Though I don’t think I’m ever going to achieve my life ambition, I’ve been on stage a couple of times. Chekhov, Beaumarchais, Plautus, Wilde, that sort of thing. I even got to sing a couple of times, which seems like decades ago now. That may be because it was, but nevertheless.
At the age of 23 I appeared in a fringe production of Forget-Me-Not Lane by Peter Nichols, which turned out to be the last ever play the company I was in performed. I wasn’t, initially, cast – which is understandable, given the fact that practically everyone else who turned up to the audition was a lot more talented than me – but in the end I filled a rôle that I knew nobody else would have been cast in.
I didn’t even need to go to rehearsal much. My memory tells me that I went to two of them, maybe three. I also didn’t need to go to every performance – I went to two out of four, in fact – on account of the fact that my character appeared in a recording. (I engineered the recording, which is how I got into the play. Don’t judge.) There was even a song involved.
The main problem with Forget-Me-Not Lane is that it’s not very good. I knew this, and I knew my director wasn’t directing it particularly well. I did put up a little poster in the staff room at work (“if anyone wants to hear my four lines in this, ask me for a ticket!”), and I took my parents and dear friend H along to see it, but overall, I wasn’t really expecting anyone to enjoy it.
Shortly before seeing the opening night, I had recently managed – through what probably involved a lot of pleading – to get a girlfriend. My parents were pleasantly bemused by my enthusiasm for the whole thing, and H was delighted. Once I’d assured her that my new relationship involved sex, lots of sex, and that it was fantastic sex to boot, she was even more satisfied. My girlfriend didn’t actually come to see Forget-Me-Not Lane – it’s not something I wanted to subject her to in the first few days of a nascent relationship – but nevertheless, she was on my mind all the way through it.
Probably a good thing I didn’t have to be on the stage, really.
“How did it go?” her cheery text went as we drove home from Camden.
“Went well, thanks,” I lied. “Almost a full house, which was good for opening night. My parents hated it…”
I paused for a while to listen to my parents bitching about how bad the production was.
“…but it could have been worse. How are you?”
“I’m good! It’s a shame you’re not letting me come to see it!” She followed this up with a number of kisses, which assuaged my immediate worry that not wanting her to see the badly-written, poorly-directed play I was in was grounds for being dumped.
There’s something in that. Realistically this is going to be our last production. I mean, I’m going to do some other things. I’m sure I’ll do some other things. But if this is something I’m going to do, she should at least see the bit I’m in. Oh, hang on…
“I’ll send you the recording of the bit I’m in,” I texted back. “When I get home.”
“You’ve got that?”
She was slightly more impressed that I also appeared in An Education, to be honest. But I didn’t talk about that much.
Well, not too much.