Pre show notes for While We’re Here

Welcome to these pre-show notes for While We’re Here, by Barney Norris, in a co-production by Farnham Maltings, Up in Arms and the Bush Theatre, directed by Alice Hamilton.

The audio described performance takes place at 2.45 next Saturday, May 13th. There will be a touch tour at 1.15pm, to allow us to walk the set and handle some of the props, and we hope the actors may also be able to join us. Please let the Box Office know if you’d like to attend the touch tour so that we have an idea of numbers. Then these notes will be delivered live through the headsets at 2.35 with any changes, to refresh your memory and also, of course, to check that your headset’s working.

The play lasts for an hour and a quarter with no interval, and it will be described by me, Jane Brambley. However, there is actually very little description needed in the course of this play, so you’ll hear very little from me.

While We’re Here is the first production in the Bush Theatre’s new Studio, an intimate venue with space for 70. As with the main auditorium at the Bush, the seating will be arranged to suit the play, and on this occasion it takes the form of tiered seating facing one end of the space. As we enter the studio and move forward towards the front, the seating rises on our right, and the acting area faces us directly ahead.

We are confronted with a modest living room. It is clean and comfortable enough, but provides few clues about the person who lives there, as if whoever it is leaves very little trace behind them. The furniture is arranged just so, as if by a set of unwritten rules, and everything is very tidy.

The walls are pale grey, and the carpet cherry red. The right side wall is papered with a design of pink peonies, carefully chosen to match the carpet. A beige leather three-seater settee stands at the back centre with three cushions on it. They’re covered with geometric patterns in dark brown, grey, white and cherry, and co-ordinate with an easy chair by the left hand wall.

There’s a whiff of the seventies in the geometric shapes on the fabric, and the bold floral wallpaper covering just one wall of the room. In the left back corner, beyond the chair, a glass-panelled door stands open – this leads to the rest of the house.

In the centre of the back wall is a wide window, exactly the width of the sofa beneath it, and covered with vertical white blinds, which are closed. Two-tone grey curtains frame the window, hanging from a metal rail. A small bright landscape decorates hangs on the wall to the left of the settee, with a furry footstool beneath it. There’s a plain wooden blanket box at the right end of the sofa, and a group of photos on a black background occupy the wall above it. Some are landscapes, some show a smiling woman with a young girl.

In the back right corner of the room is a stand supporting three lights in tulip shaped white shades, and beneath it on the floor, the only real clue that someone has recently been here – a plain brown rucksack.

A wooden cabinet stands against the wall on the right. It’s open-plan, and supports a set of shelves, which house books, small framed photos, and a white teddy bear: there’s a CD player on the bottom shelf. A small blanket box covered in beige tweedy material squats in the front right corner of the room.

In this room we meet Carol and Eddie.

Carol is middle-aged – late forties or early fifties. Her figure has begun to spread, and she hides it with a big baggy cardigan over a sensible knee length skirt, her feet snuggled into drab beige bedroom slippers. Carol has a round face with plump cheeks rather like a chipmunk, brown eyes, a shy smile, and a cap of bright reddish brown hair. When she reads she dons a pair of unfashionable spectacles withbrown frames. As she moves quietly round the house making things straight, or from time to time settles comfortably in the armchair, she appears to be a home bird through and through. We first meet her in a grass green scoop necked top with an oatmeal coloured cardigan over a grey skirt. She wears no jewellery.

Her house guest Eddie could hardly be more different. He’s about the same age as Carol, but seems younger. Tall and lean, he flings himself restlessly onto the settee or perches on the arm,fizzing with energy. His brown eyes flash and he gestures expansively as he searches for words to outline his plans.

Eddie is bald, but grizzled stubble marks his chin. Where Carol is small, compact and pale, he is large, untidy and dark. Eddie wears old clothes – blue or grey tee-shirts with plasticized designs on the chest, over a pair of charcoal grey cargo pants and old trainers.

Carol is played by Tessa Peake-Jones, and Eddie by Andrew French.

The lighting is designed by Sally Ferguson, and the sound by Dom Coyote.

The set is designed by James Perkins, and the play is directed by Alice Hamilton.

And that’s the end of these pre-show notes.