AA week in the life of...

28/01/2022 - Thomas

Where exactly do you ‘belong’?
Which subscriptions are you currently paying?
Where you’re from - sure
Friends & family - obviously
Your vocation?
For actors ‘belonging’ is a temporary affair. An exciting fling morphs briskly into family, (cue Vin Diesel meme). You’ve found your home. Your people. Then final curtain, big piss-up and *poof* 
A morning glass of Berocca for the recently orphaned.
Days go by
Fuck, I’ve contracted community immunity!
The vague plague takes hold across the industry.
Number 10 holds a press conference to outline restrictions for the lonely self-employed, the directionless nomads.
“Actors, Showmen, Great British Entertainers! It’s time for you to pull your weight - Next slide please -
We were left with no choice but to spend the Arts budget on some vintage Shiraz for a rather lavish birthda- *cough* work event. 
Next slide please…
Ha! Gosh look at that! There I am, I’m really rather munted in the photo aren’t I. Anyway yes… if your theatre, company, training centre or community has had to close their doors - tough titty! Peace out crusty’s!
Stay at home. Where you belong.”
TV goes black
Guitar comes out
Stand looking wistfully out the window 
Strum G to Am to E7 
“Where do I belong… 
Will it beee long before I beeelong”
Single malt tear falls
Calm down son, chill out. Change is in our nature. Belonging to somewhere or something doesn’t have to be rigid. Be one with the ebb and flow and you’ll be found.
Much love

21/01/2022 - Josephine

Happy New Year!

As we start a new round of blogs, we settled on the topic of Belonging. For me, this immediately conjures images of rehearsal rooms, of forming companies, sharing stories, vulnerabilities, taking steps into the unknown together. I’m always amazed at how fast a group of creatives go from being strangers in an unfamiliar room to being like family. The rehearsal room becomes a safe, well-loved, strong space to hold us all. We belong there. 

With Lilac’s latest blog rounding up our experiences on the R&D back in October, it suddenly feels like a long time ago that we were sat in a circle, creating theatre. 

Life doesn’t stop, of course. As the sun sets on one project, it will surely rise again in the morning, whatever your plans may be, and however ready you are to move on, or not. 

Life has looked different for me for the last few months. A flurry of rejections meant there wasn’t anything creative on the horizon, and in an unexpected turn of events, an opportunity presented itself working within the NHS, as part of a team at a vaccination hub. I have loved the experience. As we wind down now, knowing it was always temporary, I feel very much like I belong there, like I am a part of the team. 

It’s not a creative space. It doesn’t require vulnerability, a vocal warm up, or deep diving into scripts (although improvisation and the ability to think on my feet has come in useful on more than one occasion!). But I feel a sense of purpose, of being useful, and of working hard on something towards the greater good. 

And that’s why I tell stories. Because I really believe they help. They connect us. They help us find where we belong.


Happy New Year from Althea Theatre!
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will have seen that our 2021 ended with Althea coming together again to begin work on our next project. We are hopeful that 2022 will be a year in which we can build on this work as we move closer to having something to share with you in person! Until then, we’ll be keeping you up to date with everything that’s going on right here with our weekly blog posts.
We wish you a happy and healthy 2022.

