Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Chapter Eight

Prince Escalus
Jackie Wilson - Reet petite -Christmas number one for four weeks -1986

Emma was true to her word and didn’t mention our Thompson Twin moment to anyone. In fact we never spoke to each other again until, quite by chance I spotted her walking down Hammersmith high street in London, but that’s for later.

By chance, oh come come my innocent one. Nothing is by chance. It’s all part of the plan, mapped out worlds ago. So sweet and unsullied.

I was off to the Edinburgh festival. A group of 'the most promising student actors' in the country had been chosen to form part of a crème-de-la-crème theatre company. Four weeks of rehearsals in Bloomsbury and we were off to perform in St. Margaret’s theatre, Princess Street. Mothers embarrassment more commonly known as my Triumph Dolomite accompanied me to Birmingham where Romeo and Mercutio clambered into the back seat.

I had originally been offered the part of Benvolio however an 'administrative error' saw me reduced to playing five ensemble parts, whose total word count didn’t even reach Benvolio’s fourth line. Mother was less than delighted.

‘But you assured William he would be playing Benvolio.  The five excuses for characters you have offered him have no integral relevance to the play and indeed in Peter Brooks’ adaptation at the National three of them were cut completely’. 

             Mother had a point.

‘Look, if he doesn’t want the parts that’s fine, we’ll get someone else’

            ‘We’ll have to think about it’ and mother slammed the phone down, well, replaced the receiver firmly, she never actually slammed anything. ‘Slamming doors and telephones William is the curse of the ignorant or at the very least families who claim Social Security’.

            ‘Mother I really think I should accept their offer, some of the greatest actors started off with the smallest parts’

            ‘Well if you think so William, but at least they know you won’t be pushed around’
            ‘Whatever you say Mother’

I now had Prince Escalus, Peter, two spear-carriers, the Apothecary, Mercutio and Romeo tucked into my dolomite, the first five characters being the challenging one liners I had accepted.

We were on tour for three weeks.  Each day the same as the next.  Wake up at eleven, shower, arrive at the theatre no later than noon, (actually arrive at half twelve), get bollocked by Director for total lack of professionalism, Curtain up at one, Curtain down at four, strike set, leave theatre at five, pick up fish and chips and can of McEwen’s export, back to flat, sleep ‘til midnight, out to Fringe Club, stagger back home at four, sleep, wake up at eleven, theatre by twelve (actually arrive at twelve thirty), another bollocking from the Director and so it went on. Groundhog day was alive and well and living somewhere in the backstreets of Edinburgh.  I started the tour weighing eleven stone. By the last performance I had ballooned to a bloated twelve stone six pounds. Anyone seeing the first and last performance would have thought the company had changed actors.

‘Prince Escalus certainly enjoys his pies’

‘He kind of resembles that other actor we saw a few weeks ago’

‘Perhaps he’s got an overactive thyroid’

‘I can hear you, you bastards’

By the last performance everyone was so exhausted that concentration levels were not strictly as they should have been, which was a shame because the Director nearly spontaneously combusted when ending what had up to then been a fairly decent run, Prince Escalus who would normally close the play by saying:

‘…For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo’ decided that endings were all well and good, but why not tinker with them, just a little. Obviously Billy had intended his very last lines to coincide with the same iambic pentameter that the rest of his play had taken.’Tale of woe…Juliet and Romeo’.  Nice rhyme, thank you, and goodnight.  However it was the last performance and my mind was firmly elsewhere.  In fact it was firmly in the Fringe Club two nights ago with Rachael Martini the flautist with the Scottish Special Needs philharmonic Orchestra.

Prince Escalus is standing centre stage with Romeo and Juliet dead and the rest of the cast who were still awake looking on sorrowfully.

‘For never was a story of more woe than this of Romeo and his Julio’!

            Julio! Who the fuck was Julio? Well I had to think fast. From the moment it left my lips I knew Juliet didn’t rhyme with Woe so who better than her half sister and soon to be lady boy, Julio! Not quite the rhyming couplet the bard had in mind, but a good alternative ending I thought.

It was at this point I could feel the eyes of the entire cast burning into me. Even Romeo’s eyes opened and stared at me.  I think I would have got away with it had it not been for Mercutio beginning to shake uncontrollably.  Romeo tried to suppress his joy at my misfortune and began what to the audience must have looked like convulsions.  Mercutio spotted Romeo, Romeo spotted Mercutio and the pair of them broke into insuppresible laughter, tears streaming down their unprofessional faces.  The curtain came down faster than usual accompanied by sporadic clapping from the twenty three people who made up the audience.

‘What in fuck’s name was that?’  The Director asked quizzically. ‘Our tale of woe…of Romeo and Julio! Fucking Julio! The cross dressing brother of Juliet ? You total fucking fuck wit.  Okay, I can just about accept you fucking up your words.  It happens, but what the fuck do you think you were fucking playing at’.  The Director was now frothing at the mouth.  ‘You, fucking Romeo’ Romeo was still wiping the tears from his face.  ‘Romeo and Juliet have just died.  Dead.  Not fucking alive.  Now, I don’t know about you fuckers, and I’m not a doctor, but I would suggest that most dead people are not in a fit state to start pissing themselves with laughter’ That was the cue for Romeo and Mercutio to run out of the theatre howling with laughter.

‘That’s right, rats and sinking ships.  Bastards.  If you’d shown the same commitment to your performances, we might have got nearer a Perrier Award rather than just drinking the fizzy piss.  You’ll never work in Edinburgh again.  I’ll see to that’.

He was right; Romeo and Mercutio never did work in Edinburgh again.  Romeo went on to become an Insurance salesman, and Mercutio was last seen in Hamley’s as Mr Magic, demonstrating card tricks and illusions.

 As for William, well I had a wedding to destroy.    

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