I recently had a delightfully reminiscent few hours with an old hoofer chum about our dancing years. Ah, those glory days long before the bones started to creak, hair recedes and magazines landed on my doorstep for middle aged must-haves. We very quickly got on to the conversation of when things didn’t go quite to plan during performances and how we tried to style ourselves out of the situation with a faint glimmer of pride still in track.
My first job after graduating Arts Ed was Pickwick – a show I will always hold close to my heart. A joyful production and a dream team cast. We had to do a ‘pre-show’ – for those uncertain with the term it involves going into the audience around 715pm and interacting with the audience. Many of the more established performers dreaded this but as an eager 20-year-old I adored it. Now we were given strict rules to stay in the stalls and not to go wandering!
I always slightly like to examine how far I could push rules so on the first night in York I unwisely decided to explore the dress circle. Our cue to get back onto the stage were the bells chiming. As the said bells pealed I went down what I thought were the stairs I came up from to find myself exiting a fire escape onto a side street in York in full Dickensian costume and rather too much slap. I panicked – I could hear the first notes of the opening playing as I was charging around like Anneka Rice in Treasure Hunt franticly searching for the stage door to get back in. I very quickly learnt my lesson to obey the rules. Naughty Andrew!
Another moment of madness was in Beauty and The Beast at the Dominion Theatre back in 1999! Those of you who know it will know the character of Chip lives in a tea trolly. It was our lovely second cover Mrs Potts first show on and during the song Human Again she, let us say was rather exuberant with her spout and unknowingly knocked the cart starting it on a slow but perilous journey toward the orchestra pit! Unaware of what she had done she was busy selling the number – making the most of her moment and quite rightly loving it. The poor Chip kept going as if nothing had happened while his cart was hurtling towards its fate like a high speed train. With one almighty surge of speed he and said cart tipped over the edge of the stage and into the pit! The cast and audience both gasped in horror. Thankfully the pit was covered with a big net which broke his fall. The little pro that he was continued the show and rightly got the biggest ovation at the end! The net in question also saved my knife costume, which was like wearing a large ironing board on my back, as one night during the high kick section in Be Our Guest it bounced out of my back pack onto the net saving decapitating the string section of the orchestra! In all examples the show of course carried on!
I recently auditioned the now grown man who was the pit bound Chip! I can happily say he seems unperturbed by his experience!
On and off stage we all make mistakes – remember all the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed!