Year of the Train!

For Bash Street Theatre, 2008 has been the ‘year of the train’ – and how to get one to crash through the back of our set, on cue and without too much damage to repair.

It has also been another year of European touring, Channel-hopping, 18-hour van journeys, loading and unloading (and cursing the speed-restrictor that was fitted to our van last year) – but above all it has also been great fun.

The devising, making and rehearsing of our new show THE STATION took up the first three months of the year. The show was jointly commissioned by Gloucester City Council, Haverhill Town Council, the National Theatre, North Devon Festival, Penwith District Council in Cornwall, Swindon Borough Council, Waterford Spraoi Festival , Winchester Hat Fair and also Arts Council England – to all of these many thanks for your support .

There is always pressure to deliver your best when presenting new work, but when you have the backing of organizations that have put faith in you company in the form of funding, then you are even more anxious about the quality of the show. So a series of preview shows with THE STATION in Cornwall in April was a fantastic way to start the season. The weather was kind, the audiences were enthusiastic, and the train usually arrived on time. In fact on one occasion it even arrived early due to an unusually strong south-westerly wind!

Since then we have toured THE STATION successfully, despite the adverse weather, to all the commissioning festivals and to showcases in Germany, France, and Spain, and of course we have been constantly talking and revising and cutting and adding and talking some more!

The show seems to have been successful because we are currently dealing with enquiries for 2009 from France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Norway, South Korea, the Czech Republic as well as the UK.

But 2008 has also been the ‘year of touring two shows’ because our silent-movie show CLIFFHANGER! is proving as popular as ever, especially with audiences abroad. The only drawback to this is that touring schedules rarely fall into convenient patterns. The summer was upon us before we managed to sort out the logistics of travelling with both shows in the back of the van – basically there was just not enough room. Consequently, although the beginning of June was beautifully straightforward, with THE STATION touring to Manchester, North Devon, Swindon, Cornwall and Haverhill, the next few weeks looked like this:

Four days in Italy with CLIFFHANGER! – two days in Winchester with THE STATION – four days in Germany with CLIFFHANGER! – four days in France with THE STATION – four days in Belgium with CLIFFHANGER! – two days in outhern Ireland with THE STATION – two days in Spain with CLIFFHANGER!

Between each of these journeys we had just 24 hours back in Penzance to reload the van with the next show before setting off again!

Highlights of the year? Performing to 3,000 people in a huge amphitheatre in Heppenheim in Germany; dancing in the rain with our children during a thunderstorm in Italy; the showcase festivals in Rastatt, Chalon and Tàrrega; the Festival of Fools in Belfast; the Kendal MintFest; the generosity of a lovely audience in North Devon.

Not so highlights? Standing in the pouring rain looking at a windswept set in La Rochelle (rain stopped play); deferring to a military band procession in La Coruna (band stopped play); arriving very late and very tired at a half-closed hotel in Tyneside – no bar, no breakfast!

We crossed the Channel 20 times this summer, and drove more than 22,000 miles. Next year we are still touring both shows…but next year we are buying a trailer!