Listen, I haven’t just won a Tony award, have I? That was just a dream, right?
I really am dreaming about my play and a substantial part of me recognises that this now bordering on silly, if you were to mention the word ‘childish’ I might be upset but I wouldn’t entirely disagree.
But still, you know I did this play, you know it went spectacularly, gloriously, joyously well, what you might not know is that it went well twice. I won’t keep going on about the day but I’d like you to come backstage with me to the first moment I felt the day was going to be good.
For whatever reason, the day included a very long lunch break and my director used that time to run through the two plays she was doing that afternoon. I roamed around the back of the theatre while she, writer Debbie McAndrew and their cast ran through the first play, Mari’s Wake. I think my piece was a great, exuberant finish to the sessions but there’s no question that Debbie’s piece was the strongest play of the day. I’d already read the script so I was able to wander, enjoying the performance but also soaking in the atmosphere. For this lunch time run through there were probably ten people in the theatre; cast, director, writers, crew. Maybe fifteen. So it was a good time to relish that you were having a good time.
And at one point I stood right at the back, high up by the door, leaning like a more talented James Dean and looking fantastic.
Shows how much I know: two dear friends came in at that moment and report I was actually looking worried as hell. So much so that they sent my wife Angela to go calm me down.
And then I was up, my play’s turn. No hanging around, no real time for anything, just enough minutes to have my play performed for me and that same fifteen or so crew and this is this the thing that got me into thinking the day would be good: the crew laughed. There’s that laugh that you know isn’t really earned: you’re recognising there’s a joke and you’re being nice to the writer. I got some of those but I also got that surprised laugh, the genuinely amused laugh.
Because of that, when the real audience came in, I was a lot less worried than I’d have expected. You could still have blended whisky on me but I was able to enjoy it.
Very interesting how audiences change, how one joke will fly higher with this group than that. And I’ve got friends who argue audiences are stupid, that they need everything explained but this enrages me because you know that’s wrong, don’t you? I’m an audience, you’re an audience, when we’re watching something on stage or on TV we don’t miss a single thing – unless we’ve stopped watching, in which case boring us before patronising us is really not the way to go. Yet as much as I respect audiences, I underestimated this one: there was one joke they all, every single one of them, got a whole line early. Consequently the punch line, per se, felt like a clunk and I’ll watch for that in future.
Gotta go, my ego’s on a low light, it needs more stoking,