I’m sitting in a huge conference hall. The floor is littered with torn bits of muslin, sticks, confetti and power tools. Two people are sewing, another is ironing tablecloths, another is stapling muslin to the underside of a trolley that I’ll be standing on in a few hours. Fans in the walls and ceilings do little to cut through the oppressive humidity. I’m dressed in a dinner jacket. Actors walk around in various states of undress. “You look so smart,” says Taz. “You look fucking cool,” I respond. She does.
We don’t have a dressing room as such, but we do have a room with chairs in it. It’s hot there as well. Everyone is borrowing things from Paul who has come prepared. I’m covered in his deodorant. Costumes are often left a few days without washing on jobs like this. I’d sooner not put on a damp shirt tomorrow.
It’s only a dress run but we have an audience and they’ll go through the show with us starting in about forty minutes. There’s that all too familiar frisson of nervousness in the room. None of us know what’s going to happen. We can only control what is controllable. There’s a lot that’s out of our hands.
I put my contact lenses in the wrong eyes and wondered for ages why they weren’t working. That’s an improvement on yesterday when I lost one round the back of my eye just as I was due to go on stage to rehearse, and had my lines read in for me while I was trying not to yak into the sink as I dug around for the thing.
“People have started to arrive,” says one of the interns nervously. Ryan can’t find his trousers. People compliment each other on their hair. Other Ryan paints Annabelle’s’s fringe. Chris takes my mugshot. Simon is playing the ceilidh on his accordion and I drop this to join him for a moment. Two of the producers dance in a corner, but other Ryan pulls Simon from practice to paint his face. I don’t get make-up. Only the magic people get make-up. I do have to take my trousers off though but just temporarily.
“How long does the show last,” the caretaker asks Taz and I. He is clearing up glasses from a conference while we stroll around in our pants. He’s trying to normalise. Neither of us have the slightest clue. The guy is confused. “You don’t know how long it is and you open tomorrow?”
We have started to huddle together now in a small area in the middle of this hall. Nobody knows where the audience maps are. Maddy has started saying “fripperies” out loud to herself. Simon shows me how sweaty his shirt is before he’s even done any acting. Kevin sings the opening bars of “Uptown funk” and Ryan has found his trousers. Ten minutes to go time. Suddenly there are three small children in the warehouse looking with wonder at all these colourful busy people. “There’s nowhere good to stand in this place,” says Charlie as she sorts out lanyards. I’m going to take a leaf out of Maddy’s book and start saying things like fripperies to myself somewhere. No I’m not. Zoe has called us in for a brief.
Here we go…
And this is just the dress rehearsal…