I woke with a shudder, a thumping heart and sweat on my brow last night. I’d had one of those dreams. The classic stress dream. The kind where you turn up for an exam you haven’t studied for, you don’t know any of the answers and you’re naked from the waist down.
Except this wasn’t an exam. I was appearing on stage, in a play. A real play, my next play. You see, amongst my other ‘talents’ I am an amateur actor. I like to think I put the amateur into Am Dram! I work with a drama company in my town, which although amateur, approach performances very professionally and we have won numerous awards for our plays.
So last night my subconscious found me in a nerdy comic book store, that was selling off some classic geek merch; I picked up an original Ghostbusters poster and a cool retro Star Wars T-shirt for only a couple of quid.Bargain! However I should have been at the theatre. I run to the theatre (now for some reason in a darkly gothic row of Georgian townhouses.) And crash into the dressing room just in time to hear my cue line. No time to get into costume I, reasonably I would think, pull on the Star Wars T-shirt and walk onto stage to awkward silence. No idea what my lines are, none at all. My fellow actors exchange glances and try to pick up the threads but it’s clear I’ve fatally wounded the performance and it was at this moment I woke and took some time to console myself that my next role isn’t ’til November.
I think every actor, professional or amateur, has a list of anecdotes of when things have gone wrong; lines forgotten, sudden blackouts, prop drinks actually being hard liquor, collapsing sets or in one case, back in my student days, missing out an entire act of the play. We reel them out in dressing rooms like veterans retelling old war stories.
To this day, although I don’t get stage fright, on my first entrance I am always certain I have forgotten all my lines. So, my new little routine is to stand quietly for a moment, eyes closed, a few deep breaths, running my opening line over and over in my mind. I figure as long as I get my first line out, someone else will speak and give me time to dredge it up what follows. It’s not failed me….yet.
I’m struggling to find a moral of this piece, so I’ll just subtly shift tone to say that Amateur Theatre doesn’t mean Amateurish Theatre. There are lots of groups who work bloody hard up and down the country, giving up hours to rehearse, to build and paint sets, to prepare costumes and props, who struggle to make any money at all from shows to keep going. So let’s make a deal, take a little effort to look at your local theatre and see if anything tickles your fancy and I’ll make sure I learn my lines, turn up in time and, most importantly, remember to wear trousers.