Sunday, 16 March 2014

The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd

So, exactly one month after the last post, in which I said I'd be posting more often, you get another one.

You lucky people.

But it's a Sunday afternoon, one of the less-credible Bond movies is on the telly, so I'm easily distracted. And it was on an afternoon just like this, a few months ago, when they pulled me back in.

Oh yes. You think you can leave. You believe you can put it all behind you. But they're incessant. They'll find you. And they'll get you to do what they want.

They're not the Cosa Nostra. They're much more scary than that. I have re-joined the shadowy world of Amateur Dramatics.

It was a normal Sunday afternoon about six months ago and I was idly looking at Facebook. A status update popped up from my Auntie Bibby.

I should explain. Bibby is not her real name. That would be odd. She's really a Vivienne, but as youngsters we all struggled with the letter 'V', so Bibby she became and 40-odd years later Bibby she remains. She is the lynchpin of the murky world of AmDram in South Birmingham. The Capo di Tutti Capo, the head honcho. Oh, she'll deny it and say it's a harmless pastime, but Auntie Bibby is the main recruiter. One quick conversation with her and before you know it, you're in the chorus for a production of HMS Pinafore in a community hall.

Some 20 years ago, I thought I'd got out. Oh, I'd started reasonably enough, hefting scenery backstage for a pantomime. But then it'd developed into something else. I'd had to learn lines and remember not to bump into furniture. They'd had me in period costume. Oh the horrors. But I'd escaped. I'd put that life behind me, or so I thought.

But there was this message. It was a Sunday afternoon and I'd just had a bacon sandwich. I was as relaxed as it was possible to be without chemical help. The message said that a local amateur dramatics group was looking for some help. One of their male actors had pulled out of a play due to go on stage a few months hence. Could anyone out there in Facebook-land help?

I thought about it. I wandered around the house a bit. I might even have had a cup of tea. It was that serious.

I called Auntie Bibby, to be told the play in question was Alan Ayckbourne's Absent Friends. A play that I had actually done all those years ago. The part in question was, in fact, the same character I had played before. It was almost as if Auntie Bibby intended me to be pulled back in.

Fast forward to November last year and I was on stage in front of a paying audience. I remembered my lines. I avoided the furniture. I even got some (deliberate) laughs. So it ended there, yes?

Well. No, it didn't.

We're in early rehearsals for our next play, and this time I'm learning the words of Noël Coward. And bloody hell, but he did like writing them. I've got speeches coming out of my ears. The trick, of course, will be for me to make the come out of my mouth. But every Thursday evening I and the rest of the Billesley Players do our level best to put this show together. And in-between, I'm often to be found with a script in my hand.

So if you're near the Old Repertory Theatre in Birmingham in early June, you'll be able to see me hyperventilating my way around the Old Master's words.

Who said nothing good ever came from Facebook?


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