Helloooo Mr Blog,

What were you doing in Steeple Aston I hear you cry? Equally I imagine you’re thinking – where on earth is Steeple Aston? Well Mr Blog, to answer your second question – that’s easy – it’s a lovely little village just north of Oxford. The first question is a bit harder to answer and it all began six months ago…

(flashback music)

My mobile rings – it’s John Walton (director of The Real MacGuffins 2013 show and Doctor Brown and many things) :

John: Hi Dan, fancy meeting for a chat?

Me: Ok John – I don’t owe you money do I?

John: Yes, but it’s more important than that…

Intrigued I meet up with John – pay my debts – and then he shows me a small book entitled ‘Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain’ written in 1942. It’s a fascinating and brilliant insight into the differences between America and Britain back then, how we have changed in 70 years and what it was like during wartime. John suggests putting a show together and if The Real MacGuffins would be interested? Two quick phonecalls later and Matt MacGuffin & Jim MacGuffin are on board.

Fast forward to November and John has done wonders – he has secured arts council funding, rehearsal space, R & D time and potential tour dates…IT IS HAPPENING!! Only we have to go to Steeple Aston…where!?!? (see above)

SUNDAY 23rd November, I finish packing for a week away – chucking in a couple of comedy wigs, as you never know. I meet up with Matt (our driver) who then picks up Jim MacGuffin outside a pub in Kew and we head to the wilds of the Cotswolds (the wolds of the Cotswilds?). We arrive an hour and a half later at Mike & Clare’s – a lovely couple who have been living in Steeple Aston for 40 years and who are putting us up /up with us. John has beaten us to it on his motorbike – but he is staying at the B&B in the village (Old Toms – not sure if Tom was in). Mike and Clare cook us a lovely meal and we then watch a series of DVDs about the village and its history. And so to bed – quick fight with Jim MacGuffin as to who gets the top bunk – I win. Matt is in a separate room, as far away as possible, as his snoring occasionally wakens the dead, and when it’s really bad it causes structural damage.

MONDAY 24th November, our first full R&D day. We arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed at the Village Hall. We do some stretches and warm up exercises – which prove quite problematic as only John is wearing ‘movement clothes’. We then read the text and get thinking about the themes and structure of the book, and how these could translate into performance. We have a concept in mind for an interactive talk to an audience of American GIs – but what/who are our characters? Shall we all be British or shall I try being an American?

A day of improvisation and thematic work ends with John leaving us alone for 90 minutes to put together a 30 minute version of the show for him! He is a hard task master. The resulting show is 29 minutes of shambles with one ‘good’ minute (it was only good because John misunderstood what we were doing). Feeling suitably dejected we do a food shop and cook for Mike & Clare – a massive mushroom risotto. It seems to go down well. We then do more research and watch some old WW2 footage. With hearts and minds fed, it’s off to bed. Note to self – must use the wigs tomorrow.

TUESDAY 25th November, day 2. Back at the hall we do some yoga – Matt remembers to wear movement trousers, Jim and I struggle again in tight fitting jeans. We also get involved in the Village badminton club who are playing in the hall – I take over from Jim after he hurts his arm and let down my partner – Jo – by being absolutely dreadful at badminton – it’s not the same as tennis. Back to rehearsals and we come at the text from a different perspective. This time rather than being military roles, we look at the way village life meets the incoming GIs – the social mores, the various characters who may have run into each other – how would a farmer help out a GI lost in the countryside on ‘furlough’ (leave)? What rules did families have when they were hosting soldiers? What did GIs think of cricket? These exercises help shape the world of 1942 but are they helping us shape the show? We are all feeling slight frustration – we need more information, more research to help us – and what better way than meeting the village’s oldest resident – David Cattermole – he’s 90, totally on the ball and more than happy to regale three sketch comedians with tales from the 30s and 40s. A fascinating hour and a half whistles by, then it’s off to the pub for ‘Steak and wine’ night and to meet the local Players – who are a lovely group, very friendly and also give us some useful information about the nearby American airbase – and, fingers crossed, they’ll come to our work in progress in January. Then back to Mike & Clare’s for a well deserved sleep. Wigs might help tomorrow.

Part two on Monday Mr Blog.