Squeaky Newton (John Newton, the Deputy Head) tapped me up for this production, but I didn’t want to act again after the Andorra experience, which I had enjoyed but which had convinced me that, while I loved theatre, the boards weren’t really for me. But Squeaky persevered and suggested that I help with the production behind the scenes. I realised that I wanted to do that. He also suggested that I take a small part, Valentine, otherwise I’d feel a bit spare on the nights of the actual show.
Then, with various droppings out (Mark Stevens was originally cast as Antonio) I ended up with two parts and a fairly sizeable one in Antonio with only about four week’s notice for that one.
Meanwhile, I was so blasé about this production I didn’t mention it in my diary at all until a passing mention of “rehearsal” on Friday 17 November before going on to the grandmothers’ (yes, that apostrophe is in the right place, I did the rounds that night, “G Jenny for dinner, then on to G Anne”) places.
Occasional mentions of rehearsals for the rest of November, then best part of 2 weeks with no diary entries at all – very rare – but I guess the play and my other commitments were keeping me a bit too busy.
Next entry is 8 December “rehearsal for play till late”, then:
- 10 December “dress rehearsal went quite well for 12th Night”,
- 11 December “day of ignoring school play completely” (not really completely, because I mention the play in my diary entry),
- 12 December “12th Night matinee then on to BBYO (youth club) with makeup on still”,
- 13 December “day off from play”,
- 14 December “12th Night first proper night, very good”,
- 15 December “most important night of play – went brilliantly”,
- 16 December “went to school with Julie – last night of play – party afterwards which went on until one”.
Two more recollections about the production itself. Neil Kendrick, who was one of the officers, discombobulated one night and forgot to say the “away sir”…or whatever line it was that got Paddy Gray, me and him off the stage. I recall that Paddy and I needed to concoct some ad lib business to get the three of us the heck off the stage that night!!
Because I was late to the part of Antonio, I had limited time to learn lines and rehearse the part. Squeaky had also choreographed a brief sword fight with Sir Toby Belch (Chris Grant) before the law arrives, for which Chris and I were under-rehearsed.
One night, I think the first proper performance, unsurprisingly the fight went awry. Perhaps I got over-excited and forced too hard, or perhaps Chris wasn’t holding on tight enough to his sword. It’s too late now for blame or recriminations. Chris went on to be head boy and on the Board of Sport England, so let’s guess it was my fault.
Anyway, Chris’s sword flew out of his hand and over the edge of the stage. I remember listening out for a yelp from an impaled member of the audience, but I don’t think the sword had actually gone very far. Still, there we were, Chris and me, all dressed up, no place to go with our fight. The law weren’t expecting to come on to stop the fight for another 30 seconds or so. Another ad-lib classic, mercifully lost to posterity.
With many thanks to Mike Jones, who somehow survived being my form master and teaching me geography in the third year, preserved the programme and uploaded it to our Alleyn’s Facebook Group.
I also have a small recollection of the after show party and its impact on the rest of my life – to follow/linked here.