Two show day

Jack Whitam strode into the room, through a wardrobe full of smoke. Without full use of his limbs while he corporealised. Into a cold room with a table and loads of people looking at him. Playing the ghost of Marley. He strode into it twice today, brilliantly both times. It is his job, after all. As he came through the wardrobe, I stood behind him, hidden round the corner with a smoke machine… He’s the ghost of Jacob Marley. Plus ASM. I’m Ebenezer Scrooge. Plus ASM.

Let me talk you through my show. I’ve done it twice today so I should know. As the audience comes in, I’m warming up. Literally. It’s fucking freezing. My feet are like blocks of ice and I’m wearing shoes without socks. The floors and air are icy cold. I’m warming my vocal folds before I have to work so that I don’t damage them when the show kicks off. Lots of muscular stuff. Good old Kate Godfrey. Tongue. Soft palate. Connecting sound with breath. And warming. I might take a bit of time checking out the audience through the mirror. “Shit there’s a ten year old.” “That family looks lovely.” “They’re hammered. Interesting.” Then my show opens. I’m fanning a smoke machine that doesn’t work very well. I’m fanning it to stop the thermostat from cutting it off at a crucial moment. Then I’m switching on some LED lights in a wardrobe, and filling it with smoke if the machine works. Then Jack goes on through the wardrobe. I head round back, listen to the audience with Jack so I know what I’m in for, head for my entrance, make sure someone is there to close the door behind me, and hit a high energy scene, that’s the closest to panto that we get. Once I’m through that door I’m on stage for the rest of the night. There’s no rest. Over the years now, thousands of people have attempted to teach Ebenezer about Christmas. They’ve taught me obscure Christmas games – this evening I learnt “The Chocolate Game.” Everyone in the family rolls a die. If you roll a six, you put on a hat and gloves and eat from a big bar of chocolate with a knife and fork until someone else rolls a six. This is from a reality TV producer from Doncaster. She swears it’s brilliant…

So yes, I start with lots of humbug and Dickens quotes while I’m trying to get all the ghosts out of my parlour. Then I’m taken back into my past and I go fourth wall for a bit.

I sit on a stool and quote verbatim at great length the bit of Dickens that shows us that Scrooge liked Arabian Nights and Robinson Crusoe as a kid. My sister dies, I remember how to dance and fuck up a proposal to a ghostly memory. Then I have to welcome a load of people to a feast, and they teach me stuff like the Chocolate Game. What I’ve learnt is that virtually everyone has something unusual in their family Christmas. I’m trying to build a web that connects all sides of the audience every show. By the time I’m at this part of the show I’m already on the home stretch. The bulk of my emotional journey is in Christmas Past and once that’s done it’s mostly just playing with the individuals that are there. Then I have to do a bit of improv, play some accordion, play a game, and then switch the atmosphere from fun to silence on a ninepin. If that works out the rest is gravy. I get very sad, understand my mortality for the first time, make a vow, and undergo a total human revolution. Then I run out in the rain and almost get hit by a bus. Then I talk too much and eventually bow.

People love it. It’s a beautiful show. Obviously. You don’t come back four years running to do something negligible. I’m so happy to be back in the nightie. It’s feeling like a huge part of my year now. Every year I fear it’ll be the last. Every year it comes back. I love this gig. And this year it’s been beautiful. And the team is just perfect. It’s such a happy show. Here’s Mel and I heading home after perhaps a little too much wine… I fear I’m getting better at drunk-writing. I’d never be a theatre critic, but I suspect that that’s the number one skill in their profession…

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Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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