31/12/2021 - Lilac
{R&D Days}

Day Eight

Dear New Old Friend,
You got to have a little glimpse into our research and development process. Hope you enjoyed being a fly on our wall. It is so funny to think that this process took place over 2 months ago. I do miss being in that room with those glorious people. Devising has always been and still is soul nourishing, a way to fill the well (and feel what’s in the well).
And how much have we needed to fill the well during the pandemic? I’ve been thinking a lot about opportunities. How we long for them and work profoundly hard for them. I’ve been thinking about how ultimately so many members of our community decide to leave the sector (though they’ll always be a part of our community really) because they don’t feel they receive the opportunities they deserve, the opportunities they long for.  
Day 8 was ultimately a combination between keeping that soul nourishing process together with capturing enough in order to allow for a future life and opportunities. This meant capturing the work in photos and videos – which, as some of you might be aware – is a very time consuming process! The day flies by and plans itself. The exploration pauses and the development work comes to a still. For now. Paul Gardner said that “A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places” and I feel that is relevant to theatre too, especially in R&D. The work is never finished, it simply stops at an interesting place.
I am still amazed by the commitment and vulnerability of the artists who shared that space.
After spending the morning putting final touches and taking rehearsal photos we continued to film in the afternoon. Do you get that jittery feeling while filming that there’s more to do? That if you could have one more hour, one more day, one more week – you’d have plenty to do with it. We always chase time, don’t we? It is possibly the most precious currency we have (or don’t have).
After filming and before a feedback session we had a bit of processing time. We opened a big table, everyone sat around two boxes of beads and strings and made their own necklaces, bracelets, key holders – you see where this is going. It has been the advice of a very dear collaborator, Gurpreet Singh. I usually process by talking, I express it verbally and I have really realised before the value of processing through other practices. Watching everyone around the detail reflecting, joking and creating these was probably one of my favourite moments of the R&D.
Then we reflected in conversation, and then we went to the pub. But the work isn’t finished, there is still much more to do.
I long for that space still and miss having everyone in the same room.
Earlier today I read Vinay Patel’s New Year blog which I thoroughly recommend (https://www.bushtheatre.co.uk/bushgreen/vinay-patels-new-year-taking-stock-hope-injection/). His honesty about his experience of writing in connection to grief made me think about how as theatre makers we tell stories despite our inner worlds collapsing. Sometimes, bereavement shapes so much of our life and integrating that loss is an impossible task. But we still find a way do it.
After losing my dad in 2018, I wanted to become invisible. I didn’t see it then, I see it now. I wanted to become transparent so that the rest of my life could go through me without anyone noticing me. In an R&D in 2021, I still see myself processing that loss. And ultimately that is a privilege. To be surrounded by artists and engage in collaboration which allows us not only to develop a new piece of theatre but to find a bit of healing through connection and storytelling.
Why do we tell these stories day after day year after year? To me, there’s something very important in being seen. Being acknowledged. But more than that, I think we tell stories so we can continue the conversation about who we are.  
I hope you are having a wonderful festive season and I wish you a very happy New Year,
Speak soon,
Lilac x

24/12/2021 - Sam
{R&D Days}

Day Seven

On the 7th day of rehearsals my director gave to me…
7 new ideas
6 necklace beads
5 pints with friends
4 dots were joined
3 personal stories
2 days so far
And a rehearsal room filled with hope

Well that was fun… if it were an instagram post it would probably be captioned “felt cute might delete later”. If you haven’t realised already I’m in a Christmassy mood (or trying to be) and this blog comes out on Christmas Eve. So to those of you who made it through my 12 days of Christmas rendition - Happy Christmas!

To those of you who just want to know what happened on day 7, thank you for your patience. Day 7 was the day when we set out to create two new scenes of ensemble storytelling based on stories that had cropped up earlier on in the R&D. We had quickly discovered from the beginning of the rehearsal process that as a group we revelled in physical theatrical work, but day 7 also highlighted the care required in such work, because without the context that a visual or aural language can provide, physical movements can carry wildly differing and unintended meanings.

But as with most creative processes the difficulties are the grits that polish the stone, forcing us to stretch outside of our habitual and instinctive ideas and enabling us to discover a way of bringing to life a story which was unique to that moment. And if new life and hope out of adversity isn’t a Christmas message, then I don’t know what is!


