Sunday 17th April 2011
PLAY-in-a-day is always a seat-of-the-pants, nail-biting, skin-of-the-teeth number, but that’s why I do it. Others play high-stakes poker, defuse bombs, climb rocks. I ask upbeat-downbeat teenagers to put the kettle on and bring it to the boil eight hours later. Adrenalin remains my recreational drug of choice.
Hester and Maisy, Playhouse staff, are on hand with technical and emotional support during the mayhem. I will no doubt take terrible advantage of their good natures.
The working title I’ve chosen is Looking at Shopping. Seems apt for the Burton Taylor Studio.
The company improvise possible sketches: a customer demanding they exchange his recent tattoo for another; unruly children in Santa’s grotto; females flirting with a shop assistant being upstaged by a gay male.
Hester brings coffee the moment I need it. The girls vote on who should be the vicar. I scribble a structure, cast characters, rehearse a frantic opening. Hester returns with a Bible: black notebook adorned with chalked white cross. We break for lunch.
There are fluffed lines during run-throughs, but they move strongly from the Sunday Trading Act to eBay, from fitting-room mirrors to a pet shop giving away a free piranha with every goldfish purchased. The arms-dealer shooting the peasant mother touches everyone. Pity they always miss out those two lines in the finale.
Maisy cues music, plots lighting, suggests a better ending. Tired but excited performers go to their dressing-room. I greet parents and dear friends whose vision and funding started all this.
Youth and impudence prevail. The audience loves it. And, yes, it’s in there:
(A London retailer of hampers. Chanting students engage playfully with posh diners. Manager and waitress are unsure what to do.)
WAITRESS (above the hubbub): Why don’t I put the kettle back on?
PROTESTOR: Oh no, we’re going to be kettled!
Gets a huge laugh. The show comes to the boil at just the right moment. Elation replaces apprehension, but I do so need a cup of tea.