Last week, myself and twenty other cast members closed our last show of ‘Attempts on her Life’ (AOHL) by Martin Crimp, a postmodernist play exploring the identity of someone called Anne. For those of you who aren’t a theatre buff, AOHL is one of Martin Crimp’s most famous plays but it is also one of the most challenging to produce and perform. Together, the company had spent about 9 months with this play. We were there from the research and development period right to the final curtain call and it has been a hell of a journey.
It can be quite hard sometimes to explain the emotional rollercoaster of working on a theatrical production. I know some of my friends think I am being over dramatic when I say leaving a production is like leaving an eccentric, energetic family. However, I can’t berate them for not understanding as they haven’t experienced anything like it. So I would like to share my experience of a closing day.
As I walked into the theatre, I could feel my poor confused body trying to decide how to feel. After sifting through all my emotions, my body settled on exhausted. This production was physically and mentally demanding so we were all feeling a bit fragile. However, these feelings washed away as soon as I stepped foot in the dressing room, where I was met with hugs and kisses. I’ve spent every day with these wonderful people for a long time and we all have an unspoken agreement to enjoy every moment. One of my favourite parts of a last night is getting ready with all the cast and crew, my friends. We discuss our days, we laugh at the mistakes we made the night before which no one noticed, we share food and we have fun.
Soon, we get a call to go onstage and warm up. We start with a calm yoga workout, then vocal exercises and finally a series of energetic games, but this is the last night which makes it just that much more special. Warm ups are very technical as you’re meant to spend time analysing how your body feels and what you need to work on. However, on the last night it becomes this quiet moment of shared reflection. There’s this unspoken joy and sadness as everybody is acutely aware of how quickly this moment will pass. Each breath we take for vocal is shared with small, subtle smiles that we share amongst ourselves. Then come all the presents and cards, which inevitably turn into tears and hugs. This moment is our final time to say thank you, so we make the most of it!
Then we perform. I always find that last night’s are never quite as good as you hoped as there is so much pressure to make it the best performance. Some of us make some slip ups, some of us don’t, but the energy that we throw into that performance still make it one of a kind. Knowing that what you’re doing at that time won’t be replicated again is a very special feeling. It’s simultaneously an exclusive and inclusive moment. It’s golden.
But it’s over as quickly as it started and I’m always left with this cacophony of emotions. The high of the adrenalin, the happiness of what you’ve achieved, the pride, the exhaustion, the calm, the sadness are all there and it can truly be an overwhelming experience. However, I find if I just calm down and let my emotions do their thing, then it’s also a beautiful experience.
Saying goodbye is one of the hardest parts of the day. We all know that we’ll see each other again, in fact we’re already meeting up in a few weeks time but it still feels like you’re never going to see them again. As stupid as it sounds, I’ve been working with these same people day after day, night after night for a long time. We have seen each other at the best and worst of times and been there for each other when we needed support the most. Performing in a show is a very intensive experience and these people become your second family and then they’re gone. But we get over it. We pick ourselves up and look at our recent memories with fondness and look to the future. It’s a very funny world to be a part of but it’s exhilarating all the same and you can meet the best and the worst of people.
I know some of my friends think I am being over dramatic when I say leaving a production is like leaving an eccentric, energetic family but they’re the one’s missing out because it’s one hell of a ride.