‘Tub Time: Unplugged’ for Northern Stage’s #OutOnTheToon Season June 2021
Updated: Dec 19, 2021
I was over the moon to be 1 of 10 local theatre makers commissioned by Northern Stage to
create Tub Time: Unplugged as part of their ‘Out On The Toon’ season. Tub Time was the first
live performance to go ahead and it was great to re-emerge from Lockdown and connect with
local audiences in North Tyneside. After a whirlwind few weeks of getting promotional material together, redecorating a bath and toilet with theatre designer Amy Watts in my in-laws’ garden (thank you Brian & Susan!) and redrafting the piece with director Jake Smith, we launched in to 4 days of rehearsal at Northern Stage.
It was a privilege, but also very surreal to rehearse such an intimate piece in Stage 2. It really
brought home that theatre in Newcastle was at a complete standstill. However, it was also an
exhilarating experience to be back and having such a quick turnaround meant we had lots of
last-minute epiphanies, which kept us on our toes.
I had intended to write a one woman play about lockdown projects, facetiming in the bath and bringing the tone down in a middle-class area. It soon became about the fabulous agoraphobic mermaid, Aerwyna. Descended from Atargatis, you can’t trust everything she says, but she does know her 90’s references! Everything poured into it – Titanic and the ‘Jack could totally fit on that door’ debate, Pocahontas, The Little Mermaid even a bit of Moana. (I didn’t realise all of the Disney films I love are actually about water). But it also became about checking your privilege during a global pandemic and realising how lucky we have been. We’re still here, we have a roof over our heads and work to return to and we need to support those who aren’t as privileged.
Having a tech and dress rehearsal on the beach was a new experience for us. Jake got stuck in teching the show and as the rules had relaxed a little we set out two shower curtains for
separate groups to sit on, allowing people to book online or wander past and decide to stay.
We performed 12 shows in total, 4 each day, and we had no idea if anyone would turn up or if people would even be interested. But we had a glorious weekend at the beach with people in for every show. After the past year, it was amazing to see the joy in people’s faces at stumbling across Aerwyna in her bathroom and getting to the chance to see some theatre. It was incredibly heart-warming to see familiar faces coming out of their way to support the first bit of theatre since the pandemic, along with children loving the bubble guns and karaoke and surf instructors giddily asking if they could get in the bath!
At the end of the piece, I asked the audience to run down to the sea with me (believe me, part of me regretted this as the tide went out throughout the day!) and every single audience
member attempted it. This turned out to be my favourite part of the show. I had elderly
people with walking sticks chat to me about how much they love Northern Stage and compared favourite Christmas shows we’d seen there and how much we’ve missed theatre as we meandered to the sea. I accompanied a new born baby on his first plodge in the sea and entire families jogged alongside me to support me on my venture. Little ones brought me seaweed to make me feel more at home on land, (bless!) teenagers asked in awe about the set and told me how fab I looked and at one point 14 people watched and filmed the entire show!
As a size 18 Actress in a makeshift mermaid costume, made out of an extremely robust M&S
bikini and a mermaid tail and seashells from Amazon, I was prepared for some unpleasant
comments or heckles and had thought of responses. But the truth is, I didn’t need them. I was met with pure excitement, intrigue and joy by all and I think we need to remind ourselves not to underestimate each other. I don’t know if it was the glorious weather, the joy at being out of lockdown or if we’ve always been this way, but I was so proud of the people of North Tyneside and everyone’s willingness to accept and believe.
‘It is high camp & high joy.’
Natalie Ibu, Artistic Director, Northern Stage
‘Really loved seeing my first show since March 2020! Thank you Rachel Stockdale, Jake Smith and Northern Stage #OutOnTheToon for this theatrical treat on Tynemouth beach!’
‘More shows should end with the performer and audience running into the sea together!’
Annie Rigby, Artistic Director of Unfolding Theatre
‘Thank you for bringing some mermaid theatrical joy to our day. We loved it!’
Maria Crocker, Director
‘Remember we can all be more mermaid or merman!’
Jake Smith, Director, Novo Productions