A week in the life of...

15/10/2021 - Lilac
{New Beginnings}

Hello friend,
I’m a bit late with this blog, I know, I apologise. I’m not sure if you’ll want to read this one because I’m quite tired and on a tube and my thoughts aren’t quite connecting into a cohesive line of enquiry. But maybe that’s ok today. Maybe we’ll hop from one place to the other today so bear with me. Go on, let your thoughts migrate with mine.
I devised my first show 12 years ago. My devising practice has a bat mitzvah. And yet every time I walk into a room to start a new project, I feel like I’ve never done it before. One would say that I’m nervous because it’s important, but surely you’d think I’d feel a bit more confidant by now? Where does that confidence come from? For me, it always comes from the work, from being in the room and creating something. Is it the same for you? 
Althea has a new beginning next week. We have received an Arts Council Grant to start a research and development process for a new project and for the first time since One Last Thing (For Now) we’ll get to work with a large ensemble. Thank you ACE! We will get to walk into a room with 11 performers, some of them Althea core members and some new ensemble members to come into Althea, and this collaboration is profoundly exciting.
There’s a woman on the tube across from me who is wearing what seems to be a scarf made of faux grass. You know, like the ones you put in your garden? I kind of like the thought that she’s carrying her backyard with her everywhere she goes. A human turtle. I wish I could travel lighter, I’ve been carrying my laptop with me for months but my laptop isn’t my home. Is there anything that I take with me every day that reminds me of home?
I realise that a lot of the Althea’s work has been rooted within my identity and our friendship with each other. We all, in our different ways, want to speak of belonging. In our company meeting yesterday, we talked about how over the years, we realised that a home isn’t only a physical experience, we build our homes in people.
Over the years… I write as if I actually have enough years in me to say things like over the years. But I do. And there are some things that have happened that I forgot ever happened, which is strange. Because it means I forget different moments that made me into who I am, but I am still me, right?
There are things that I do that are as essential to me as breathing. Making theatre is one of them. I know that. And I know that every new beginning, in its way, is another step towards an unknown, and that is quite an awesome thing. I hope to have many of them, to always have the opportunity to start afresh, with the terrifying sensation and the joyous reassurance, that something that hasn’t existed before is coming to life.
Hope you enjoy your weekend and look forward to sending you some updates from our R&D soon,

08/10/2021 - Sam
{New Beginnings}

New beginnings - easy to talk about, hard to do. Or in my case, hard to write about and hard to do! They give us a chance to start afresh and, as Izzi pointed out, they can help us to reconsider change in a positive light. However, they also confront us with how ingrained our old habits are. I’d told myself that post-lockdown I would make sure that my work-life balance was healthier and that I’d give myself time to rest, and yet, like Josie, I already find myself swamped with work and close to burn-out; running in circles as I try to work out where I’m headed. It turns out that my old habit of saying yes to every single piece of work that floated past was much stronger than my desire for a new beginning! 
In part, I suspect that this was a fear reaction - having gone for so long without plentiful work opportunities, the sudden reemergence of new jobs (largely event work) was a windfall that I seized with panicked enthusiasm. (You’re going to have to pardon all the mixed metaphors!) But, if I'm not careful, I'm at risk of unconsciously falling back into the old patterns that I’d wanted to change.
New beginnings suggest one is starting with a clean slate; resetting everything to zero. But we can't fully reset ourselves. In order to take full advantage of a moment of change we need to be aware of how we got there in the first place because it will shape how we respond in the new circumstances. If we don’t have this self-awareness we can start again but then continue to act in exactly the same way as before and so end up with the same problems all over again. In my case, it's probably worth reflecting on how I view work and rest and why I feel compelled to book work in every available time slot, regardless of my need for “unimportant” things such as time to eat and sleep. Perhaps once I’ve done that I can take advantage of these new beginnings to build a work-life balance that keeps me solvent but also allows me to rest.
Wish me luck! I will be hoping for the same for you too!