17/12/2021 - Isabel
{R&D Days}

Day Six

Day six isn’t just a whole new day – it’s a whole new week. We’ve got just three days left in a rehearsal room together before filming excerpts of things we’ve created on Wednesday afternoon. It’s gone so fast, but at the same time last Monday feels a world away. How have we crammed so much into our time together?
I’d love to say it’s been a restful weekend, but I’m in the middle of moving out of my current house (as I write this blog, I’ve just picked up the keys to my new place after a couple of months of sofa surfing!), and going straight into five days of R&D after a long hiatus of in-person work means I’m buzzing and busy for most of the two days of downtime. Unlike most of the Althea team I had to miss Friday’s day in the room, due to starting a new job, so I’ve also spent some time catching up with the material I’ve missed.
When I explain the role of a dramaturg to an outsider, the image that comes to mind is someone sorting through a huge box of different items. The pieces are there, and there are lots of them, but your job is to help sift through the box – pairing things up, putting things together or in an order, all the while remembering that each item has its own special meaning to someone in the room with you. Stories, like objects, need to be handled with care. When you’re doing your job properly, you’re helping fit things together in a way that brings meaning to artists and audiences; if you do it badly, you risk not only clouding the project, but causing real hurt to those who’s stories you’ve been given permission to hold. No pressure, but it feels big, especially in a room with so much potential.
Day Six therefore really starts for me on Friday night, sitting on my friends’ fire escape on the phone to Lilac, as both of us talk through the week we’ve had.
We talk through the stories we’ve heard, and the work done in the room, and where connections are starting to form. We talk for an hour, and it’s a really good chat – we’ll end up bookending day six with another chat, just us together in the pub, for a similar amount of time after we wrap up. On Monday Lilac brings something into the room – a piece of text. We pass it around, and read it out.
A necklace made of beads
And each is bead is a story
You add more and more and more and
The necklace gets heavier
But whose is the neck that carries it?
I love working with text. Holding something in my hands that’s been written feels special and exciting. We read it through a few times, and then we begin to do what we’ve done for the last few days – experiment, and play.
And that reminds me of why I love working with text, because it becomes something so much more than words on a page.
We try splitting lines up – different members of the group taking different words, organically, and then planned. We try using different languages – English, BSL, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Spanish, Auslan. We move in the space, matching the words to patterns in our bodies. As we work as an ensemble, three pages of beautiful writing become something else entirely. It’s magic.
The necklace in the text is the spine to a story we’ve begun to tell. As we pass it back and forth, what we’re doing becomes solidified before my eyes. 

10/12/2021 - Cole
{R&D Days}

Day Five

Day five of the R&D and the end of the first week! How far we’ve come as a group of people thrown together into a single space to tackle the behemoth theme of forgiveness.

We had the honour of being introduced to Shveta, a representative of the Bertha Foundation, who took us through the fantastic work the foundation carries out working towards social justice, combining activism, impact through various media channels and through the justice system with their justice initiative.

Of course, the idea of forgiveness married well here. Some of the content produced to expose certain stories and the activism and judicial campaigns driven from the foundation carry with them such emotional weight, on a deeply personal and community wide level. So many different stories of forgiveness drawn together by a single foundation striving for change.

After a very reflective morning, we moved back into the space to explore movement with the added layer of live music; song, brass and piano. Althea has always had an element of live music in their work and we wanted to explore how this would compliment and expand how we move together as an ensemble in the space. This was particularly interesting taking into account the deaf performers in the space and how the vibrations of the instruments and the influence the sound has on the other members of the ensemble drives the cohesive and at times disjointed movement. It was interesting for the performers not to shy away from these disjointed moments, but rather to accept, lean into them and explore what might come out of them.

After a long week, it was time for the ensemble to shake off the subjects delved into in the rehearsal room and sit down together at THE PUB! We always seem to flock towards the public house after a long rehearsal day, or even a performance. It’s the place where we can discuss and learn more about each other outside of a professional space, throw off the guise of the performer and enjoy a conversation about our favourite television show or what we’re planning to do at the weekend or stories from our past, rather than trying to fix the state of the world, we can just simply have a drink and be. Super important for any process, especially with people you’ve only known for a matter of days. 


