Time for a holiday! Well, technically speaking it’s an artistic retreat but I call it a holiday. Two days after Joy Unspeakable comes down, I am on a plane heading for Savannah, Georgia, U.S.A.

The next three weeks is spent in the company of twenty other artists – dancers, actors, painters, singers and musicians of all types, along with some big-hearted tutors and generally beautiful people whose heart is to restore, encourage and release creative artists in all fields.

It’s exactly what I need after three months of hard graft and I soak in every minute of it – quite often via the large swimming pool at the back of the beautiful, plantation style house we are all staying in! In the event, although I take part in various theatre related workshops, I actually ditch theatre for most of the time I’m here and instead, have a fantastic time painting an enormous ‘canvas’ (4ft x 8ft piece of plywood). Something I’ve wanted to do for about ten years! Sometimes the best way to go forwards is to go sidewards.

Getting stuck into some painting

Getting stuck into some painting

The finished piece

The finished piece

A few details

A few details

The Spanish Moss in the left hand corner is ubiqitous in Savannah, hanging off all the trees

The Spanish Moss in the left hand corner is ubiqitous in Savannah, hanging off all the trees

Suffice to say, my time in Savannah is amazing and beautiful and best conveyed by this selection of textures and images.

Tybee Island

Tybee Island

Driftwood

Driftwood

Classic downtown Savannah house

Classic downtown Savannah house

Beauty has many faces..

Beauty has many faces…

...and details

…and details

Detail from the slavery memorial at River Street

Detail from the slavery memorial at River Street

Poignant graffiti as the US election and #blacklivesmatter campaigns swirl, followed by the Dallas shootings

Poignant graffiti as the US election and #blacklivesmatter campaigns swirl, followed by the Dallas shootings

Group painting - created using black, white, and brown dancing feet

Group painting – created using black, white, and brown dancing feet

Towards the end of my time in the States, I get the email.

I have been invited for interview at The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, following my application to their Observer Mondays scheme. This is a BIG deal. I have applied to observe the Royal Exchange’s Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom, directing Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, with Maxine Peake in title role.

Maxine Peake - A Streetcar Named Desire

Maxine Peake – A Streetcar Named Desire

After some email back and forth the interview date is set for 4pm on Tuesday 12th July. The only minor challenge to this is that on the evening of Monday 11th July I will be flying across the Atlantic. I am due to land in the UK at 7am on the 12th. The possibility of delays, cancellations and the likelihood of limited sleep looms large in my imagination. I stave this off with swimming, painting and repeated prayers!

It’s 1pm on Tuesday 12th July. I have made it home successfully. However, I have had no sleep. Ok, I’ve had one hour’s sleep. Which I have just awoken from and which may well have been an error of judgement. I feel super groggy, quite confused about what day, time or country it is and in no way confident about my ability to deliver a good interview with Matthew Xia (Associate Artistic Director) and Suzanne Bell (New Writing Associate) in precisely three hours. On auto-pilot, I get ready and make my way to Manchester Victoria station. I fortify myself in the Exchange’s cafe with strong coffee and a hefty cake. I know it’s wrong but if in doubt, sugar and caffeine. I’m an old skool girl.

In what can only be described as a modern day miracle I somehow manage to remain mostly coherent in the interview, thank God, and leave scribbling down mental tips on overcoming jet lag from Suzanne and Matthew, who are both very welcoming and put me at ease. What exactly I said in the interview is a mystery to me as no sooner is it over than I discover, somewhat disturbingly, that I have almost no memory of it. Tricky. Still, I have done it. And that’s the main thing. And now to sleep!

Twenty-four hours later and it turns out that whatever I said, must have actually been ok, as I am quite literally over the moon to discover that I have been selected for Observer Mondays!! Cue footballer style goal celebrations, family pitch invasions and generalised cheering from all angles. I am so excited!!! I am going to be in rehearsals at the Royal Exchange, with Sarah Frankcom and Maxine Peake! This is a massive development opportunity for me and I intend to grab it with both hands. I literally cannot wait!

Rehearsals start on 8th August with a Meet and Greet. There will be so much to blog about in August that it’s a good thing I will also be writing a blog about it for the Royal Exchange or my August blog would probably turn into a novel! Although I’ve yet to get my briefing, I imagine that my Exchange blog will be appearing here (see left-hand sidebar) along with previous Observer Mondays director’s blogs.

So keep an eye on this link throughout August for weekly updates!