Today is a busier day for me as I have two shows in the Roger’s Gardens amphitheatre, one at 2 and the other a regular night-time performance.
It is also the day of the Brazilian Grand Prix and after missing the TV coverage of qualifying yesterday I am delighted to discover the NBCsN is in fact showing full race coverage – my morning is therefore built around that fact. I go to the little courtyard restaurant and have another simple breakfast, before returning to my room and putting a load of white costume shirts into the laundry (which is on my floor, only a few doors away: could there be a more perfectly situated hotel room?).
As the washer begins to soak, tumble and spin, I settle down to watch the race, which is a fascinating, tense and exciting one. I am reminded how lucky we are in the UK that the races are broadcast without commercial breaks, which are incredibly frustrating here, but at least give me suitable moments to transfer the laundry to the drier.
The race runs its course and results in a victory for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari, demonstrating how close this year’s championship could have been if they hadn’t had a series of three poor races during the late summer. However, there is always something more pure about racing after the championship has been decided, with no one having to think tactically about gaining precious points. This was amply demonstrated by Lewis Hamilton’s remarkable drive starting at the very back and ending up fourth, only a few seconds off the win.
With the race over, I collect my shirts and carefully fold them, before starting to get ready for today’s performances. I also take the opportunity to look at some coverage of the Remembrance Day service from London, at which for the first time in many decades the Queen has not laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in London, but watched from a balcony as Prince Charles undertook the duty. The Queen wanted to remain at the side of The Duke of Edinburgh, who looked terribly terribly ill and frail.
I am getting familiar with the local road system now (I can’t actually say I am familiar with the roads of Santa Ana, or Newport Beach, or Corona del Mar, or Costa Mesa or Tustin, because they all seem to blur into one another with no particular delineation, meaning I never quite know which city I am in), so I make the journey to Rogers Gardens without troubling my SatNav system.
Having greeted Hedda and Patrick on stage, I take the opportunity to wander around the site, admiring the amazing Christmas displays, which Hedda works on 365 days a year, as well as the amazing collections of plants and shrubs and ornaments and statues and tools. Whenever I am here I think that of all the venues on tour this is the one that Liz (who is a brilliant and passionate horticulturist) would love to come to.
I am strolling incognito, but as I walk I notice a lady hurriedly nudge her friend and as I pass by I hear her whisper ‘that’s him!’ A little moment of celebrity life!
In the past the matinee performances have been quite difficult beneath the burning Californian sun, but today it is overcast and grey, with the temperatures feeling quite comfortable to me, so things should work quite well, I think. Hedda is worried that the sun may break through so instructs that huge parasols are erected both to protect the audience and myself on stage.
I go to the board room, where Shannon has ordered me a delicious salad from the restaurant, which I greatly enjoy.
The matinee crowd is slightly smaller than the two preceding evenings ones, but still very impressive, and the show goes well, but somehow it is more difficult to build the atmosphere in the daylight. The bustle and business of Rogers continues outside our little theatre, and Patrick’s lighting has no effect on the stage.
From my point of view it is rather disconcerting to see every fidget, every stifled yawn and every surreptitious look at a phone or a watch as I do my thing. I was not aware of this problem so much in years past, but maybe the sun was so bright that I just couldn’t really see the audience, and certainly last year sun cream ran into my eyes rendering me completely blind for the majority of the show!
The conclusion of the performance is enthusiastically received with another standing ovation, and I can congratulate myself on a job well done is slightly trying circumstances.
With a slightly smaller audience, so the signing line is correspondingly shorter and I am soon able to change out of my costume for a two hour break before the evening gig. I am feeling very tired and very drained, and know that I should take the opportunity to rest a little, so I finish Miss Marple’s Nemesis, and then lay a pillow on the floor and sleep for the best part of an hour.
If I were in a hotel I would have an icy shower to wake me and energise me, but here I have to make do with splashing some cold water over my face to achieve the same result. As ever I have taken over the board room completely with every chair having an item of clothing draped over it. This is not quite as untidy as it sounds, as I have tried to air each frock coat, each pair of trousers, each waistcoat, each pair of braces, each cravat and each shirt separately. In the middle of it all the scarf, hat and cane hold court on the table.
It is dark outside now, and Susan pops by to check on me and to let me know that the audience have arrived good and early. At 5.50 I make my way to my starting position and look down on the familiar stage, now reassuringly the illuminated centre of attention once more.
Once again there is a huge audience, and I know that if it could be made to work Hedda would rather concentrate on just the evening shows. It is a little chilly again, although judging by the amount of steam rising from me, not quite as chilly as last night! The performance goes well, with plenty of laughs and participation, and it is clear that many people have seen the show multiple times.
I bring my final 2017 performance at Rogers Gardens to a close and hurry back to change out of my damp costume, before returning to sign. My perceptions of the audience are proved correct, with many saying that they have come before, and have brought more friends and family this year, which is fantastic to hear. I pose and smile and chat, but after two full-on shows, I am feeling completely drained and exhausted, and am grateful when finally I can get back to my room, change and pack up my belongings.
When I am sure that all of my paraphernalia has been accounted for I leave my roller case, with my costumes and hat draped over the top at the side gate to the property, before going back to the stage to say my farewells to Hedda and Patrick. We are a good team, and it is such a pleasure to work with them. I look forward to returning next year.
I walk back to the gate and am somewhat startled to see that there appears to be a foreshortened version of myself waiting for me amongst the shrubs – my case, coats and hat have settled into a human form, and seem to be waiting very impatiently for me to take them back to the hotel.