01/10/2021 - Thomas

Sleep now, or simply accept it
Sleep now, or tomorrow regret it
This choleric skeleton with surplus adrenaline
Will thirst for your life if you let it
Here often? Concede to the ritual
A process to attempt, to observe
Fail tossing and turning, while desperately yearning 
For a life you perhaps don’t deserve
Fuck’s sake, you’re awake, you hear birdsong
Now’s your chance to progress, time to strike.
Too late.
Well. Just do your best, but lack any zest
For the job you might need but don’t like
Don’t deny it, you ache with resentment
What’s caffeine when envy takes hold
It’s not shameful, but stupid, to think some career-cupid
Will dream-job you back into the fold
Who are you to expect an adventure?
Who are you, because - no one knows.
The building and building, some name that you’re gilding
Mate, this is the life that you chose.
The grog of the morning is rotten
Its sheen unwelcomingly bright
Drink deep and unwind, you’re not ruled by your mind
I promise you’ll sleep tonight

24/09/2021 - Josephine
{New Beginnings}

I am a person that moves through the world at a particular speed. Generally, my go-to motion is forward, no matter what. If you know me in person, you’ll know what I mean. Relentless, or restless? Perhaps a bit of both. 

“But Josie, what are you running away from?” 

To be perfectly honest, slowing down scares me. The trouble is, I’m tired. I have been ‘busy’ for a really long time. It’s a ‘busy’ of my own creation. I chose to get busy, but I’ve been using it as a distraction, because while I’m ‘needed’ elsewhere, I don’t have time to slow down and check in with myself. As a result of that, I’m struggling to identify which of the many voices asking something of me is mine.

I’m at a bit of a crossroads right now, and I feel quite stuck. It goes against every instinct in me to sit here and wait for the answer on which direction is next to arrive from within me. But I’m going to try. 

Who knows what’s next? Maybe nothing obvious or external will change, but it feels like it might, like I’m on the cusp of something, and September always feels like much more of a fresh start for me that January ever does. 

Here’s to the next thing.


17/09/2021 - Izzi
{New Beginnings}

Hello Blog Readers,
It feels like it’s been a while. Well, it actually hasn’t - it’s been a few weeks since you last heard from me - but I think because we’ve recently celebrated Althea’s one year Blogiversary I’m feeling nostalgic. It’s rolling round to Autumn again, and that’s making me think of my sentimental first blog last year about how much I love this season. It’s a slightly different one this year; not just because we haven’t really had a summer (seriously, what’s with this weather?) but also because last Autumn I had no idea yet about the next two lockdowns just around the corner, missing Christmas with my family, or the very slow recovery from the pandemic. I certainly didn’t think we’d be here just tentatively beginning to take steps out over a year and a half later.
New Beginnings seems like an apt title for lots of reasons. Unlike last Autumn, when the future seemed a bit tentative and uncertain, there are actually things happening right now. Obviously in big Althea news I’m so excited to be in a rehearsal room again with the team working on a new show, with funding from ACE no less. And alongside that, I’m heading back to VAULT Festival to be part of the team again for the first time since March 2020, I’m (hopefully!) moving house, and I’ve finally got a reading of a play I was meant to showcase a year and a half ago. Win!
It’s an exciting time. But I think it’s important to say that I’m feeling just as nervous as I am excited. What if my house move falls through? What if we have another lockdown and all the work I’ve secured dries up? How will the R&D go (and will I still remember how to do my job?) I think after the past 18 months we’ve all been waiting for that elusive next chapter, but now we’re actually just around the corner from big changes it can feel scary and overwhelming.
For me, I think part of the issue is that maybe originally we thought we’d go ‘back to normal’. Even this time last year, when we started Althea’s blogging journey, I’m not sure any of us quite knew what was ahead. But now after all these months, we’re more aware that normal as we knew it has changed. We’re rebuilding and remaking, not returning.
Change can be terrifying. Expecting ‘something different’ can make us all apprehensive. But writing this blog has made me think about framing the next steps ahead as a ‘new beginning’ rather than a change, and strangely that’s been oddly comforting. It’s not a way of figuring out an approximation of what we had before, instead it’s a chance to try things I might not have been brave enough to 18 months ago. So, a whole year on since my first entry here, I’d like to show my appreciation for the Althea team and this blog we’ve managed to keep going. Thanks for giving me a shift in my perspective when things have seemed scary.
Here’s to new beginnings - yours and mine!
Izzi x 

10/09/2021 - Cole

Milestones are a bit weird, aren’t they?

Something that denotes a significant change or achievement in one’s life. Peers start to expect that you’ll reach those milestones and there’s a certain pressure from society to do so. Get a degree, get a job that pays a certain amount per year, buy a house, buy a car, get married, have kids, sell your house, and buy a bigger one, sell your house because it’s too small and buy a bigger house with a bigger mortgage, eventually retire, and downsize, die. It’s all a bit prescriptive, isn’t it?

