6 days to go.

No blog, written in snatched, occasional moments without much forethought, can capture all the twists and turns and multiple challenges of this journey.  So taking it from just now – I was sitting back after rehearsal, late up again, dwelling on all the individual personalities  that we have in this team; and then the collective commitment of them to battle through the heat and show an ever better drive and focus to get things running on stage.

Like every amateur company we will be under-rehearsed – but I’m starting to think that’s not a wholly bad thing. Each one of them is a wonderful, surprising, uniquely gifted human being. Space must be left for them to define the performance with their spirit, knowing they are not just a regimented rabble and that that they hold the key to bringing the addictive edge of live performance.

Also burning at the back of my mind, I am painfully aware I have to write my programme notes by Friday. Something I am always loathe to do for fear of pretension.  So the two thoughts merge – all these lovely people on this good endeavour – and the need to write something pertinent and palatable for the programme. Is this helping? Not sure …

My mind is drawn to Moussa, Nuoh, Salman and Angelina. The true ‘strangers’ in our cast. They came to the UK for very different reasons and from very different circumstances.  In working with them and their incredible generosity, we have learnt so much about what welcome is.  Alongside this, in Moussa’s struggle with accommodation and Salman’s sudden desperate situation we were given a challenge to confront some of the real issues those who leave their homeland have.

The story of the making of this show is not the story we will tell.  This is broad brush, outdoor entertainment for all the family – it has no truck with nuance or subtlety and cannot begin to reflect the realities of the human machinery behind it. But in this effort to see and understand the other, in the research and in the reality of working together and confronting these things, we have helped in each other in untold regards.

On Sunday, we celebrated Iftar.  Nuoh cooked an astonishing array of heavenly food – we sat with 40 friends, old and new, in the Arts Centre garden and sang and smiled – all with the Mayor in attendance. It felt good. We have reached 500 school children, three new estate communities, supported the new School of Sanctuary scheme and enjoyed singing in the city for refugee week.  And now the theme of the civic year is announced as ” A City of Welcome” and New Routes and the Integration Partnership are the named civic charity. It seemed that the world went mad for a little while but this issue is never going away. We are on point. Welcome is a good theme.

Welcome takes the effort of a common collective of simple human interest and concern for the other – for the many not the few if you like. And making theatre, especially this show, is the same. And make it from scratch in six months and you HAVE to show appreciation for those around you.

Much like the blog we can never tell you it all, nothing but a small sniff of it. What Norwich people will see on stage will reflect to them a measure of connection with their grandly chequered heritage – and say something about what makes them [us] who they [we] are.  So we trust that in us and in our audience – there may be a bit more capacity to extend welcome and understanding to people of all types.

I guess somewhere in there are my programme notes: modern realities, marvellous difference, essential interest, the joys of generosity, making theatre. And love. Love conquers all. To make theatre like this is an act of love – and as a luvvie – I love it! Does that sound pretentious? Probably – but it’s true. Better get on with it …