03/12/2021 - Carolina
{R&D Days}

Day Four

As Josie explained in her previous blog, by day 4 of the R&D we were already an Ensemble. We had developed our own physical language as an ensemble, and this was put into practice by ‘gridding’ and ‘flocking’ through the space. We were communicating nonverbally in a playful and flowy manner, discovering and creating relationships and images.
We also had so many diverse stories that needed to be told, and even though they all had the common theme of Forgiveness (which we discovered is a wide and extensive theme that encompasses a lot!) we needed a more specific thread to weave them all together. Lilac our director found that thread: our individual relationship with the English language.
On a personal level, I have to confess I experienced a bit of panic when we decided to use English as the common denominator. Because how is my connection to English relevant to all the true stories I wanted, I needed to tell, stories related to the conflict in my home country Colombia? How can that be connected to the peace treaty signed by the government and the FARC guerrillas and forgiveness? Lilac, as always, was able to appease my heart and pointed out that I was the connection. I’m the connection because I speak English and I live in the U.K., I’m the one who can tell those stories. And It feels like a big responsibility because I want to do them justice.  As part of my research previous to the R&D, I must have read more than 100 accounts and stories of people involved in the Colombian conflict from different sides (victims, ex-guerrillas, ex-paramilitaries, militaries). And let me tell you, those are stories that need to be told, stories that need to reach a U.K. audience, without the usual stereotypical depiction of Colombians or glamorization of drug lord assassins.    
By the end of the day, we left excited and ready to develop the rest of the stories.  The common core that we agreed on (relationship with English) gave us clarity and a better sense of where we were heading as a collective. The honest and truthful conversations we had, enable us to plan as an ensemble and contain each other. 

26/11/2021 - Josephine
{R&D Days}

Day Three

‘Trust the process’ is a bit of a mantra for me. I’m not patient, and I am usually focussed on some kind of forward progress. 

If that’s true, why do I love R&D, when the whole point is exploration and discovery, over creation of content? Because I love play. I really do. And it’s been a really long time since I had new playmates. Even longer since I’ve had a creative playdate in person. So long, in fact, that it wasn’t until the third day of our R&D that I remembered quite how to play. 

I think it’s easy to want to focus on the outcome of an R&D, and with that comes a pressure to have ‘made something.’ Enter the timely reminder; trust the process. 

Without the play, without the strengthening of individual and group connections, without the shared moments and the unexpected laughs, there wouldn’t be anything at all. 

As Tom mentioned previously, we’d already started to discover a shared language, a physical way of connecting and communicating, so it was a bit of a change of direction when moving into day 3 of the R&D the focus shifted onto more conventional storytelling. 

We each took some time to develop a single story that linked to one or more of the themes of forgiveness, accountability or culture; the brief was simply that. We worked within a pair to provide each other with an audience to practice on, and to provide some feedback. 

The power in the bravery and openness shared that day made me feel really, really lucky to be in that room, with those people, sharing those stories. It was really one of those days when ‘you had to be there.’ 

The biggest takeaway from that day was just how brave everyone was in sharing. I was reminded again and again that the skills we have are precious and important; to commit to simplicity is to allow yourself to be seen. And that takes courage. 

We ended the day with a frank and open conversation about giving each other the space to be heard in group work. We are a collective of creatives with different perspectives, different lived experiences and different needs. It felt like an important day of sharing, of vulnerability, and ultimately of coming together. 

We’d formed an ensemble. 


19/11/2021 - Tom
{R&D Days}

Day Two
The second day is one of the best in my opinion. Live each day as if it’s your last? Nah. Live each day as if it’s the second day of an R&D with Althea Theatre.
*Spoiler Warning* some of the days later on in our R&D would be where the real discoveries were made; where the journey we were taking began to show itself. Those days, however, can be difficult, or uncomfortable, or frustrating, and they definitely are tiring. Those are the days that you look forward to with anticipation and aspiration, and look back on with pride, mixed with (hopefully) a sense of achievement, and even a little relief. It would be too much for a person to have those days every day and the returns would diminish.
But day 2? I’d happily live in day 2. Tiredness wasn’t an issue for me on day 2. Having spent the previous six weeks waking up at 6am I woke up with the sun and leisurely made my way to the theatre – having breakfast en route – getting there a smug amount of time before the 10am call. These might sound like things that were also true of day 1 and, to an extent, that’s true but day one also had a nervousness that came from the combination of a new project with new people mixed with the self-doubt that comes with so much time away from this sort of thing. Another great thing about day 2 is that having had a successful day one we could hit the ground running (which we did) and there’s a possibility that the confidence, energy, and good-will gained on day 1 will carry through the whole day (it did).
The whole of the R&D lay ahead on day 2 and the potential was palpable. There were ideas and stories that carried through from that Tuesday all the way through to our R&D’s end but there was no self-imposed pressure for that to be the case.
Was day 3 even better? You’ll have to wait until next week to find out.

