Monday 6 December 2010 -The heavy snowfalls that we had last week have now started to recede, and we begin our second week of the tour faced with freezing fog and ice. We leave for our first show of the day and head towards Kettering. There is sporadic patches of fog, and the usual congestion on the M6, but nothing that causes us worry. We are passing Coventry, at a snails pace, when we look out of the window and a see a man sat in a car next to us, and he is drinking tea out of a china cup, how random is that? We arrive at our destination, set up, perform, pack away and disappear back into the fog. We clamber back onto the M6, going north, when we come to a standstill. For three hours we inch our way up the motorway, the gridlock due to an accident earlier. We call our afternoon venue and explain we will be very late, they tell us not to bother coming and can we re-schedule. We pass the mangled lorry causing the congestion, pick up speed and agree to come to do the show at 11.00 am the following day. We are almost home, when we spot another incident of in-car dining, this time a woman is travelling at speed, whilst eating a yogurt, pot balanced on the steering wheel and spoon in the other hand.
Tuesday 7 December 2010 – I eat breakfast as ‘Chelsea Dagger’ by The Fratellis plays on the iPod. The road looks like a skating rink, the snow has now become an icy wasteland. I defrost the car and we head off for another day of pantomime. The first show of the day is going well, when out of nowhere a disembodied voices calls out, ‘Help,’ who and why they want help we have no idea, and we carry on oblivious. I have a blast during the second show, and flirt outrageously with the ladies in the audience, one asks me if I’m a stripper, so I twang my elasticated waistcoat and say “Would you like me to be?” her response is, “Yes please.” Followed by raucous laughter. The third show is underway when I suddenly realise we’re running on autopilot, the problem with acting can be that sometimes as a performer you zone out and the performance comes with no real effort. almost like an automaton.
Wednesday 8 December 2010 – Today is a horrible dull day, and to top it off, we have trouble finding our first venue, we eventually find it and are told by our contact that it’s not on maps yet as it’s a new build. So why didn’t they tell us that before we set off to perform there? Some people just don’t have a clue. The problem with touring theatre is that the venues always assume you re only visiting them: No one realises that it would be impractical to put together a show for just one theatre space; I’m always amazed when they utter the words, “Oh, so you’ve other places to visit with the show.” The highlight of today is another incident of automobile dining, this time a man in a blue van has a bag of chips on his dashboard, and is munching as he drives. One question comes to mind,- where on the M69 do they sell chips?
Thursday 9 December 2010 – Our first show today is a private performance for a mental health charity, our audience all have varying degrees of mental health issues, ranging from depression to schizophrenia. We set up as Billy, one of our audience members showers us with a barrage of jokes, every one rude, racist or sexist. The show goes really well with the audience being very vocal. We’re driving off to our second show when we spot another person eating yogurt whilst driving, this time a man in a white van. There must be easier things to eat when on the move than yogurt. In the evening we all have a few drinks at the cottage where some other cast members are staying. Adam cooks for us all, (drunk) and we make too much noise as a collection of actors are apt to do. Later on, tired but happy I drive home with ‘Spacehead’ by The Primitives shuffling onto the iPod.
Friday 10 December 2010 – My birthday has arrived, it’s very low key as I’m working, for as long as I can remember I have always been in panto on this day, either touring or based in a theatre, so today is no different. The shows go smoothly, I get a birthday kiss of an old girl in the audience, named Beryl. We have a few drinks again at the cottage in the evening and the cast members give me a card with lovely messages inside, Chloë has drawn a picture of the X Factor hopefuls, boy-band One Direction as I have given them all nicknames, and whenever they’re on TV i shout them at the television screen; It’s almost like having a case of entertainment Tourette's. I leave earlier today and head off home with my card, and gifts of wine and panettone. As I drive home through the deserted country lanes as Debbie Harry sings ‘The Jam Was Moving’ from her 1981 solo album, ‘Koo Koo’
The weekend arrives, with 3 shows on Saturday and a day off on Sunday just chilling out.
Performing 18 shows a week, (162 performances of songs) can take it out of you. I was about to say working in pantomime can make December a surreal month, however the iPod shuffles and ‘Dancing Lasha Tumbai’ by Verka Serduchka begins to play. Perhaps panto-time is normal and it’s my life that’s surreal…..Who knows?