Our reviewer ASHLEY HAYWARD looks back on his acting highlights, revealing how his rendering of Claudius was upstaged by his own moustache and the perils of working with a flatulent corpse,
I’m desperately missing my theatre visits during this lockdown.
As much as I adore watching professional performances, I’m really looking forward most to spending evenings at our many and varied amateur venues across the City and County
I think this is perhaps because I spent so many happy years performing on stage myself. I’m a very reluctant performer these days as my declining short term memory increasingly lets me down as I try to learn lines.
However, when I see the amateurs take their curtain call (and usually can’t resist looking for their loved ones in the audience!) my mind wanders back to many amusing incidents and fits of the giggles that happened to myself and I wonder what anecdotes these performers will have to recount in the future.
I never really wanted to go on stage but my ex-wife was keen to join an amateur dramatic society and we joined such a group in Northamptonshire. I volunteered that I would be more than happy to help backstage if they ever needed a spare pair of hands.
However, like many other societies they suffered from a shortage of men. I was therefore persuaded to take a small part in an Alan Ayckbourn comedy where I appeared briefly as a drunken businessman.
To be honest I found the whole experience a highly effective laxative but was surprised that after I had nervously delivered my first line it was greeted with laughter and from that moment I became stage struck.
One good thing about working in education was that I was able to participate in school productions including a very ambitious attempt at Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. I played that part of Claudius and at the time sported a 1980’s ‘118’ type moustache (see photo)
As a delightful 6th form girl was putting on my make up she thought it would be best to ‘blacken up’ the tache so that it could be seen in all its glory under the lights.
On the opening night I was joined on stage by my dainty wife, Gertrude, from the English Department and we embraced tenderly on the lips. Sadly the make up girl and overdone it somewhat and Gertrude spent the rest of the scene also sporting a drooping moustache.
The audience were trying their best to be supportive and were more successful than I was in disguising their titters.
There was also one annual school pantomime where I was the baddie – a Chicago gangster. My henchman was a well built PE teacher who only had one line – he had to say to the heroine, ‘You’d better do this otherwise your boyfriend will be made to wear concrete slippers and go for a swim’. He conscientiously spent many hours learning the line and perfecting his American accent.
Come the opening night the audience were somewhat confused when he said threateningly ‘you’d better do this or your boyfriend will be made to wear carpet slippers and go for a swim’.
It is probably those mistakes that make amateur productions so endearing.
Fairly recently I appeared in a production of Robin Hood in the Jephson Gardens and one of the Merry Men did a rather unfortunate Spoonerism when enquiring about the whereabouts of Friar Tuck!
Then there was the time when I was playing in a psychological thriller in Warwick and as I went to hide the female ‘corpse’ the elderly lady started to suffer an unfortunate attack of flatulence.
As I’m writing this I find myself remembering more and more incidents and want to keep saying ‘and then there was the time that…’
However I think I’ll end there and encourage eveyone to support their local amateur groups.
Okay, they can’t compete with the pros but gosh they provide value for money and are an integral part of their communities.
I can also assure you that they all will have had loads of laughs along the way.