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Knickers on or off?

April 15, 2020

I’m sure most actors would say there is something to be found in every role, large or small.

In 2011 I went to my first audition in decades and was cast in the smallest role in The Pied Piper,  that year’s panto. I was Rat 2 and I had a grand total of four lines involving no more than 20 words. I was on stage, in the background, saying nothing quite a bit and it was important to stay in character (a Rat Pack rat) whether or not I was saying anything. Apparently I did so quite successfully, enough to catch the eye of one of the directors of the one-act plays to be staged the following March. She wanted me to audition for the tremendously fun role of the Angel of Death in Norm Foster’s The Death of Me.

Since then there have been large roles, like Annie in The Housekeeper, and small roles, like Dumain in Love’s Labour’s Lost. They’ve all offered something and all are remembered fondly.

Then there was Lady Cartington-Smythe (“call me Bunty”) in our 2019 production of Whisking Eggs by Jackie Lines. Mad-as-a-box-of-frogs Lady C was just gold-plated fun to play – fright wig, clown make-up, crazy costumes and all. When you get a chance to tackle a role like this scenery-chewing pensioner, you relish every minute.

A professional director once told me that you should never laugh at your own jokes. It’s apparently the audience’s job to laugh at the jokes, not the actor’s. I’ve tried to stick with that advice, but with Lady C it simply wasn’t possible, because I knew, positively knew this woman found herself hilarious. Laughing at her own jokes was part of her DNA.

Jackie Lines was kind of enough to grant us permission to include Whisking Eggs in our lockdown online theatre collection. Which means a wider audience can now have fun with Lady C.

The sad news is she doesn’t appear until Scene 4, nearly halfway through the play. The great news is that the three other actors are all excellent. It was an absolute delight to work with such a fabulous cast. Not to mention a wonderful director.

The first time I went to the village during the week after the performances three total strangers came up to me and asked if I was wearing knickers. Now you will understand why.

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