So we had to be in the theatre by 6.30 to allow sufficient time to get into costume and vampire makeup, for kick-off at 8.
At 6.15 I was in the McDonalds next door, cursing my laziness. If I had pre-planned, then I could have made something moderately healthy for supper. Of course I didn’t. Nor was I fooling anyone (least of all myself) with my choice of Maccy D’s ‘gourmet’ Swiss burger. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? McDonalds may be quick but it’s never gourmet.
I gave myself props for not buying the fries. I may be a bit delusional in this self-congratulation.
Meeting up with my vampiric fellow performer backstage, we decided to run lines. Apparently this is not a very wise idea. An hour before show-time in a play, it is sort of expected that you know your text. And she knew hers, of course. I also knew mine- I am a nervous creature and running the lines is kind of calming. A little psychological soother, that induces a kind of self-hypnosis. Keeping occupied mentally, then those wicked thoughts of all the potential disasters are avoided. She humoured me – we ran our lines and I felt more zen about the looming curtains.
From the corner of my eye I spotted my fellow sailor from the haunted boat thriller ‘The Burden’. Feeling all Alan Partridge I thought ‘A-ha’. I approached him and asked to run our lines. He agreed. It was an utter disaster – I kept getting brain-burps and skipping entire pages. It’s not as if I don’t know this play – because I have learned the piece well, and rehearsed it at least thirty times. What was wrong I wondered. My co-sailor told me that all was fine, and that we’d be grand. We just needed to get through our separate pieces in the first act. We could then reconvene and resolve the mental jigsaw.
So we did.
We were ushered backstage and the theatre doors opened. I was gnawing my fingernails as I could hear the audience chatting and buying drinks. They sounded loud. They felt close. I hoped they were drunk and forgiving. It was stomach-churning. It was nerve-wracking It was very exciting.
The pre-show announcement by the compere. I could feel the sweat on my temples. I hoped it wasn’t ruining my dastardly make-up. My heart was pounding. I was twitching like a Chihuahua on speed. Fellow vampire by my side. The lights went up and out we went.
I’ll always try to do my best, but as I also wrote this one, if I give a lousy performance, I won’t be able to fall back on the excuse that it was a terrible script. Well I could – but it would still mean that it was all my fault.
We did just fine.
Once ‘Blood Sugar’ was complete , my mind seemed magically cleared for the next two performances. I was not massively worried about ‘The stranger’. Of course I wanted it to go well, I only have a cameo in that one, and the other three people in it are rather splendid, and perfectly well able to carry it, either with or without my cheap, gaudy glamour. It was also successful.
And then – my burden. ‘The Burden’. It’s a wonderful play, really scary, atmospheric and dark. The piece that I’d been having conniptions over, just an hour earlier, seemingly having forgotten not merely the lines, but also their sequence. Having done a silent lip-reading of the piece backstage during intermission with my co-sailor, there was nothing left to do except go for it.
I don’t remember much of it. I have a big dramatic speech at the end where I am meant to have a little break-down. I guess I went all Daniel Day Lewis method actor for that – I invoked the terror I had felt during that evening’s line run. After the show we looked at each other. We checked our scripts – we had done it. As instructed on the tin. What an absolute relief.
I must not get complacent. There’s another potential catastrophe in store tonight. I must get mentally prepared.