Skip to content

My biggest challenge

November 3, 2018

Well, not in my life, but certainly in my recent “acting” career.

As I’ve no doubt written about already somewhere, in September 2011, a few months after my partner Mike died, I saw an ad in the local paper for auditions for the annual panto. My first reaction was “Oh, the panto. Mike and I used to love going to the panto. I’m not sure I can face going on my own this year.” I turned the page. Then I turned it back, looking at the ad and thinking “Maybe I should go to the audition, try to get a small role – or some backstage job – something that would get me out of the house – and my head – meeting new people.” I hadn’t done any acting since my school days, but I’d enjoyed it then. (In fact it was pretty much the only thing about secondary school that I did enjoy.

Rat2So I went to the audition for The Pied Piper and was cast in the role of Rat 2. I had all of four lines that totalled no more than twenty words. (Ergo my character not even meriting a name.) And I did have a great deal of fun. At the wrap party I got chatting to the bloke who’d played the hero in the panto. He told me he’d started out with a small role in a previous panto and by the following summer he’d had the male lead in a play at the theatre festival. “Well done, you,” I said (or words to that effect). “You’re a lot younger than me with more intact brain cells to help you memorise lines.”

I graduated from twenty words in the panto to twenty (or more) lines in a one-act play.

Then, much to my astonishment (and because no one else would do it) I ended up playing the female lead in a two-character full-length play at the theatre festival. Apparently I still had enough intact brain cells to memorise half a play, although to this day I still do not know how I did it.

Since then, I’ve acted in and directed various one-act plays (including two wot I wrote), acted in and directed various full-length plays, and I’ve been involved in every panto, either on stage or in the director’s chair.

After this year’s auditions, the director rang me to say that she wanted me to take on the role of the villain, Captain Jack Budgie in Pirates of Nursery Rhyme Island. This certainly wouldn’t be the first time a female had taken on the role of the villain in one of our pantos. A past member of the group, who moved away earlier this year, did so at least three times to my knowledge and what an excellent job she did. My first reaction was “Oh, no, I can’t. It’s way too many lines!” (The role I really wanted was of the pirate Bob whose only line, repeated throughout the show is “Argh!”) Nonetheless, I allowed myself to be persuaded and I confess, once I decided – inspired by watching a repeat of Poldark – to go for a west country accent I did start to feel as if I was inhabiting the character. But now I’m freaking out.

I’ve never had a particularly large role in a panto before, which suits me because they don’t lend themselves to the way I like to learn lines. I know you’re supposed to do this by spending endless hours with your script, but that does not work for me. What I like to do is record my scenes (easy to do in a two hander), transfer them onto my Mp3 player or onto CDs and listen to them over and over and over and over again – in the car, in the garden, while I’m cooking, while I’m cleaning. I learn best by osmosis.

This does not work in pantos, where a character may have only two lines in a scene involving several other people. Also, this particular character has multiple nonsensical speeches involving numerous nautical terms that mean nothing to me. (What is a spinnaker? What is a jenny?) I am finding these speeches impossible to learn. I cracked everyone up at a rehearsal this week by launching into a speech and saying, “We were travelling nor nor easterly when the shit hit the fan.” Obviously this was not the next line, but I’ll be damned if I can remember the second line of any of these four speeches. In fact I’m damned if can remember which first line goes anywhere.

We open in less than three weeks and I’m absolutely bricking it. My timbers are shivering. I am never going to learn these lines. The whole thing is going to be a complete disaster and it will all be my fault.

Oh, but wait a minute. I’ve just checked back to June and been reminded that a week before we opened Psychopathia Sexualis I was convinced that I would never be able to learn one particular speech, but I did.

So maybe it really will actually be all right on the night.

From → Blog

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: