This week I’ve been acting in a comedy thriller called The Ghost train. As I’m theatrically superstitious, there was no way I was writing this before opening night, but now that has passed without a major incident (apart from nearly garrotting myself on the stairs when I stood on my dress) I feel it is safe to share with you some theatrical insider information.
The acting cycle is like Groundhog Day, the same charade playing out again and again. When some poor unsuspecting director asks me to act in their show, my ego screams ‘Yes please!’ After the elation of getting a great part comes the tedious part…rehearsals. I have acted with many different companies, but this time I was the new girl, with Llanelli Little Theatre. And I have to say, how they haven’t kicked me in the head I don’t know. They’ve been gracious, welcoming and supportive, despite the fact that I can read a script 314 times and still not retain the information. I must remember to take this information on board next time I rashly get involved in a production.
Having said that, we’re now halfway through a decent run. Last night went well, and apart from a banging headache from lack of sleep and a diet of bread and tea, I can finally allow myself to enjoy it. Rehearsals may be boring, but once it has all come together, performing creates an incomparable buzz.
We moved into the theatre on Monday. The first time you ‘walk the set’ you get a delicious thrill, because now everything starts to get real. Instead of trogging around the rehearsal space, you now get to walk through actual doors. Believe it or now, this is one of the things that confuses me. You’ve got to watch those pesky scamps, doors. I had a disaster on opening night. You see, stage doors need to be closed firmly but gently, otherwise a) the set will wobble in the style reminiscent of ‘Crossroads’, that cheap soap opera from the 1970s, or b) you think you’ve convincingly locked a character in a room only for the ‘locked’ door to slide open. Yes, situation b happened to me. Luckily I was more concerned with trying not to make a total hash of my lines to notice what was going on behind me. Thursday night I sent myself on a ‘door masterclass’ to make sure the damn thing shut properly.
Although the lines are the main concern, if you don’t get props and costumes right, you’ll never be comfortable on stage. I seem to suffer from an inordinate amount of wardrobe malfunctions. It’s my own fault. I believe that if I don’t try on my costume until show week something magical will happen and it will expand a dress size by the time show week rolls around. Strangely enough, it never happens. This time was classic. I bought a beautiful 1920s dress from China that could have come straight out of The Great Gatsby. Although it was slightly tight, I convinced myself it would stretch. Nope. I took it to the theatre on Monday with a good deal of hope, but I looked like a glittering pig in a blanket. Oh, and the sequined tunic only came to the crotch, with the rest of the dress virtually see-through from the thighs down. Luckily Ann backstage rescued me with a sparkly, roomier substitute. Phew. At least my shoes fit though. Poor Hattie, who is squeezing her poor size 7 tootsies into a size 6 every night, is in constant agony, and Gemma is sweltering every night in her furry coat. We suffer from our art, but the transformation is all part of the fun.
The routine never differs. I like to get to the theatre early and get myself a Costa tea and sometimes a snack. The transition from traipsing across town in a hoody and trainers to applying full make-up, period costume and hair is like a beautiful cross between Stars in Their Eyes and Doctor Who – the best kind of time travel.
We are one big communal family at the theatre. I love that if one of us gets stuck on our lines, one of the others will jump in and help them out, whether the actor has dried up or simply got lost. I think that’s why I carry on doing it. That or seeing my name in the programme, which never fails to make me smile. Oh, and the applause. If nothing else, do it for the applause. As I told you, there’s not a buzz to match it. And that’s what keeps me treading the boards, at least until I play my dream role, and then I’ll retire gracefully.
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