There isn’t really much flexibility in the life plan, no room for spontaneous trips around Europe or 3 weeks in bed pulling a sicky. It reminds of those on point perspective paintings of roads that start off nice and thick and get narrower and narrower until it ends abruptly in the distance. It’s all too rigid and it doesn’t really give the correct representation off the weird and wonderful winding road that our lives really are. I think if humans were a road, we’d be a spaghetti junction, just a horrible intricate mess of zig zaggy chaos. And that’s much more interesting than a mundane frogmarch to death.

So, I say bollocks to your milestones basically. How about we focus on some of the finer details in life, rather than some event or activity that we’re ‘supposed’ to conform too. Althea getting arts council funding for an R&D project this year touching on aspects of cultural forgiveness, that sounds like an interesting milestone to me. I can still do a forward flip into a swimming pool even though I’m in my 30s and am definitely feeling more bottom heavy, big milestone. My cat has managed to get in 3 fights this year and each time had a deep cut very close to his anus, an impressive and consistent milestone and also a sign that he does not know when he’s been beat.

Anyway, you catch my drift. Let’s just not take milestones too seriously and try to reach them just because others says we’re supposed to.


P.S. I got engaged the other week….

03/09/2021 - Carolina

Twenty months have gone by since the last time I visited my homeland, my country (Colombia with an O), my family.

I write from the air space somewhere between Bogotá and Miami. I left my dad in Bogotá; I will spend a few days in Miami with my mum and the family I haven't been able to see, I haven't been able to meet since our lives were disrupted and changed forever by a pandemic.

I will finally have the joy to meet one of my grandnephews. Yes, I recently became a Great Aunt since my niece had a son. And being a Great Aunt in your forties feels like an age marker, feels like a milestone, even though I technically didn't do or achieve anything.

Finally, I have been able to travel, not without a bit of anxiety, which also feels like a milestone. My first transatlantic flight in the middle of a pandemic! A few PCR tests, several government health forms, wearing a mask for more than 10 hours, and even staying in a hotel for a few days in Bogotá, was not only weird but a bit of a hassle. But I will do it all again to be able to spend time with my family, even without the usual hugging and kissing…                        I can't help but feel deep sadness when I think: When will I be able to come back?

I dreamed of traveling so many times during lockdown, trying to plan possible routes according to the constantly changing government restrictions. It finally happened 10 days after I got my second jab. Trying to keep myself safe, trying to keep everyone else safe.

I still have so many things to do for the first time. Things I haven't done since 2019. Going to the theatre, the cinema, the museum, or seeing friends I've only seen on Zoom, even eating inside a restaurant or a pub. Things that made part of my normal life and that Covid, the anxiety, and the lingering fear took away from me. Experiences that don't seem like much, but that I will re-gain and re-claim and that once achieved will feel like Milestones.

Thanks for reading and enjoy each moment,

27/08/2021 - Tom

Did you know that you can’t buy a mattress from Ikea? IKEA. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It’s like saying you can’t buy pasta from a supermarket or a t-shirt from Topman…  Ok, all three of these things have been true at some point in the last 17 months. Thankfully, the pasta made a triumphant return, but Topman t-shirts have not shared the same fate, with all Tompans (Topmen?) having closed their doors earlier this year.
But what about the mattresses? Well, there’s a BIG coverup going on and I’m telling EVERYONE about it.
Now, I should say that it’s not strictly true that you can’t buy a mattress from Ikea because if you live outside of Great Britain, you probably can. It’s also true that if you go to the bargain corner you can maybe pick up an ex-display model, and when I enquired there was also one of the biggest and most expensive left in stock. BUT. If you want a double mattress for a reasonable price (which you would think was Ikea’s bread and butter)? No dice. You can’t even order one. This is for the time being of course as I’m told a limited supply will be hitting our shores by the end of the month.
Why am I talking about mattresses on a theatre company’s blog? It’s partly because I didn’t have a lot of time to think about what I would write this week. It’s also tied to a milestone that’s coming up in my life: I’m moving… and I need a mattress. I’m not moving for work (I’m moving from a flat in one area of London to a Flat in another area of London) or because I have to (no one’s forcing me to leave). So, it’s because I want to, right? Yes. And no. Mostly no because I don’t really want the hassle of moving and dealing with things like a national Ikea crisis, but also because I like the area I live in and, more importantly, it’s close to good friends and a couple of cats I know. I’m also one of those people who applies the rose-tinting to my glasses before things come to an end rather than after; school, university, jobs I’ve had, places I’ve lived, all have been made harder to leave behind by the sudden disappearance from my brain of any of their negatives.
If the pasta, t-shirt, mattress situations are telling me anything it’s that the effects of big events – like a global health crisis, a major upheaval of a country’s import/export regulations (It’s interesting to note that you won’t have a problem buying a mattress from Ikea if you’re in Belfast), or a man and his things going down the road – can be immediate or delayed, permanent or temporary.
I also need to remind myself that those effects can be positive.
I’m going to leave you there, but PLEASE let me know if you hear anything about an Ikea mattress black market. It’d also be remiss of me not to mention today in a blog about milestones: CR7 + MUTD! Permanent or temporary? Good move or bad?
Time will tell.

