The Spinsters of Lavender Lane – Spinsters are doing it for themselves!

November 5, 2013

A little blog I wrote for the Drama Studio London website about our September Spinsters shenanigans.


"One of the things they emphasise at DSL is the need to create your own work. Towards the end of the course you get a whole load of really useful industry-based classes that help prepare you for post-graduation and cheerfully remind you that the one or two years you've spent regularly acting and creatively exploring whilst training is a unique situation that may or may not ever happen to you again in such concentrated amounts.


Fortunately, those classes also help you to deal with the situation, and teach and encourage you to find and produce your own work, which is just what a group of 2013 graduates did! Emma Johnston, Natalie Lester, Rhiannon Owens, Georgia Robson and I were girls with a plan. Styling ourselves Biscuit Club Productions (we had an unofficial biscuit club going during break and lunch times at DSL – we needed something to keep our energy up after a morning of physical theatre and stage combat!), we already had our first production in mind before we graduated. The Spinsters of Lavender Lane by L. Du Garde Peach was a rare little gem we discovered in the DSL library whilst searching for showcase material. A 25 minute play, with 5 meaty, comic female parts? Yes please! We expanded the original play to include a pre-show of music-hall songs (and some not-quite so traditional songs), wonderfully played by fellow DSL blogger Adam Sowter, and sung with relish by Rebecca Bentham and Michael Watson-Grey.


Luckily for us, DSL tutor and all-round lovely person Brendan Murray was keen on the production as well, and offered to direct it for us in his free time. What a legend! Our first production meeting (feeling fabulous and creative on the South Bank) threw up some exciting ideas for the show and its possibilities, all we had to do was set a deadline and get cracking!


Our ultimate goal with Spinsters is to tour it round hotels as an 'afternoon tea experience,' but first we needed to make sure the formula worked, and drum up some attention. DSL very kindly agreed to let us use Studio 1 for our Sunday afternoon showcase – a fundraiser to allow us to afford a central-London venue to invite agents and casting directors to, as well as hotel entertainment managers.


A lot of hard work followed, apart from rehearsals (in well known DSL party venue, Shakespeare Road's front room) we had to sort out a central-London venue, raise the funds through Kickstarter, raise awareness on social media sites, build a publicity profile with a logo and flyers, invite acting and hotel industry people, source costumes and props (thank you, once again, DSL!) and, one of the nicer jobs, bake! 


With a team of 8 of us, plus generous help from friends and staff (particularly Emma Kemp, our lovely front-of-house maid), the workload was easier, but perhaps our organisational skills dropped a little! We managed to get everything done in the nick of time, however, and the showcase performance at DSL was a bigger success than we imagined. We raised over the funds we needed, and it was such a fantastic feeling at the end of the show. The audience were unanimous in their enthusiasm – possibly due to the tea, cucumber sandwiches and cake we lavished upon them during the pre-show – but we received plenty of encouraging words and support. Thank you to everyone who came to that performance, it was wonderful to see you all there!


The central-London industry showcase was a little more tricky. In a beautiful period house we couldn't serve the tea and cakes that were part of our vision for the show, and the doors were on the opposite side of the stage so we had to flip the blocking entirely – which at least shows we're flexible! The staff at Benjamin Franklin house were lovely and very helpful, but unfortunately we didn't get the industry attendance we hoped for. We still had a lovely, attentive audience though, and the show went well – we all remembered which way we needed to walk to get off stage!


The future of Spinsters and Biscuit Club is on hold for now whilst we're working hard on other projects. Most of us have secured panto work over the next two months and will be polishing up on our thigh-slapping, 'Oh no he isn't's and 'dun dun duuuuuh' faces. No Sausage Songs though. That's a special DSL treat for the current students to look forward to! Keep an eye out for us next year. 2014 is looking… Biscuity.

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