Monday, 12 March 2007


“Oh go on, it’ll be a real laugh. Loads of fun, nothing serious”, begged Mags as she roped me in to play a part in a murder mystery play. I hesitated initially; after all it’s been a long time since I’ve had any thespian leanings but Mags was insistent and had no qualms in using emotional blackmail.
“He’s worked so hard writing it. Night after night, as soon as he’s in from work he’s at that ruddy computer”. Then she mumbled something about ‘good thing she didn’t need any shelves putting up’, and so feeling guilty that her husband was offering his services free for the good of the PTA and thus our children, I capitulated and now find myself every Monday evening in the school hall rehearsing. My part is that of an Essex girl (I use the term girl loosely), married to a car dealer, something of a chav, ghetto nails, blonde hair, high heels, perma tan you get the general idea.
“A class act then Alice”, said Hubby last Sunday when, for the 20th time that day I went over and over my lines. “You need to be careful or you’ll get typecast”.
“Would you please just give me my cue and stop being an arse”. Hubby took umbrage to this request and went to tackle the mountain of ironing instead. My son, who considers himself quite the actor, took great delight in coaching me.
“Mum, stop being so wooden. Open up, who are you? Are you in touch with your character? Can you empathise with the character? Do you want to workshop it?”
“Improv? You know, do some improvisational work, so that you are familiar with the character you are playing. For instance, take the character out of the play setting and into your real world.”
“Your mother”, quipped Hubby, “Has never been in the real world, so there is no hope of a character she plays engaging in it.” I willed the steam of the iron to bubble out as it is wont to do and scald his hand but alas he completed the school uniforms without so much as a visit to the minor burns unit.
This last Monday the heat at the rehearsal had been turned up a notch – several actors (i.e mums and dads and the headmistress) had learned their lines leaving just me and one other, pregnant, mum still reading from the script. The director was not best pleased, “Alice, I know this is meant to be light-hearted and fun, but really you should be off page by now”. This, I was told by another mum who has already hand made her costume, is a theatrical term for knowing your lines off by heart.
“Ok let’s do some warm ups”. This is the worst bit: the improvisation and games that get us all revved up and “energised”. For one who goes to bed in winceyette pyjamas and whose level of communication with ones husband has been reduced to “Pasta or Pizza for dinner?” and “Don’t forget to lock up”, I find the intensity of intimacy alien. I don’t mean that we are snogging each other – worse, we have to make long and exaggerated eye contact with one another, shout, scream, run around and generally make a first class tit of ourselves.
Some are obviously far better than others and their imagination and creativity is intimidating.
“C’mon Alice”, yelled the director, “Loosen up. Close your eyes and imagine yourself to be someone else. Fat, thin, tall, black, gay you name it, be it”. I watched the others enviously. They had no qualms on the luvvy front and were camping it up like a Carry On film but I was glued to the spot with inhibition.
“Alice darling”, said the director throwing her hands up with appropriate theatrical hyperbole, “This is a murder mystery. Imagine yourself so tormented that you might consider such an act.” Suddenly I pictured Hubby the previous evening, can of Strong bow in one hand, his trousers rolled up above his ankles, socks off, wielding a toe nail cutter in the other, laughing uproariously at Top Gear. My expression darkened, my eyes glazed over, my heart started thumping and before I knew it the director was shouting, “Cut, cut. Bravo Alice, now hold on to that thought but do try not over act, I think you might have bruised John”. I looked down to find one of the Dad’s rubbing his chest vigorously. “Those stage daggers are quite something” he whimpered.
The rest of the evening was spent in small groups in various classrooms rehearsing our scenes, until finally, we got together as an ensemble piece (the theatre I have learnt, has its own vocabulary) and acted out the first act. By this time my poor tormented back was killing me. I had been running, jumping, rolling on the floor, murdering people and sitting on a hard plastic chair built for the bum of a four year old. By the time it was my turn to come on stage I was almost crippled.
“Alice is this the winter of your discontent?”
“This isn’t Richard the IIIrd. Why are you stooped over?”
Unaware that indeed I was a cross between a Shakespearian actor and Mrs Overall, I slowly straightened up, creaking and groaning as I did so.
“Alice, is this too much of a commitment for you? Would you prefer to be in charge of special effects?” All eyes were on me.
“No, no not at all” I stammered, blushing, “I’ll just take some Nurofen” and, to show willing, I leapt off the stage. When I hadn’t materialised moments later, John the murdered father, had to fetch me my hand bag then peel me off the floor.
“Yes well, it’ll be alright on the night”, I said perkily.
“For £6 a ticket inclusive of pasty supper” said the Head, “it had better be”.


Anonymous said...


On the Cusp said...

My sister (older) is a navy wife too!
Thanks for the comments and the visit.