In August 2021, the Headgate hosted a workshop from Vamos. Revealing the Mask was an introduction to full mask technique and the participants left feeling inspired. One participant in particular, Tim Strugnell, was enthralled by the workshop and was keen to know what Vamos would do next. Little did he know at the time, Tim would be invited to share the stage with the Vamos team on the last show of their tour.
Read Tim’s blog post about this bucket-list experience:
On the 11th February 2022 I attended the Vamos show, Dead Good, at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester. I have cancer and was told by my oncologist in April 2021 that I had months not years to live. This made me determined to prove him wrong, to be positive and live life to the full. I knew what Dead Good was about but also knew that it would paint a positive picture of the end of life. It certainly did! A friend of mine saw me at the show and questioned me being there, thinking it would upset me. Far from it, I found it to be brilliant theatre and totally uplifting.
At the end of the show, events took an almost surreal turn for me. The Q&A was really interesting and it was great to hear the actors talking about the show from their perspective. Then, one of the audience asked the cast about their bucket lists. I then said, probably a bit louder than I should have, (a stage whisper!) that top of my bucket list would be to appear on stage with Vamos. As we left the auditorium at the end, Honor Hoskins came up to me looking very excited and told me she’d spoken to the cast and they wanted to invite me to take on one of the characters in the last show of their tour in Wolverhampton on 5th March. I could hardly believe my luck and of course I agreed!
Prior to driving up to my hotel on the 5th March I received a script outline and a short film of the part I was to play which was John, a terminally ill Norwich City supporter. This was really helpful in preparing me for my role.
I arrived at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton at 4p.m. for a rehearsal of my part with the cast and Rachel Savage. I was warmly greeted by everyone and was immediately struck by the team spirit of the whole group. Dan was helpful backstage ensuring I knew where everything was and making sure I was in the right place at the right time. Lily also helped me to relax and was snapping away with her camera throughout the proceedings. Naturally I was nervous and excited, but I was determined to play my part so that none of the audience would notice there was an additional actor in the show. My part lasted no more than 2 minutes, but we spent over an hour perfecting my moves. I learnt so much during that time and soon realised the importance of every single movement I made. Because I was wearing a mask with a fixed face, I understood that the position of my body and the movements I made created the character behind the mask. I think that every performer would benefit from doing some mask work to improve their character development. Rachel talked to me about muscle memory. By going over and over the moves my body learnt them and by the time of the performance they were firmly fixed in my mind.
We worked firstly without masks to get the moves in place and then with masks. Clearly the limited vision made it more difficult, but the moves were already secure by then, so I just had to reinforce what I’d learnt without the mask.
When we were satisfied with my part Lily recorded an interview with me and then we had some down time before reconvening at 7p.m. for a 7.30 start. I then put my costume on and sat in my wheelchair and quietly went through my moves to make sure that nothing would go wrong. I felt nervous but I think it helps to be a little nervous before I go on stage. There’s no room for complacency!
The show started and after about 10 minutes I was wheeled in to take my part. Everything went perfectly thank goodness!
I spent the rest of the show watching with the audience before making my way backstage to prepare for the curtain call. Interestingly as we were wearing masks, we held hands and when mine was squeezed I knew I had to bow. The cast quite rightly received a standing ovation, they were amazing! After the curtain call, we all said something to the audience, and I was able to explain to them what I was doing on the stage with those four wonderful actors.
I saw the show through different eyes having worked with the cast and was so impressed with the synchronisation of the movement in spite of the masks. The story was told with humour and pathos, and it was a hugely uplifting experience for the audience and for me too.
I’d like to thank everyone in the Vamos team for making me so welcome and for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime. I don’t say this lightly, but it was one of the best days of my life.
I’m still dealing with cancer at the moment and life fulfilling experiences like mine with Vamos only reinforce my desire to fight it and to enjoy all my adventures in the future. I currently have no symptoms; test results have shown no deterioration and I’m looking forward to some clinical trials in the oncoming months.
THANK YOU VAMOS!!!
Tim Strugnell March 2022