My first professional Grahamstown festival

It is 1:30pm. I am sitting outside in the garden of St Paul’s with the warm, venturing to rather hot, sun on my back. Just 2 hours ago I resembled an Eskimo, all set for the day with boots, long socks, stockings, leg warmers, a jersey, a thermal shirt and wooly jacket. Now I am in a dress, barefoot and somewhat clammy in the armpits. Oh Grahamstown.

I woke up this morning after little more than 4 hours sleep. Definitely not because of my own choosing. That kind of night will come later when my run is over. I woke up with puffy eyes and a husky voice. I was up until 4am. Our technical rehearsal, a rehearsal in which lighting and placing are checked, ran later than expected. All of the 6 shows at Glennie Hall were running late for tech. So we finished at around 12 midnight, dropped off everyone that needed to be dropped off, wolfed down some dinner and began to prepare ourselves for bed. Heaters needed to be put on, lights switched off, doors locked, gates closed, windows secured, teeth brushed and so on. It was late but me and one of my cast members couldn’t sleep. We drank tea and chatted about the current state of our lives. Mainly we complained about not having lovers with us to keep the bed warm. But then eventually our lids got heavy and our speech laboured. It was bed time.

We said our good nights, turned off the last few lights and made our way to the calm of sleep. I had just finished charging my waterless hot water-bottle when I heard the sound of glass breaking. It sounded far away and I was almost too far asleep to care but then I heard the words that we all dread: “Get up, someone is outside trying to get it.”

The first thing that went through my head was, shit, I knew that I should have packed some pjs. I was butt naked in bed and now had to act fast before that someone got in or before my housemates opened the door and turned the situation into an awkward one rather than a terrifying one. I dived out of bed, lunged for my onsie, grabbed at my slippers, dashed for my cellphone, bag, tablet and torch and then raced out of my room not realising that everything was on the wrong way, on the wrong foot, beanie falling over my panic-stricken face. The friend that I had just been speaking to laughed at me as I clambered around in my clothing trying to fight for the correct leg, arm and buttons. This definitely was not a time for laughter, yet here she was, having the time of her life, laughing at my clothing mess. I had to join her, it was quite entertaining.

We gingerly crept out of our front door and flung ourselves into the adjacent apartment front door. We were now 6 people, 3 men and 3 women, safety in numbers. This apartment, as we learned on entering, was the apartment that someone had attempted to break into. Glass was all over the lounge floor, the door hung at a slight angle. Dear little padlock, we love you. Our director, one of the 3 men, was packed and ready to leave the apartment before any of us even knew what was happening next. The caretaker arrived, set with hand gun and torch. He was sweating and quite clearly stressed. I remember thinking, why the fuck are you sweating. It is 3am in Grahamstown, I am frozen to the core. The next thing that crossed my mind and then got stuck there for a long time, was, why does this man have a hand gun and why is he so ready to use it?

We needed to go to bed, opening night was now only a few hours away and here we were standing in a crime scene,  shivering, confused and very afraid. We were moved across the road to St Paul’s and put into nice warm rooms with nicer beds and warmer heaters. Happiness came slowly, and so did sleep but eventually both came and I fell asleep and woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Now I am on the grass and soon will be going over my lines and choreography for this afternoons performance of Home, performed at Glennie Hall. There is never boredom amongst artists. Life is always way too dramatic. Goodness me, I chose this life.

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