The smell of a cheap lipstick. The creaking of the backstage door. The whisper of a nervous actor. The applause. That is what this weekend is all about. We have rehearsed, rehearsed and rehearsed. The costumes are complete. The props lined up on the prop table. The ‘cheat sheets’ glued on the back of the set.
As luck would have it, an hour before our first performance of Ray Cooney’s It Runs In The Family ‘all hell breaks loose ‘ (pardon the pun if you saw the play and recognise the line). The snow decides that six thirty on Thursday night is the right time to start falling. Following a whole day of rain, the roads turn into slush and the panic attacks experienced by a population that hasn’t seen snow for three years (and therefore can’t drive in it) set in.
Seven fifty pm. The cast are ready, sitting around in their costumes. Only a quarter of the seats are taken. People are not coming out. Then we realise that Sir Willoughby Drake is missing. And, actually, that we haven’t seen him today. I check my mobile. He is stuck in traffic about fifteen miles away. He doesn’t think that he will make it.
The prompt lady steps up to the task and reads for Sir Drake. The audience love her. The show (and the snow) goes on and in the interval a few people leave as they are worried that they won’t be able to drive home if the roads freeze (remember, this is England and three centimetres of wet snow can have that effect). When we finally take our bows, the audience smile and clap. One down, two to go.
Encouraged by the first night and its success, we deliver two great shows (I only say that following some lovely comments on social media and in the local pub) without as much as a hiccup (well, Dr Mortimore forgets to roll up his trousers when disguised as a matron; Dr Bonney manages to lose his moustache AND his beard on the same night; Dr Mortimore finds the aforementioned moustache on the bottom of his shoe while on stage; Mr Lesley gets on the window sill a little bit late and some wild improvisation goes on; Dr Connolly manages to have a nosebleed on stage and also runs over a member of audience with a hospital trolley; sergeant Connolly forgets to knock on the door and consequently can’t enter the stage in time and two whole pages have to be left out).
Throughout all that I sit in the wings, telepathically sending each and every line into the actors’ brains and get increasingly nervous and cold (I vow repeatedly that I will never get involved in this again). I deliver my four lines (only cameos for us, directors) and feel exhausted. I have been feeling directly responsible for every word, move and grimace on the stage. And they all work very well.
Saturday night we finish with a great applause and still floating on a cloud of adrenaline we meet up on Sunday morning to clear up the village hall. It only takes a morning to dismantle the set, tiered seating, wings and curtains, to sort out the costumes. It took much, much longer to put it all up.
On Monday I receive flowers from the cast. I might just do that again next year…