Monday, 13 May 2013

Mortifying. Utterly!

So this evening I went to the Central School of Speech and Drama to see the musical version of Arnold Wesker's The Kitchen. Arnold had sorted a ticket for me and I got there with twenty minutes to spare because I hate being late. 

I spoke to the woman behind the desk. "Hello," I said, "I think Sir Arnold has left a ticket in my name..." She looked at me like I'd burped very loudly whilst saying the alphabet, "I'm afraid it's a list-only event... " I pulled my best confused face and she seemed to relent, "I'm sure there's space, so why don't you just go on through?" 

At that point I was whisked away by a student usher who explained that it had started ten minutes ago, but that there were seats reserved for late-comers at the front. I went in cursing Arnold. He definitely told me it started at 7.30, not 7. I hate being late. Thank God I'd arrived early enough to only miss the first ten minutes.

I walked into a studio theatre. A anxious-looking man in black, wearing an apron, was holding a rolling pin. I was a little disappointed. He wasn't singing. There was no band. Arnold had given me the impression that I was coming to see a fully-staged piece. 

My cheeks started to flush as I realised with horror that I was now sitting on the front row of the CSSD post-graduate acting course's showcase performance. This wasn't The Kitchen. It was a series of duologues which consisted of people screaming at one another as only drama students know how. It was an intimate performance to say the least. I could feel the actors' spit on my cheek as they annunciated oh so clearly. I was one of an audience of 60, all of whom had tutted when I shambled in late, holding my broken suitcase. 

I made the most of the first semi-blackout and (to more tuts) legged it out of the auditorium doors, in the process bashing into a group of actors waiting to go on. 

In the ensuing chaos, I rushed out of the wrong door which led me into a courtyard. The door shut behind me and I realised with horror that I was stranded. Utterly stranded. If I was to exit the courtyard by any of its doors, I'd need a special card. 

Eventually a lovely student took me under her wing and explained that there was actually only an open dress rehearsal of The Kitchen going on which had started at 6pm! I was welcome to watch the second half, and within minutes I was being ushered through a series of internal doors, which eventually deposited me, unceremoniously, into  a chair behind the director, and from there I watched the second half of the musical, periodically bursting into peels of hysterical laughter as I remembered my tragic little adventure. It strikes me that this sort of nonsense is far more likely to happen to me, and wonder why that is! 

I've been in White City all day teaching songs to the people in our film. I've felt so welcomed by everyone. Norma sent me home with a delicious carrot cake, and when we got to Melina's house, her family had laid on the most astonishing spread of Iranian treats. There was an enormous platter of grapes and strawberries, and a plate piled high with spicy nick-nacks, nuts and biscuits, all of which I'd never encountered before. I drank mint tea whilst their "housetrained" rabbit repeatedly attacked me, drawing blood on one occasion. This is what happens when a man walks into a female household! It was hysterical.

Melina actually knew her song by heart and performed it beautifully, but it can take some people rather a lot of time to learn these kind of songs. Setting verbatim text precludes the use of rhythmic repetition in the verses, so things can get quite complicated. I'm a firm believer in doing things again and again until it sort of embeds itself in the brain, but this is a tiring process, so I've decided to keep the learning sessions short, but regular. In the meantime I'm hoping people go away and are singing the songs so often they can do them in their sleep. I tend not to use the phrase "learn these songs backwards" any more, ever since one of my choir members on Oranges and Lemons asked me if she could have a copy of the notes in reverse!

I have been brutally tired all day. Yesterday as good as wiped me out and I realised on many occasions today that I simply wasn't making any sense. I kept forgetting words and losing the thrust of what I was saying mid-sentence. 

We went to Starbucks in the afternoon which is in the BBC's complex, just a stone's throw from the estate. It is, however, an entirely different world which is as alien to people on the estate as ITV is to me! BBC staff can be a horrid bunch and we were surrounded by ghastly people asking for soy chi lattes and having "power chats" about commissioning. One particularly obnoxious specimen was boring the bloke opposite to death by pumping him for information about his production company. She was one of those telly women; the hard-faced, gloriously self-centred ones who are thick as a plank, desperately insecure and always so profoundly "unlucky" when it comes to relationships. She would describe herself as a strong woman. She's not. She mistakes being strong for being a cow! Her hair had plainly been crimped, permed, straightened, and caramel-sliced to within an inch of its life. It looked like corrugated cardboard. 

I feel much more comfortable on the estate and we had our lunch in the vegetarian cafe run by adults with learning disabilities where a main meal only costs £2. The estate is where you find strong women, like Norma, who has fostered 20 children and J, who has been yanked by her hair to hell and back in her life. 

Sometimes I wonder how good telly would be if it was run by the people I meet on estates. I think there'd be far fewer examples of patronising day time telly for starters. No more antique shows and certainly no more travelogues presented by Caroline Quentin! 

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