Venue 13 on the Annie Get Your Gun tour and unlucky for some, you might say. This week we've been in beautiful Brighton, a cultural and theatrical mecca on the south coast and frequent keeper of my heart. I've lost count of the number of times I've considered moving here and, after some unscheduled extra time in the city, I'm understandably contemplating it once again.
We've been in the historic Theatre Royal this week, one of the more deliciously old-school theatres on our tour. The theatre itself was built in 1806 and has such an incredible history of performers that it's hard not to feel slightly overwhelmed when you consider you're treading the probably-been-replaced-by-now-but-still-essentially-the-same boards as Charles Wyndham, Marlene Dietrich, Mrs Patrick Campbell and Laurence Olivier, amongst so many others. Of course, the wonderful Annie Get Your Gun cast has now been added to that illustrious list and thus it was fitting that we made our own little addition to history by celebrating our 100th performance there on the Wednesday matinee. Or rather, some of us did.
On Tuesday evening, press night for Brighton, venue 13 did indeed prove unlucky for me and the toll of the show began to show in my voice. The role of Annie Oakley is a tough sing for anyone. The range is vast - from the low notes of 'Showbusiness' to the top Bb of 'Anything You Can Do', the styles are wide ranging - belting 'You Cain't Get A Man With a Gun' to lyrical 'I Got Lost In His Arms' and even the dialogue is pretty heavy going. I'm rather protective, possibly over-protective, of my voice because of how much my roles mean to me. I believe it's a privilege to be able to do this for a living and so I'll do anything to ensure vocal strength. This means I wear a scarf all the time, frequently don't talk unless onstage and haven't had an alcoholic drink since March. (Apart from the last night of Manchester before the first holiday, but the less said about that the better!)
As such, it was heartbreaking to me to hear some vocal cracks during the belt notes of 'You Cain't Get A Man With A Gun' on Tuesday night. The rest of the show felt absolutely fine but it seemed sensible that, if I wanted to make it through to the end of the run without causing damage, I should take a couple of shows off to rest - my first since 2009! I can't honestly tell you how difficult I found that, even knowing how astonishing Natalie Day was going to be as Annie Oakley, and how safe the role would be in her more than capable hands. With only a few weeks to go I simply didn't want to miss any performances.
Going off a show is never easy, especially on a tour as you have nothing around you. It's not like being able to take a couple of days off with your family, on tour the company are your family. And with vocal rest I wasn't even able to phone my literal family for some long-distance TLC. Let me tell you, those two days were not only hard but lonely. So I bought shoes. Obviously. Shoes make everything better and they're very pretty.
After two days off, with Natalie bringing the house down as Miss O, I returned to the show to complete my own personal 100th performance on the Friday night. The Brighton audiences have been brilliant the entire week and it was so wonderful to be back in the warm embrace of the company, a sort of coming home if you will. After a few more standing ovations and a quick pack up of my relatively unassembled dressing room space, the flight cases and trucks were reloaded and now it's off to Glasgow for our penultimate week. There are only two tour venues remaining. Only 16 more shows to 'do anything better'. Only 272 more minutes of crazy interval change left. I better make sure each and every one counts.