After a year of little theatre and, whilst I am appreciative of the ad campaigns that have kept me afloat, it is wonderful to return to text, and even more excitingly, to song. I haven’t been in a musical show for some years and have been longing to do one for ages. They’re just such fun. As the monks say – we don’t sing because we’re happy, we’re happy because we sing. And so it is. There is just something lovely about choral singing both to participate in and to hear – this week I’ve had the fortune of doing both.

So, it’s week one of rehearsals for Creation Theatre’s Christmas production of Aladdin. It’s a Christmas show rather than panto, we’re in the arts centre, don’t you know!

We (the cast of seven) have been thrown into the deep end learning songs and harmonies, written by the OST (Oh So Talented) Jack Merivale before he leaves us briefly to be talented and brilliant somewhere else for a bit.

Physically we’ve also been put through our paces. Director Charlotte Conquest is ensuring we are all fit enough for our 12-shows-a week schedule by starting the morning with a physical work out – a DVD of an American fitness coach is projected onto the wall….

“this is a work out, not a play out”

…fitness man reminds us each day for half an hour of what is essentially body pump. I am delighted to be forced into getting fit after a somewhat cosy time in the new home with the wood burner and the kitten, and am impressed that Charlotte is the kind of director who leads the way by doing the work out herself. But that hasn’t stopped me hurting in various places after any sustained period of rest. Luckily, I’m in digs (bumpy bed) and it’s week one of rehearsals – so there haven’t been many of those.

As a director, Charlotte is creating an atmosphere of collaboration and contribution which is exciting and refreshing. I am reminded of why I became an actor as we, the cast, in our chorus roles (it’s a very ensemble piece) are encouraged to play with the various props and costumes at our disposal; umbrellas, fez hats, lockets, coins, scarves, boxes, fans. I am six years old again, playing dress-up and messing around with characters.

And when we’re not playing indoors, we’ve also found time to explore outdoors, discovering a very cool tree-house in the field by our barn. Isla, Chris, Nick and I (aka the Princess, the Genie and the Visor) were not too cool to climb up it though and nor were we too grown up to slide down the fireman’s pole it had fixed to it, either…

And, yes, we are rehearsing in a barn. But it’s a posh one, in Yarnton, with a mezzanine level. We need the height so the OST Anna can hang her silks, her trapeze and do her aerial work. This petite beauty can do chin ups! Yes, people this is the level of talent I’m dealing with daily. But, I am loving the fact that the bar is raised so high – literally. Week Two, bring it on!

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