One of the more surreal aspects of being a stand-up comedian/performer-of-stuff is that I get to know little parts of the world that are a long distance from my home. The fact that small parts of Glenrothes seem as familiar to me as some neighbourhoods of my home city Newcastle, some 180 miles away, always strikes me as odd. Equally, as a comedian, one of things you need to put a lot of trust in is the plumbing. There is no benefit going on a stand-up stage with a full bowel or a full bladder. Having said that, I did do a gig a few weeks ago while needing a poo and I think I mentioned that I had to get off the stage for the poo to the audience - it got the biggest laugh of my set, which is a little disturbing.
Anyway, the venue's plumbing is very important to the performer and I have some favourites and some not-so-favourites. The loo in Peebles Arts Centre, for instance, is very well maintained, though a little cramped. The toilets in Glenrothes are smashing - the venue is also a sports hall, so there are lots of anonymous cubicles ideal for that pre-match evacuation. The loo in Bar XS in fallowfield is something I wouldn't like to sit on and, on the occasions when I've gone in there to change, has a floor I didn't want my clothes to come into contact with. The toilet at Nicol Edward's tavern in Edinburgh (which along with Bar XS has been a favourite venue of mine) had a metal pan and a weird fixed pair of wooden pieces as a makeshift seat.
By far the most unpleasant toilet experience I've had so far was the other night. I'll exclude toilets which were so squallid that I didn't even think of using them. I don't recall specific examples, but they must have existed. This toilet was reasonably clean and usable, which made it all the more unpleasant as it, quite simply, didn't have a sit. I just sat on the porcelain and hoped nothing dangled in the water. Luckily, nature didn't give me a great deal to worry about in that regard. In terms of getting into a cheerful and funny mood, the Saturday night's expedition to the porcelain was kept fairly cursory in order to avoid fouling any part of me - be it mood or otherwise. It's all glamour in my life, that's for sure.
Sunday, wrote Mr Kipling
Having slept for a lot of Sunday, thus putting a bit of distance between myself and the exhaustion of the gig, I woke up in time for lunch and for a friend of mine to come round and start tackling the garden. I left him to this Herculean task and rushed off to the first dress rehearsal of Guys and Dolls. As I hit the traffic on the A1, I realised how optimistic my set-off time had been. It wasn't impossible, but I was clearly aiming to cut it fine. This I felt I could afford to do, given that I have a full hour of the normally-running show in which to prepare. However, with a dress, you never know what sort of preparation is additionally required. I wanted to be there on time.
As it happens, I made it on time. The magic of the traffic making it possible for me to be stressed at the delay but not actually delayed enough to be properly put out.
The first dress rehearsal is more of a technical run through and is performed without the orchestra. We got through the show and got used to the set. The stage crew have a massive task on their hands. Realising that I wasn't likely to miss my cues if I watched from the circle, I spent a fair amount of time watching the scenes I wasn't in. The show looked amazing even with no lighting and sets moving all over the place.
I managed to make my quick change and I also did the tap routine through for the first time with the tap shoes on. It was really good. While the choreographer and director had implored us to remember to smile while doing the routine, my smile wasn't painted on at all - I really enjoyed it. It felt very very good.
Late night cond-versation
Getting home late I grabbed something to eat and then went onto the computer. I discovered a friend of mine online and so ended up giving them a call, rather than just use the online communication. I have been using computers to talk to people since I was very young. I believe I've been "online" in some sense of the word for about 18 years now. Zoiks. Online communication brings one close, but actually talking on the telephone conveys a lot more and is a more friendly experience. Meeting face to face is a whole different ball game. Anyway, the good news is that, during this conversation, we managed to organise a trip to see a musical. You see. All good conversations should end in a trip to a musical. This show is Jerry Springer - The Opera, which should be at the tail end of its run. By the looks of things there are dates after the "Must close 19th Feb" suggested closing night. However, the opportunity to see the show at its West End home before it tours, is of more importance than whether it happens to be the last possible chance.
The bad news is that the telephone conversation stretched into the wee small hours. That's only bad from the point of view of going to work the following morning. The fact that I can spend upwards of 4 hours on the phone to a friend is something I'm actually quite pleased about. The fact that I had to be at work in the morning was less pleasing. As it was, I delayed my trip to the bed by taking a precautionary trip to the bathroom, so I wouldn't need to waste time in the morning in showering. This proved useful.
I woke up at various points, one of which was 10 minutes after when I wanted to be in the office. D'oh!
Luckily, I had nothing to organise but my rush to the car and I got into the office in enough time to feel like I could keep my job. The day was about to take a surprising turn.
In amateur productions, there are no understudies. I think I mentioned that, at some point in a rehearsal, I was asked to understudy one of the characters for a big production number. The song I was asked to sing the melody in for was "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat" which is sung by Nicely Nicely - the part I had originally auditioned for and rather hankered after. In that classic hollywood movie cliche, I was pushed into the limelight to sing the piece with everything except the chorus girl crying "Ashley Frieze can sing it sir".
I wanted to be in that number.
I probably entertained the fantastic notion that, at some point during rehearsals, the actor playing that part might need replacing and that I would be drafted in. Being second choice isn't great, but it's still being a choice. In some ways, I allowed myself to wish to steal the part I wanted. Conversely, I recognised in the guy playing the part that he's a much more seasoned performer, better able to carry off the role. I have a role that I fill, I shouldn't be jealously wanting someone else's.
The guy has got a throat infection. It's quite possible that he won't be able to sing that number. It's also possible that he'll struggle by. We don't know. I got a call from him today. He and the director both thought of me as a potential stand-in. Not to stand-in his part, just to take the song on as a part of my role. I don't know if I'll be doing it over the next 7 performances. I've not actually done any of the movements in the scene that the character does. What happens if you wish for something and then it threatens to come true? How do you react?
I'm not scared. I can make something work. I have enough improvisation skills to do this song unrehearsed. I am a bit apprehensive. I also feel a bit guilty. In some ways I'm having to plot, from a technical point of view, how to steal a guy's part. He is quite pragmatic about it, but equally it's been in all of his preparation and expectations to do the full range of things his character does in the show. It's not fair to have to hold back from a big number.
I have run through the song as Big Jule - it can work. It won't sound as sweet as a Nicely Nicely rendition, but it should hold together. I learned the lib for the audition, hoping to give a great performance (I think my performance at audition for my actual part was, in some ways, better than any rehearsed performance I've given so far), so I should know what I'm doing. Now it's just a matter of time. I'll know when I get to the theatre if I have to take over some extra singing.
The show must go on.
This production is going to be superb. A slightly husky actor will not detract from the scale and class of this piece. It has been orchestrated to the nth degree by a director with a lot of attention to detail, which is exactly what a musical requires. The costumes, routines, performances, sets, lighting and sound will all be top class. I'm looking forward to it.