shows (lighting designer Matt will return to collaborate with director Liz on her next project The Secret Garden for Theatre By The Lake in Keswick), some to continue already long-established friendships, whilst others may never cross paths again - such is the transitory nature of this business. Something tells me, however, that it won’t be too long before we’re called back here - one way or another. I turn the corner of the market walk and look back at those red shutters now ingrained in my memory, hearing Lisa’s words - “all the possibilities under those shutters, all the history…” There’s a whole world under there… one Junction 8 Theatre is now forever a part of.
Don’t be a stranger - see you at the next show!