Edinburgh - a city of tremendous culture, stunning architecture, amazing views and incredible whiskies. Also home to one of the largest and most unusual theatres I've had the pleasure of playing - the Edinburgh Playhouse. Standing at the top of the hill down into Leith, it's an epic 3000-seater on three tiers - astonishing considering it was originally a cinema! There's the added oddity that the sound desk is operated from the dress circle, rather than the more commonplace back of stalls position, and then the additional hill which makes the theatre seem as if it was literally hewn from the hillside. The steep walk down to stage door from the front of the theatre would be treacherous in bad weather, and I'm grateful for this week's beautiful sunshine which meant that wasn't going to be an issue.
The peculiarities continue backstage where the space is divided predominantly into two towers that run up the sides of the building, rather than lying across the full width of the space. It's a pretty good workout if you wanted to do the full run around, as the towers span ten floors! Stage Door is on ground level, the front of the theatre sits around level 6 and the stage is on level 3. However most of the dressing rooms are to be found on levels 7 and above. Given the nature of Annie Get Your Gun for quick changes, being in these dressing rooms wasn't really an option for most of us, so we were relegated to sub-stage rooms, with very little in the way of natural light or that aforementioned beautiful sunshine. It was worth it though to not have to climb numerous flights of stairs at the interval. This show is exhausting enough as it is!
Many of us did make the trip up the stairs at least once this week though, in order to pay a visit to the haunted corridor of level 9, which runs between the north and south tower dressing rooms, directly above the stage. This corridor is said to be haunted by Albert, the theatre ghost, who was apparently a stage door keeper at the Playhouse. It's a relatively dark and spooky place with lots of creaks and bangs, yet a cold and eerie silence for such a lively building. However, it seemed only fitting to go and say hello and thank him for letting us spend the week in his home. I'll admit, on the Friday show when the lights started acting a little strange, my immediate thoughts did turn to Albert.
Not content with spooking ourselves out in the Playhouse, many of the company headed out on a midnight ghost walk around the city for some additional socialising post-show. We visited the historic vaults of the city, hearing tales of torture and treachery, as well as Greyfriars Kirkyard en route, taking many a photo in the hope of capturing something unexplained. There were certainly an odd couple of things that showed up on my camera but what they truly are, who knows. I'm certainly not going to dismiss them just in case!
There's so much to do in Edinburgh that having only one afternoon off (and none if you're an understudy) was simply not enough, but we've all tried to make the most of it in our own personal ways. There have been trips up Arthur's Seat (kudos to those who used it for running training), the penguin parade at the zoo, the disappointing football (ho hum) and then the glorious post-show jaunt tasting various Scottish whiskies! But, sure as the sunrise, no sooner have we begun to settle in, it's time to pack up and travel on again. Our next stop is Oxford, another beautiful city and one that several of the team will be able to commute to. It will be the first time that our company will be broken up into those who are fully on the road, and those who are trying to spend time at home wherever vaguely possible. We also have the added excitement next week that Irving Berlin's family will be paying us a visit! I'll admit, I'm a little nervous. It's a privilege to be playing this role and singing Berlin's beautiful score, so I'm sincerely hoping they'll be happy with my interpretation of Annie, and the production in general. Watch this space!
You can read more about the exploits of Emma and the Annie Get Your Gun company as they tour the UK, at www.emmawilliamsactress.blogspot.co.uk and visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/annie-get-your-gun for tickets.