Roughshod Blog: Back To School

After spending most of last autumn touring Baked Alaska, Katie Brier is back in the Friargate rehearsal room, now with Roughshod 2016…outside manor School - Feb 2016

Well, I’m back in York with the lovely people at Riding Lights and we are two weeks into our rehearsals for Roughshod 2016. All I can say is… So far so good! Me and the rest of the Roughshod gang are getting along like a house on fire and we seem to be spending a large portion of our time together in absolute fits of laughter (often at very inappropriate moments, much to the dismay of our director…) So much so, I nearly named this blog “MY BELLY HURTS”. I had a good feeling about this company when my rehearsal brief consisted of:

  1. Read the Sermon on the Mount
  2. Watch loads of comedy. And
  3. Bring tap shoes

You can’t really go wrong with criteria like that.

Before I go on, I should probably explain to those of you who are undoubtedly asking “what on earth is Roughshod…?” exactly what it is that I’m getting myself into. Basically, Roughshod is Riding Lights’ community touring company, designed to take theatre to places that might not otherwise get it. As well performing our show Let Loose, we’ll be visiting churches, colleges, community spaces, prisons, universities, schools, running workshops, taking classes, performing in assemblies and church services – basically, anywhere that will have us!

Which leads me on to the first milestone that we overcame last week – our first schools’ workshops. Following a couple of days of VERY comical rehearsals in which we all took it in turns to play the role of school kids whilst other members of the company road tested the games and activities from the workshops, we packed up a random assortment of props and headed to Manor CE Academy in York.

Now, despite being a “grown up” and having had a bit of experience working with “youths”, going into a high school still terrifies me for two reasons:

  1. By Year 8, most high school students are already taller than me.
  2. I haven’t had the slightest idea about what is “cool” since around 1998.

Meaning that I think I hold very little authority within this particular context!

However, myself and the rest of the Roughshod crew put aside any of our pre-existing fears and delivered two workshops to students in Year 8 and 9, the first on the issues surrounding Social Justice and the second on what it means to have a Christian faith. Neither particularly simple topics to tackle at 9am on a Tuesday!

However, having broken the ice with a few old faithful wacky drama games, both classes did an excellent job of engaging with the activities, sketches and questions that were presented to them. All of the Shoddies are extremely grateful for not only the amount of fun, but also the level of thought-provoking conversation that we had that morning. The students approached the workshops with honesty and good humour in equal measure and the experience was a real reminder of how God is able to multiply what we offer, even when we feel ill-equipped in what we are offering!

The final part of either workshop is a Q&A, in which the students can grill the Shoddies on anything covered in the workshop, their faith or any questions they have about the random life of an actor! Our final question of the day was “so, why did you become a Christian?” I know for those of us that were able to, it was a real privilege share part of our story and talk about something that has provided so much joy and encouragement in our own lives (although we had to be brief as we were dangerously close to cutting into break time!)

So, despite a few jitters and nerve-induced imperfections in our delivery, team Roughshod left our first morning at a school with our dignity still intact and feeling really rather encouraged! Though I think one of the young people summed up the morning far better than I ever could: ‘That was quality. It was good that.’

Roughshod on the road: Trowbridge

Stefi Drayson Le TissierI can’t believe that’s our penultimate base done now! We may be nearly finished but God certainly isn’t! People always ask us to tell them about things we’ve seen happen whilst being on tour and of course we have some great stories, but the truth of the matter is that we don’t see the half of it. We hit a town like a whirl wind and then leave, hoping that we’ve planted some seeds; but we don’t need to know what is going on to know that God is working, he just is. We just hope to have made a bit of a splash to get people sitting up and listening.

This time that splash has most defiantly been with the youth of Trowbridge. We have had a brilliant two weeks doing workshops and shows in some of the main secondary schools in Trowbridge – John of Gaunt, Clarendon and St Augustine’s along with some amazing youth groups – IMPAX, Ignite and Southwick Baptist Church. Overall we ran workshops with round 800 young people, so a splash is certainly what we made!

We were very well received everywhere we went too. Even in the few places where we have been warned of difficult classes, the teacher has come up to us slightly gob smacked after wards, saying that “the class is usually a nightmare, but was brilliant with us and totally engaged with what we were saying and doing.” I felt really encouraged seeing some of the pupils that initially refused to join in, start talking and appear to get something from the session. It has also been wonderful for us to work with youth groups and see young people that are already on fire for God. As well as having fun with them, there’s a chance of going a little more in depth, sharing testimonies and really encourage them (throwing more timber on the fire so to speak).

We finished off our week with a very well attended show, that we really enjoyed thanks to the brilliant audience who left saying it was ‘inspiring’, ‘hilarious’, ‘terrific’ etc.

Mike, putting his degree in Ancient History to good use

It has been a privilege to be staying in such a beautiful part of the country, which we took advantage of in the glorious weather, going out walking with our hosts or just relaxing in the garden after a full day of workshops. On our days off we also managed to sneak in a visit to Stonehenge, Bath and a few other lovely things including seeing some old hosts that lived nearby.

All in all a really wonderful two weeks in Trowbridge, seeing over 1100 people and knowing that God is really working…


Roughshod on the Road: new friends in Newark

Pippa GibbAs shoddies we meet new people wherever we go on tour, and sometimes these become new friends, but Newark seems to be a place where loads of people became friends to us!

We were the Theatre Company in Residence at Newark Academy for our 2nd week in Newark, how exciting! Our friendly face here was Ally Sadler, the Head of Drama, who had organised everything for our school visit. Our workshops with the Year 7 & 8 were made all the easier thanks to Ally’s excellent introductions between us & the pupils. She looked after us wonderfully, and it made it so much easier to develop a quick rapport with the student, which really got them thinking about global responsibility, positive action & christian faith.

Some Year 10 GCSE drama students also sat in on our sessions there, and so Chris & Georgia became fun & friendly faces to us too. Thomas was a pupil we met at the start of our stay, through the Salvation Army, and he kept appearing to say hello & how much he loved our sketches! Then there was Ollie – a youth worker at a youth club we visited, and he came to a few Salvation Army events we did & turned out to be a teaching assistant at the school too, so he kept popping in and showing his friendship & support that way.

After a show at YOI Swinfen Hall, we found ourselves singing along with a couple of inmates – one on guitar. As well as classics such as Oasis’s Wonderwall, they also sang us a worship song they’d written together.

And of course our base organiser, Major Tim Justice, looked after us so well throughout the fortnight. He kept appearing with little treats for us… so, after watching Mike’s personal story he appeared with a David Seaman ‘Jeepers Keepers’ DVD for him (this went down with him a storm, unsurprisingly), not to mention chocolate cake & an Eddie Stobard ‘Trucking Songs’ CD collection (well you need good road music for those long stints in the van!) Tim really went above and beyond, opening up the Salvation Army Church Centre for us to use after our days’ work, for relaxing, bible study and…

…A visit from old friends too: director Paul Birch & Bernadette Burbridge! They brought endless delight to us in the form of 5 bubble machines! We’re still (forever) blowing bubbles & confusing innocent passers-by of the bubbly van. Shame to leave the Midlands, but onto Upminster next which is Mike’s hometown, with many new friends & old friends to meet.

Pippa Gibb