Frantic week at the theatre

PROPS glorious props.

It was a frantic week at the Ipswich Regent and I was there.

I was busy behind the scenes doing props with my plain-speaking-photographer-friend-Lucy for the production of Oliver! by the Ipswich most Operatic and frightfully Dramatic Society.

Naturally, I played a leading part, carrying on and off stage a couple of crates which gave me splinters at opportune moments. My sister Claire, who also enjoys props and cut her teeth on Mack and Mabel with the Saffron Walden theatricals, knew exactly what I meant.

Meanwhile Lucy got involved with baby Oliver – which was really a doll though the magic of theatre meant it made baby noises - and a huge number of wooden bowls for the hungry orphans, which I suppose we borrowed from a workhouse every night to sing about food.

I also had to carry on a small table with a pile of books towards the end of the show. As the lights were up during this pivotal moment, I was forced to dress like a strange cross between a chimney sweep-cum -cowboy-cum-steam-engine-driver complete with sooty make up, cloth cap and a blue neckerchief.

It was afterwards a lady friend of mine called Tracey, who works in the murky world of PR at Suffolk New College, said she spotted my moment of stardom on which, to be honest, a great deal of the show hinged.: “I knew it was you James. I’d recognise that distinctive physique anywhere.”

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Obviously she meant my Adonis-like build so distinctive in fact, that she recognised me from behind.

It was after five nights of fumbling around in the dark with a load of other thespians that it was suddenly all over and I discovered my heating broke at my small Felixstowe flat.

This unfortunate turn of events meant I had to endure several cold showers – making me feel very sympathetic to the poor Titanic victims - until British Gas finally arrived on Monday - after inexplicably failing to turn up on Sunday - to change the pump and tell me that my boiler is extremely complicated.

I was able to remind the serviceman that if he thinks my heating system is complicated he should try dressing a fake fireplace in the dark surrounded by twenty five whispering theatricals in full Victorian costume – hooped skirts and bonnets - ready to sing Consider Yourself in a Suffolk/cockney accent.

That kept him quiet.