Wednesday, 14 August 2013

An Insomniac's Guide to the Theatre

If I had to sum up the last week, it can be done in just one word. A word that I have repeated so many times over these past few days, that I'm a little nervous to utter it again. However, there is no better place to start. The word? 


It all began with a throwaway idea by a friend who asked how I would feel about turning this blog
into a play that would appear at London's Camden Fringe. The throwaway idea began taking shape, delayed not a little by the tough decision of permanently shedding my cloak of anonymity. Take one playwright ready to bare all to anyone who will listen (I mean that in the nicest, most artistically possible way!) and one paramedic who has spent a lifetime building barriers to his innermost thoughts, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. 

Instead of disaster, however, we had a hit on our hands. Hundreds of people from all walks of life - ambulance crews, medical staff, other actors, general members of the public and even a blogger or two - came to see the play, to experience a little of what goes on in our insular world. "An Insomniac's Guide to Ambulances" draws on both my experiences as well as those of writer / producer / director / general dogsbody /chief cook and bottlewasher Rachel Creeger, who in a previous life tackled the world of social work. 

It is a mix of the hideous and hilarious, of the terrific and the terrorising, of the dangerous and the dignified, of the sublime to the (dare I say it again?) surreal. Conflicting emotions battle for room on the stage, work life impacts unintentionally on home life, idealism fights reality, insomnia wards off sleep. All of these are portrayed thanks to Rachel's excellent writing and some fantastic acting by people who, by their own admission, had had little to no contact with the ambulance world prior to taking part in this play. 

Back to where I started - what made it surreal? Well, if you mean something other than the fact that I travelled a round trip of 5,000 miles, just to see a play, the surrealism began by hearing my own words, my own thoughts spoken in somebody else's voice. I had read the script a hundred times, but I was used to seeing words written down. After all, I had written at least some of them. However, hearing them, seeing how they are portrayed, sensing them spoken with an outsider's emotion, was an experience that left me with a chill down my spine, as well as proud and not a little humbled. 

This blog started as nothing more than a figurative notepad for me to voice my thoughts, to tell some stories, to open a porthole into my world, even if no-one else was interested. The fact that it has taken on a life of its own and opened up to a whole new style of audience has left me with a renewed sense not only of pride in my job, but responsibility in its portrayal. 

As for the play itself - it still has two more days (14th/15th August) to run. You can book tickets here if you're quick! The audience feedback has been incredible and the giggles and knowing murmurings I heard from some of my old colleagues must mean that the nail has been well and truly hit on the head. 

I owe my thanks to Rachel and the cast - Dimitri Shaw, Josh Burdett, Stacey Evans, Alex Hall, Buchan Lennon and Laila Pyne - for bringing it all to life.