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Day thirty-two – Filling the void Part 1

December 5, 2017

Yes, yes. I know it’s Day thirty-five, not day thirty-two, that there has been a three-day lapse in postings. Unfortunately, just as I was about to post tis entry on Saturday my computer froze. Couldn’t do anything with it except a forced close. My friend Darryl tried – unsuccessfully – to help me figure out what the problem was over the phone. Yesterday I took it into Doctor Techie, who identified the problem and did a thorough service. The hard drive will need to be replaced sooner rather than later, but for now we are back in business.

Here’s the post you didn’t get to read on Saturday…

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When my partner Mike died suddenly in March 2011 I was at a loss in so many ways and on so many levels. Friends rallied round me, some travelling thousands of miles to make sure I was okay. Two friends offered me work – work I do from home, at this desk, work that meant I didn’t have to leave the island in order to make a living (something I’d been afraid I would have to do). They got me back on the road to recovery and I am forever grateful to them for that.

Six months after Mike’s death I saw a notice about auditions for the annual panto. As I’m sure I’ve written before, my first reaction when I saw the notice was, ‘Oh, the panto. Mike and I used to love going to the panto. I’m not sure I could face going on my own this year.’ Then I thought, ‘Hang on. Maybe I should go to auditions. I loved being in plays when I was in school. Maybe I could get a small role or even do something backstage. It would get me out of the house, meeting new people. Why not?’ So I went to the audition and, as I detailed in a blog I decided to start writing (summer was over and with it material for my garden blog had dried up), I was cast in a small role. I had four lines, totalling probably no more than twenty words. My character, Rat 2, didn’t even merit a name.

At that point my social life (if you could call it that) consisted almost entirely of going to the pub one afternoon a week for my longstanding game of pool with my neighbour Pat. Suddenly I was going out two evenings a week to rehearsals, meeting new people and having a great deal of much needed fun.

2011 pied piper and tail of rat king

The Pied Piper and the Tail of the Rat King

Standing at the buffet table at the wrap party after our four performances, I got chatting to Michael, who’d played the lead role. He told me he thought I’d been very good. Not sure how he formed that conclusion, given the previously mentioned dearth of lines, but he went on, told me I had great stage presence. Really? Okay, I’ll take the compliment. Then he told me that he’d started off with the theatre group the same way – he’d been cast in a small role in a previous panto and the following summer ended up playing a lead role in a play at the theatre festival. I laughed at that, pointed out that he was considerably younger than me and therefore probably had enough brain cells left to allow him to memorise a lot of lines. Four lines, I told him, were fine by me.

Early in the new year I was contacted by one of the women who’d been in the panto. She was, she told me, going to be directing one of the one-act plays in the spring production. There was a role she really want me to play. Apparently, like Michael, she’d seen something in Rat 2 that I hadn’t realised was there. I asked if I could read the play, get a sense of how large the role in question was. The play was Norm Foster’s The Death of Me and the role in question – the Angel of Death – really wasn’t that large.

So I went to the auditions and – surprise, surprise – was cast in the role. More getting out of the house. More fun. More new people. (The three other actors in this play hadn’t been in the panto.)

2012 Death Of Me

On the Sunday morning before the final matinee performance I decided to go down to the garden to dig some manure into the raised bed. As I was completing this task, two women, out for a walk, stopped to say hello, as you do on the island. After commenting on the beautiful colour of the blue hyacinths, one of the women pointed at me and asked, “Are you deaf?”

Not at all sure what I’d said which could have prompted this, I replied (rather appropriately) “Pardon?”

She nudged her friend, looked at me, and said, “You are, aren’t you? From the play?”

Ah, I’d misheard her. Death, not deaf. Yes, I admitted, I was the angel of Death.

They told me they loved the play, thought I was fabulous.  Music, I must confess, to my ears.

While we were still rehearsing The Death of Me, Mark, one of the other actors, asked me to read a script called The Housekeeper. The play was going to be the group’s entry in that summer’s theatre festival. I read the play, the story of Annie Dankworth, a homeless women who inveigles her way into the home of Manley Carstairs, the middle-aged self-published author of appalling prose. I thought the play was funny and arranged to meet Mark for a coffee to tell him so. After sharing this information I told him I hoped he hadn’t asked me to read it in the hope that I would be interested in playing Annie. He told me that was exactly what he had been hoping. I laughed, told him there was no way on earth I could possibly memorise that many lines. I suggested a couple of other female actors in the group, whom I thought would be excellent in the role. He told me both had been approached and both had declined for the same reason. I wished him luck. Mark had already cast himself as Manley. Auditions were held for Annie. No one turned up. Fuck, fuck, fuckety fuck. The group, of which I’d already become very fond, had a commitment to the theatre festival. The play had to be staged. I rang Mark. Okay, I said, I’d do it, but he was going to have to buy me a lottery ticket every week we were in rehearsal, because there was no fucking way I could learn all those bloody lines and take on paid work.

He and I got together and recorded the play. I listened to the recording while I was driving, while I was gardening, while I was cooking dinner and washing the dishes. We rehearsed three times a week, rather than the normal two. To this day I’m still not sure how the hell I did it, but I managed to memorise half a bloody play. (Actually I had to memorise the whole play, as Mark had a tendency to take the term “off book” literally and if I hadn’t memorised what he was supposed to say, I wouldn’t have had any idea what my next line was.)

2012 The Housekeeper

We fucking did it! Performed the play at the theatre festival, got through it without calling for a line. The applause continued for so long after we’d taken our bow, I turned to Mark and asked if we should go back out for a second bow. He thought we should. We went back out. We were getting a standing ovation!

Holy shit. If I hadn’t been before, I was now well and truly hooked.

And that, dear reader, is it for today. This plan of mine is clearly going to end up in multiple parts.

À demain.

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