12/11/2021 - Thomas
{R&D Days}

Day One
People in a room. That’s it. People sharing an empty space. It’s fucking magic.
Forgive me - years ago I’d have taken it for granted. After all, training was a constant diet of rehearsing, devising, discovering, creating … big bootying - but the industry is a brutal beast, opportunities thin out quick (especially if you chuck a global pandemic into the mix) and suddenly the simple act of sharing a space with others becomes undeniably precious.
So here we all are, in a room, ready to make some shit. That alone, is the best way to start any day.
But first - new faces, new friends. We all cycle round and introduce ourselves. It’s a big old group. Our first port of call is the Deaf Awareness Training Session run by Deepa Shastri - she’s amazing. We’re joined by 3 BSL translators since several members of the group are deaf. Deepa’s session proves invaluable to those in the company (like myself) who have little to no experience working with deaf practitioners. The training is incredibly robust for the short morning available but it’s clear we’re barely scratching the surface. In the middle of her training Deepa invites us to try communicating without voice, using only lip-reading - it ain’t easy. As the session concludes we’re left enthused and theatrically inspired to find fresh inventive ways to fully integrate BSL into performance, rather than side-lining it to translation only, which it often is.
Next up we’re split into groups to begin looking at the themes we wish to explore. We’re given the words Forgiveness, Culture and Language and asked to write what comes to mind. It’s not long before we all take the red pill and develop a pyramid construct of atonement from deities to descendants. It’s the first day, we’re all pretty keen.
Look, I’m sure we did some other stuff, games and that, my memory is a little hazy, but I definitely recall how we ended the day - an exercise called “And The Story Goes”
We create a short story, one line each, each line with an accompanying motion, then linking each motion together to create a group movement piece. It’s much easier to witness rather than explain. Unsurprisingly something rather beautiful begins to form. The beginnings of the psychical language are taking shape. Then Lilac gets us to do the movement as if we’re flirting with someone, the whole thing as if we’re flirting. It’s pretty batshit. And that’s it Day 1 done. Incredibly grateful to be sharing a space.
“For it so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us.
While it was ours”
That’s some Room 101 shit right there. Unironically quoting Shakespeare in a blog.
But it’s genuinely my favourite line of his and it couldn’t be more appropriate, so you’ll just have to deal with :)
Lots and lots of love

05/11/2021 - Carolina
{New Beginnings}

Dear reader:
You must be wondering why we have been so quiet in the past couple of weeks and we haven’t shared any new blogs with you.  Sorry if we left a bit of a gap, but we have a great excuse. We’ve been busy working in a room together. Yes!  Finally, all of Althea’s members plus some amazing and talented new creatives together devising new work for our next show. (20 people in total with all the Covid safety measures, including daily lateral flow tests) What a new beginning!
As Lilac explained in the previous blog, we received an Arts Council Grant which enabled us to start researching and developing material for our next show. And let me tell you, throughout the 8 days of 8 hours of work that we’ve shared, we made great discoveries and we have some interesting and important stories to share in the future with our audience. We will unpack more about the R&D in our next blogs.
What a new beginning! I couldn’t have asked for more! The excitement of waking up on a Monday, the very next day after my birthday, and going to a theatre to rehearse for the first time after Covid, in fact to the same theatre (Cervantes Theatre) where I’ve performed in London for the last time one month before everything got shut down and we went into lockdown, surely felt like a new beginning.
A new year of life, new Althea project, new friends, new discoveries. I can’t describe the joy! That is exactly why I fell in love with theatre 27 years ago, for the magic and human connection that happens in a room when talented, creative, and generous performers play and explore together.
New beginnings are always a bit scary because we are dealing with “the unknown”, but they are also hopeful. Once you start something new, once that little spark inside is ignited it gives you the energy to propel and to start “the move”, and once that new project is in motion, somehow you get the reassurance and the confidence that It Is Possible! And that confidence helps you seek and explore new things, helps you create other new beginnings. 
Thanks for reading,

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 - Isabel
{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,