Team Maurice - Out on the Road! - By Laura Kaye Thomson
Oh hello, didn’t see you there! Laura here. One third of the mighty Team Maurice. Maurice, if you don’t know, is one of the Christmas For Kids leading 'men', a King Kong amongst Monkeys. And owner of some very fetching bright orange fur.
The morning we left London was a beautifully bright and crisp one. As three South Londoners crossed over Waterloo Bridge, we waved goodbye to St Paul’s and Big Ben and headed up North. Well, Luton. Keech House was our first hospice of the tour and what a great way to kick off our travels.
We did have one show already under our belts: Christmas for Kids’ first ever public performance at the gorgeous Pickled Pepper Book shop, which we’d performed a couple of days before. Pickled Pepper was a really fun show, though a bit crazier than usual with so many ‘stage invaders’ with curious minds wanting to help us out on stage…! But Keech House was different and more what we’d come to expect from the tour. We left feeling it had been a pretty great show with a wonderful audience. Onwards...
We travelled up to Loughborough where we’d spend the night. Scarlett realised we were close to the Curve Theatre in Leicester, and so decided to head down there to see an incredible production of West Side Story. A day full of theatre.
The next day, a Tuesday, was our first two show day! We arrived at Rainbows Hospice and were offered a trolley to help us unload! I can’t tell you what a difference a trolley makes to us. I was overjoyed. As you can probably guess from the name of the Hospice, Rainbows was filled with beautiful colours all around. We had a great show with lots of carers who were particularly up for being involved, which we always love! We then headed further north up to Sheffield to perform at Bluebell Woods Hospice. Another great show with some brilliant audience members who were more than happy to be our ‘running reindeer’ in the Twelve Days of Christmas song! As we left, there was a particularly beautiful sunset before dropping Scarlett at the station and Brendan and I embarked on an unexpected trip across the Peak District to get to our next hotel. This was a far more treacherous journey than we had anticipated but my little hatchback car (Mildred) got us there in one piece. Turns out it is *very* dark in a National Park at 7pm in December…
The next two days brought a new challenge for Team Maurice. With Scarlett back in London for a couple of days, Brendan and I had four two-hander shows ahead and I was looking forward to it. Usually I play Nutcracker, Harry’s rather mischievous helper in finding Christmas Spirit and the one who gets a pie in the face mid way through the show. (Thanks writer Gareth!) We had rehearsed two handers with me playing Harry and Brendan continuing as Actor 2 but with one person down, there were even more cues and more running around to do. Our first show of the day was at the Donna Louise Children’s Hospice in Stoke on Trent, where we had 4 children and 5 carers which is a really lovely number of audience. We then headed down to Birmingham, where we visited our first Acorns Hospice of the tour. We had another really lovely show here with a whole room as our backstage area! Bliss. We had some particularly nice pictures taken at the end of the show with some of the children including a little 6 month old baby called Frankie, who was very taken with Brendan and Maurice.
We headed off to Lyndon House in Walsall to stay the night. Brendan managed to get a starter, main and a drink for just over a tenner. Oh, how well you can live when you’re not paying London prices! The day was great but tiring especially with over 2 hours of driving throughout the day as well so an early night was had (after a few games of cards!)
The next day was very much a day of two halves. Our first show was at Fullbrook Nursery School, and was quite different to the shows we’d be performing the last few days! We had about 70 children all around 4-5 years old awaiting us and, needless to say, they were very excitable and ready to help Harry find Christmas Spirit! Brendan and I both needed a bit of vocal rest after that show! We then went on to Zoe’s Place in Coventry, which is a hospice for babies and young children. This show couldn’t have been more different to Fullbrook and was a very nice way to end this section of the tour. We had 4 children, two of whom were very sleepy. A couple of the children were a little wary of the puppets when we did our initial meet and greet, so we decided to forgo them and be the characters ourselves. This worked really well and meant for a really fun show.
We really connected with a lovely little boy called Joe, who loved the toy given to him by Santa and throwing the soft chestnuts at Brendan. To go from the liveliness of the Fullbrook show to the calm of the next show and come away from both feeling like we had done a good job was a testament to how adaptable the show can be and still entertain so many different levels of ability and engagement. After Zoe’s place it was time to drive back home to London. We’d had a great week visiting so many different places and doing so many different types of show and were very glad of our own beds to have a day’s rest the next day.
Scarlett will take over from here and tell you about our next week of shows. So from me, goodbye and thanks for reading. This is my second year with Christmas for Kids, and I hope to be writing another blog for you next year in 2020 as I love working for this brilliant company and being part of the amazing work it does for children, their families and their carers at this fun yet sometimes difficult time of year.
A very Happy New Year to you and all your loved ones,