A young(ish) opera singer's random thoughts and observations.

Friday, 31 October 2014

A survivor's guide to touring

I  wish this post's title didn't feel quite as literal as it does to me at the moment, as probably the defining memory of this tour (MWO Carmen) for me will be the collision we had on our way back for  one of the shows... But as everyone keeps telling me - these things happen, and I will try my best not to dwell on it in the following paragraphs, though it does stay with you. But it also makes you thankful for everything you have, which is ultimately a good thing.

So touring... It's a funny old thing. With the structure of this particular tour, we spend most of our time either driving or hanging around. Various company members have differing approaches to staying over after/before shows, but however you do it, it's very tiring. It's a kind of tiredness I'd not experienced before - it's not crippling, but it never leaves you, no matter how many days off you have. Maybe it's my body conserving energy for when I need it, which is my 5 minutes of glory on stage as Moralès and then all the ensemble scenes where 8 of us try to generate the impact of a full-sized chorus. But for the hour or so I spend on stage performing there are 3 hours hanging around and about 6 hours of driving to deal with.

In many ways these extra hours become the meat of life on tour. And you spend all this time with your cohort, sharing dressing rooms, cars, green rooms, hotels, cottages, etc. This is where I have to say that I have lucked out massively. I don't think I've ever worked with a better group of people. We have fun both off stage and on, with running in-jokes galore which do occasionally spill into the performances, which I think is great, because it keeps us on our toes and prevents the show from becoming stale (with a tour of this length it is a real concern). If you ever see me in person, do ask about that time with the rubber chicken ;)

But it doesn't take much imagination to envisage what it could be like if the company wasn't as like-minded and easy-going as we are. With no personal space, there would be nowhere to get away. It could end up being quite a trying time... But like I said, we lucked out.

So as this is supposed to be a 'guide', I suppose my first bit of advice would be - surround yourself with good colleagues... OK, so that's impossible, because we have no control over who we get cast alongside. I guess I could modify the advice to - be the best colleague you can be. It can be tempting to let yourself be a bit down and moan when you're tired, but it's infectious and in the long run unnecessary. If it has to be done, do it in private, or temper it with something positive. After all, you may be touring some of the country's smallest and most dilapidated venues in the worst weather in living memory, but it could always be worse - you could be stuck in an office. Face it - you're living many people's dream! Be thankful and smile.

Always bring your chargers. Running out of battery is no fun, especially as getting your head down over your small screen (or a book) may be the only approximation of personal space you're going to get, as well as being your line of communication with the outside world (which, despite the feeling that there is nothing outside the tour, is still spinning merrily).

Be kind to yourself on the days off. As tempting as it may be to try and 'get on with your life - do your admin, line up auditions, do said auditions, schedule lessons and coachings, or do teaching; it'll add to the tiredness, so pace yourself and accept that you deserve a half-day in bed with Netflix from time to time.

Book your accommodation in good time, as cheap rooms can be tough to find on short notice.

You may think touring is a good opportunity to do some sight-seeing and get to know the country. Hmmm... It's not worked out that way for me. If we have enough time for a walk, it's normally only as far as the nearest decent coffee or the shops. It may just be the way my mind works, but again it's that thing of conserving your energy for when you need it - the stage and the driving. That being said, driving around the UK in nice weather has been a joy, especially away from motorways - it really is a beautiful country.

There are some gadgets I've found come in handy, with the winner being a Bodum travel mug with built in cafetière. Freshly brewed coffee that stays warm for the entire drive back is a wonderful thing. That and a Pratchett audiobook.

So touring... Try it if you can. It's an experience.

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