When you are working as the director on a play, you tend to become superfluous on opening night. The actors have their lines and blocking learned. The set is ready. Sound and light design has been handed to the technical people. You have to surrender your baby to the cast and tech team, and hope that they are kind, loving adoptive parents. You’ve told them what you want. They have practiced. But if they decide to deliver Hamlet’s soliloquy through the medium of modern dance and jazz hands, without telling you, then, there’re not really a lot you can do.
If you are both the writer and director then the wrench of offering up your baby to the masses is even worse. That play has come from the pit of your mind and you are donating it for public consumption. People tend to judge writers from a moral viewpoint more so than they do directors or actors. Those people are interpreters. The writer is the creator of the idea. Therefore slightly more of a morally dubious character.
Last night was opening night of Firedoor Theatre’s ‘Uncut summer 2017’ – a showcase of original short plays.
My offering this time is ‘Mother’s Little Holiday’. It’s the show finale – which in my mind is quite prestigious. It’s a low down, vulgar comedy about thrashy people living thrashy lives. While dressed in leopard-print. In Tenerife. It’s not high art I grant you, but people seem to find the adventures of Maureen (a woman with notions as dark as her fake tan) and her vinegar lipped sidekick Carol, entertaining. This latest chapter in their sordid lives is the sequel to my February play ‘Mother’s Little Treasure’ which saw Maureen all aflutter in her new IKEA kitchen, as she awaited the release from prison of her cruelly misjudged white collar criminal son Gary (pronounced ‘Gorry’). This new update sees our intrepid pair in hot pursuit of Gorry to the Canaries – to where he had fled upon his release – with his low-down, devious, good for nothing tart of a girlfriend Rosario. But where is Gorry? And why is the bar he purchased with the proceeds of his embezzlement called ‘Casa Rosario’? You’ll have to come to the Pearse Centre for 8pm on Friday and Saturday to find out.
As I was not acting last night, my nerves were at ease. I volunteered to fold programmes and help with the front of house – basically guiding the audience to their seats when the time came.
This all went swimmingly, with the exception of one gowlbag audience member. I know that money can be tight for people and you need to budget for events. That said, when a ticket is clearly advertised as costing 10 euro, you cannot claim ignorance of that fact. So to rock up to the box office and declare ‘I only have €4.20. Is that enough?’ shows a certain level of ignorance and disrespect. After all this is a group that has no budget – every penny we earn in ticket sales is spent on theatre rental and rehearsal space. Nobody gets paid. There are no sun holidays from the proceeds. The fact that you know a cast member – which is why you are here in the first place – ought to mean that you don’t try to rip your friend off in this manner.
For a tenner? Less than the price of a cinema ticket for two hours of live theatre? You’d wonder about the motives of some people.
I had a friend in the audience also. My friend – like everyone else in the audience save that one guy – is classy though, and paid for his ticket.
As I waited backstage with my cast as they prepared to hit the boards, one of them turned innocently to me and said ‘Where is my hat?’
I chuckled inwardly. Such a prankster. ‘Where IS your hat, Vinegar Lips?’ (that’s the character’s nickname) I replied.
Horror of horrors – it was in the basement of another building where the dressing room is located.
With five minutes to curtains, I tiptoed out of the theatre, and then sprinted across the courtyard, entering the basement kitchen while shrieking ‘The hat, the hat, where’s Carol’s hat?’
It was sourced. I raced back to the theatre, snuck in the back door, a flop sweat dripping from my brow. I handed the hat to the actor.
The applause sounded for the end of the preceding piece.
The lights went down. My leopard-print, fake-tanned, vinegar-lipped cast of trollops (whom I love dearly) took to the stage.