20/08/2021 - Josephine 

After a year and a half of cancelled plans, I think it’s fair to say I am proceeding with day-to-day life with cautious optimism. Pre-COVID-Josie would take for granted that shows would happen, and races would take place, and I placed most of my energy worrying about the start line, or opening night. 
The reality right now is that anything mass participation (and for me that encompasses two big parts of my life in theatre and running) is precariously placed to be cancelled at short notice. For a large part of the last 17 months, I struggled with the feeling that my life had shrunk. I’m starting to reframe that by paying more attention to the journey, finding and celebrating important moments along the way. As someone who moves through life at a fast pace, it’s a challenge!
Speaking of moving fast(ish), I’m marathon training again. It feels harder this time around, paces I was running 2 years ago are nowhere within reach today, but I’m celebrating the milestones nonetheless:
  • I’m almost halfway through, I’ve run over 200 miles since I started 8 weeks ago and I’m feeling good. Tired, but good. 
  • I ran 14 miles on Sunday, my longest run in 16 months. 
  • I’ve run almost every single Friday morning with a friend for the last 15 months.
These might not seem like big deals, but they’re milestones for me and if I don’t get to put my toe on the starting line in October for reasons beyond my control, these things still stand and I’m proud of them.


14/08/2021 - Lilac 

Dear old friend,
This is our one year anniversary – happy anniversary, friend! What a year!
It’s 1am. I don’t usually write this late, haven’t for a long time. I’m sprawled on a sofa in an AirBnb in Edinburgh – it’s quiet and I watched 3 shows today. 4 actually, but one of them was cancelled after their power generator stopped working 2 minutes into the show. Being in a room with people watching people on a stage was – nice. Strange, but nice. Like I’m not entirely sure that it’s ok to trust it, that it’s ok to relax into being in a theatre again because deep inside I’m pretty terrified that this precious place will close again.
It’s my mum’s birthday on Sunday, she is a force of nature. I haven’t been able to visit my family in nearly 2 years and I can’t describe the yearning to go. The thought of self-isolation for 14 days in order to only be there for 5 days is just a bit too ridiculous for me to consider.
It’s nearly 9 years since I moved to London for the first time and about 5 years since I moved here permanently (well, there, I suppose, as this blog is being written in Edinburgh) and all these anniversaries and birthdays feel strange because I still have all this uncertainty at the pit of my stomach.
We’ve known each other for a year now, I can tell you all my secrets right?
Sometimes I lie awake at night feeling absolutely baffled by the fact the I cannot control the things that are outside of my control. The thoughts circulate in my head and though there are so many blessings in my life, I’m scared of losing them.
A simple example, when my cat goes outside I would be terrified that something would happen to her. I don’t close the door for fear that she’ll feel abandoned when she comes back and find the door closed. My partner always thinks our cat is fine, her thinks she’s going ‘on an adventure’.
I’m sitting, it’s quiet, and I wonder at what point in my life have I decided that the world doesn’t want to be my friend? I try to pinpoint the specific day, month and year. I can’t find it, but very early on I seem to have accepted the idea that life is a struggle.
It was, at times. It is, at times. But as goodness comes, is it helpful to hold on to this shield of worry and refuse to accept it? Why is it always the worst scenario that I see before my eyes rather the best?
I realise this, at 1.19am. That maybe there is this curvy possibility that people don’t want to stand in my way, but they would like to support? They would like to lift me up so that I can lift others up and so on and so on?
My cat will come back home after an adventure. I will make decisions without the fear of losing everything. Theatres will continue to re-open, and stay open. And I will let go a bit more of all these things that belong in the past. I try. I focus on the now.
So now, friend – I’m going to sleep. But I’m raising my Night Time herbal tea with a toast to us – and to all of our ensemble who have been writing to you this year. I’m feeling quite chuffed to say that we have been writing weekly every week since this time last year. Can you see how, in a peculiar and slightly wonderful (and yes, hilarious) way, Althea is the sum of us?
Stay with us, because we have some exciting news to share with you soon.
Until then,
Always your friend,