Bordering on adventure…

Tomorrow we begin the final ascent… either it becomes part of history, or else consigned to oblivion, alongside other notables. I sincerely hope it’s the former.

There will inevitably be a before and an after.

This time next week, I’ll be standing proud, or else cast down… there is nowhere between. And whatever the outcome… I have some responsibility.

Lucky pendants and superstitious dances will not help us now, either it’s good and acceptable to the masses (via the applause of media) or it’s not. I think it’s good, but the next hours will prove.

It’s real then

All aboard…

Tour-bus

A bit like I’d imagined a rock & roll tour bus of the seventies… bodies spread across seats as people try to catch up on sleep after a heavy get-out, the poker players whiling away the miles & losing their pay, the bags of goodies – sweets and mags is as excessive as we get.
We’re on the road to the next place… and arrive in the dark drizzle of North London… most scramble to get off our recent home on wheels so they can light up (there’s a difference from the seventies – no smoking on the bus), before tramping dishevelled and burdened with cases into the travel hotel, cue for an age, while the staff find the booking… And yes, my name is still wrong.
This will become a familiar aspect of the next seven months. Finding the correct survival strategies will be critical. In my case, not sex & drugs & rock & roll, my likely; a book, ear-plugs and an iPod loaded with podcasts.

On to London…

Nottingham is done… and, as far as I can gather,  a success in terms of audience, including those who went to the first show where we hit the technical buffers. I met a mum and her 6yr old in a chippy after today’s first show. The child was clutching an Ice Age goody bag. I asked, “Did you like it?”. The little girl lit up, and started telling me all about it – how Peaches was stolen by bad birds and her daddy and Diego went to get her back, and there were foxes and mini sloths and bears. Her mum said she should let the man eat his chips in peace… I told her it was fine, that I had a little involvement in the show and was happy to hear first hand, that her daughter had liked it. Her mum told me, they’d come along to the show that hadn’t made it and had been given tickets for this one, so they brought gran and baby brother too. It was his first time seeing theatre (just eighteen months old) and he’d danced all the way through… now he was passed out in his buggy, clutching a plush Sid toy.

Second show went well too… cheers from the audience as the fireworks went ’round and the snow fell.

Then the pack… we get Manny, Ellie, et al in their travelling cases in three hours. Better than last time.

Now, it’s time for me to pass out now… anyone seen my buggy?

Needs his bed

 

Manny-festing…

So there’s a trend developing: As I arrive in a city, I first seek for a sanctuary… a place to hide from questions or requests – this generally involves satisfying my tummy.

Here in Nottingham, I found several home from homes.

The coffee bar Hartleys near the Goose Gate, where the owner made me a huge feta salad, despite it being closing time, and she having already done the washing up. Around me the clearing away was done… but I was not rushed, instead given space to breath. “What are you here for?” for she asked (determining my bowler out of place). “A Mammoth Adventure”‘ I said. “Ohhh!, I’m taking my daughter to see it tomorrow…. …she is so looking forward”. I drew her a quick Manny in thanks.

I love salad

The Royal Clay Oven kebab shop (Also Goose Gate), where the guy was happy to entertain a non inebriated customer at that hour and chatted while the succulent lamb shish, doused in lemon juice – charcoal grilled and the nan – puffed and baked into life in the clay tandoori oven. Loaded with fresh cut salad, home made chilli sauce and extra green chillis on the side, delivered on paper, but no gold platter would make it better – this was a meal for a mammoth.

And then 4550 Miles from Delhi (I asked at the hotel for a recommendation: parameters required – unpretensious, inexpensive and scrumptious). There followed two visits in three days. They too kept the kitchen open for me and here I was a maharaja.

It doesn’t get better

 

2000 say yes!

Tonights show was great.

The audience, as they left, were overheard singing the songs.

One little boy (about four) wouldn’t stop shouting “Fire King”… the call made by Sid’s devoted mini sloths. He’s going to be fun at home.

Wife and daughter

In the press the reviewer says, “One-third circus stunts, one-third dance and one-third musical theatre (a la Lion King) – with a bit of kung Fu  and ‘video illusion’ thrown in for good measure.” I’d add another third (maths was never my strong point) – sheer bloody commitment by a very hard working and talented cast & crew.

Therefor doubly wonderful to receive the audience’s ovation.

First Nottingham show… almost

It was all going so smoothly, until scene 9 and then the crash… ice and batteries, power spikes and computers, guidance system confusion as a result of too much interference with the laser. All possible reasons, but the upshot was three thousand people extremely patient kids and accompanying adults sat while backstage we wished and tweaked. But it wasn’t to be, and for the first time in my thirty five year career… I didn’t get to the end.

For the audience… they were offered replacement seats at one of the other forthcoming shows, or a full reimbursement, and everyone got an ice-cream.

So we did the finale to much applause and bid them farewell and sorry.

 

Back in harness…

Leave behind family and home… good to see it was normal there, school, work, cats & dog, roses still blooming and Moors in the mists.

Four train hours later and I’m a world away, with very different priorities.

Unpacking and putting our puppets back together, so that they can once more take the stage. Not as easy as it sounds, but we get there. Incorporating tweaks that will make it better. Reminding ourselves after a few days away, of why we’re here.

An odd little story… a couple of the skaters, who themselves are in quite close-fitting character suits decided that they’d spend their day off on a sunbed… they payed to be toasted, so as to appear tanned in our British winter. The setting was on gas mark seven, judging by the redness. So now they have a tight fur suit, rubbing their burnt skin… lovely!

Only two shows…

Sunday’s a day of rest, or so I’ve been led to believe.

But not for us… corrections, prepare, preset, warmup, perform before thousands.

Then do it all again.

Then pack it up, ready for tomorrow’s road.

All without tea.

The family saw and loved it. Bears, foxes and birds got their full approbation.

They came to see my mammoth

First show…

From beyond the curtain we could hear the excitement swell.

Around me cast were warming up, crew moving platforms into place, final checks on levels were carried out.

Out front ushers were ushering the thousands of children, who’d brought their adults. Many had also brought their favourite characters… plush Sids and Peaches’s – clutched, so they could show them to the real thing, that would soon be there for them.

Hush.

Audience and Ice Age Live, poised to meet.

Squeak, squeak, bang, crack…

Here we come

The boundary between the children and their heroes collapses as out of the debris of the projected ice cliff, charge the Mammoths… father and daughter, having a typical father and daughter exchange. “Be careful…” “Heard you dad…” “She hears me but she doesn’t listen…” And we’re off

For the next two hours we share a world… quite away from that which is happening outside, recession, rain, worries.

Lucky few…

So… not officially open to the public yet, but I learn that there’ll be a full run for a select few. Including representatives of Fox

Text some mums.

Minutes later… “Can I get twenty tickets?”… “Yes we’ll drive the three hours each way, just to see the show.”

And in the monitor I use to negotiate obstacles, I see that the kids are dancing in the aisles and the Fox representatives are smiling. Now there’s a true reaction.

 

Ouch…

200kilos came down hard, my knee is throbbing, but the physio has magic tape and a sponge… and back into the fray I go.

This show exists in a special place between science, art and rugby.

Full run happens and those watching love it… but I can’t post images yet.

Strapping lad