Stage Whispers: The Stage Hand

· 463 Words

Back in the day I used to do a lot of sound and lighting for student theatre. I did a lot in Oxford, and went up to Edinburgh a number of times to do the Edinburgh Fringe. I did not go to Oxford University, but I did hang around with a lot of people who did. Once or twice I contributed to a theatre column in a student paper. It’s a bit thespy because it’s okay to experiment with language when you’re young. Reprinted here because why not.

It is the plight of the techie to facilitate but never to join in. To enable, but never to be adored. Our fate is eternally to sit on the sidelines, watching the bright young things onstage, ensuring the audience have a clear view through the fourth wall. We are relegated to the dark void of the tech box, never to bask in the warmth of the limelight that we ourselves have lovingly rigged. But whilst we resent this tradition of segregation, occasionally we do our bit to keep it alive.

After a successful Edinburgh run of what ScotsGay affectionately called `camp nonsense’ (four stars), your humble techie decided it was time for some theatricality of his own, and this time it wasn’t going to be a team effort. Being hands-on types, practical jokes come naturally to us. The script called for drinking, and lots of it. Through the magic of theatre, the stage manager, accustomed to performing minor miracles, achieved the impossible in turning apple juice into wine. In celebrating a fictional Eurovision night, the cast had to get through enough alcohol to knock out a fair sized student party, and to act accordingly. Feeling uncommonly generous, I decided to give them an evening off that notoriously difficult feat of acting, at my own expense.

Up came the lights and in came the actors, brimming with hammed-up gestures, unsophisticated jokes and, unbeknownst to them, the best part of a large bottle of gin. Only someone who, from his box, had seen the show more times than he could count could have discerned the looks of panic which spread through the cast as they worked their way through their distinctly un-virgin gin cocktails.

The show must go on, and I had quite a job following the script (as, it seems, did they). In my opinion the performance benefited no end from my little intervention. The characters were believably drunk and the script frankly made more sense.

It seems the cast didn’t agree: A rugby player moonlighting as a thesp landed a punch squarely in my chest for my efforts and things were icy for a day or so. I suppose it’s lucky there wasn’t enough in the budget to replace the icing sugar with real cocaine.

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