Backstage shenanigans with the cast of Red Rose Chain’s Much Ado About Nothing 2018
- Credit: David Newborn
Backstage, there’s a whole other story going on at the same time as the one you’re watching on stage. I got an extended peek behind the curtain, well in this case a plywood Nissen hut, of Red Rose Chain’s Much Ado About Nothing.
5.35pm: I set off to Jimmy’s Farm, Wherstead, for this year’s theatre in the forest, Shakespeare’s much-loved comedy transported to the Second World War. Benedick (Ricky Oakley) and Beatrice (Fizz Waller) trade barbs while Claudio (Jack Heydon) falls for Hero (Joanna Sawyer).The second coupling, aided by Don Pedro (Oliver Cudbill) and Leonata (Claire Lloyd), trick the first into falling in love. It’s all fun and games until dastardly Don John throws a spanner in the works. Gods of 4G and wi-fi willing, my Twitter feed - @WSavageWrites - for the next few hours will be live from behind the scenes as I do my best not to fall on stage mid-scene last I almost did the year before while reaching for my ice-cream.
7pm: The audience start to settle in for the performance, enjoying their early picnics. Reviews - my own included from watching the show the more normal way a few days earlier - have been amazing. You’ve until August 26 to judge for yourself.
7.15pm: Reporting for duty. Cast members Jack and Ricky greet the steady stream of people entering the woods before the show starts. Fizz, Joanna, Claire and Oliver are chatting to those already seated. Always a lovely touch, as is director Jo Carrick bidding every audience member goodnight at the end of the evening.
7.29pm: My new home. In previous years I’ve hidden behind bushes and tarpaulins so a chair feels like luxury. Jo and producer David Newborn considered tucking me away in the tent (un-doable due to modesty issues during quick changes) or in the watchtower (where I wouldn’t have seen much except who actually plays Don John when all six cast-members are on stage below). I still regret not being able to squeeze into the tiny onstage car during Red Rose Chain’s last production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
7.45pm: Joanna and Fizz take time out to pose for photos while waiting for their cue. Unlike the year before last I haven’t caused anybody to almost miss one... yet. One year I sat behind stage one of the actors had forgotten I’d be there. We just stared at each other, unable to talk for a bit and I thought “I’m going to be marched out in front of a packed house by a camp knight wearing a comedy horse costume” - like Bernie Clifton’s Oswald the Ostrich, where his legs masqueraded as the animal’s.
8pm: What? That wasn’t really Charlie Chaplin the other night? The magic of theatre. Backstage is littered with props and costumes which I’m not allowed to touch, merely look at enviously. A few years ago I chatted to one of the actors, distracting them to the point where they leant on a prop and broke it.
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8.41pm: Spare a thought for me and Joanna as the “enthusiastic” seduction of modest Margaret no more (Jack, some of the time) happens to our left. Luckily, their dedication to the scene *cough* muffles our tittering. Being a gentleman I, of course, averted my eyes. Some things should be left to the imagination... and nature programmes.
8.56pm: Tickling the organ... just another day at the office for Jack as Queenie. He also blows a mean horn several times during the show.
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9.11pm: Anyone want to start a band? Claire Lloyd gathers the musical instruments ready for another one of the show’s many musical moments. It’d be silly not to make use of Joanna’s experience with the 1940s style, close harmony trio The Femmes, which she co-founded. They and the dance routines were great.
9.23pm: Oliver with some of the props I’m seriously not allowed to touch. The chair and table he’s shouldering single-handed refuse to go through the door. Not helping feels wrong, especially as he’s dressed like a pensioner.
9.47pm: I could’ve been Don John in the finale. Having been cut out of one film and just the back of my head appearing in another this could’ve been the start of a whole new career. Sadly the idea comes to David too late. There are still some shows left I suggest. I leave, hope still lingering in the air. My phone still hasn’t rung.