Today promises to be a very quiet day as I have no major performance. I write my blog and drink coffee at 5am, which seems to have settled as my standard waking time and eventually get up and showered and ready for breakfast. The shower: At last a hotel designer has realised a major failing in shower design and addressed it, by putting the control at the opposite end of the cubicle to the shower head, meaning that I do not get soaked by a cascade of cold water as I lean in to switch it on. Brilliant, and thank you.
Being another Courtyard by Marriott I need to stand at the Bistro counter and choose my meal and settle for a couple of eggs and some bacon. I also add a croissant to the order. Initially I sit in a booth by the window but the bench seat is so low that I’m having to reach up like a 4 year old, so I move myself to a table and chair instead.
My breakfast arrives, and while the eggs and bacon are recognisable in their shape, the croissant is round – perfectly round. Call me pedantic, but surely, by definition, a croissant should be crescent shaped?
My only commitment today is at 1.30, so I have a morning to myself and once back in my room I set to writing an extra blog about the re-discovery of a lost portrait of Charles Dickens. The Charles Dickens Museum in London is mounting a major fundraising effort and I promised the director of the museum that I would spread the word. I spend an enjoyable few hours researching the story and looking for various images to accompany it.
As I work an email comes in from the Revelation Arts centre in Ashford with some pictures taken during my recent performance there. It is fun to try and work out where they come in the show.
The morning passes quickly and it is almost 1pm by the time I finally publish the post ‘What Did Charles Dickens Look Like?’ I need to get changed into costume quite quickly as I have to be at the local high school at 1.30. My efforts to change in a hurry are hampered due to the fact that my costumes are actually hanging in the car and I have to make a dash downstairs to liberate one of them, which of course is freezing cold when I put it on.
The drive to the High School is only around 5 minutes and as I pull up into the parking lot I am accosted by a man who introduces himself as the ‘sort of theatre tech guy’, and he takes me to the auditorium without worrying about checking in at the front office.
The theatre is deserted when we enter but soon the drama teacher comes in and we chat for a while. He is in the local production of A Christmas Carol and plays both Fezziwig and the Ghost of Christmas Present and loves the story (as most do who have a close connection with it), he is also clutching a copy of The Life of our Lord and is delighted to discover that I wrote the forward to it way back when.
the students start to mooch in and take their seats in the usual array of interested or bored, upright or slumped. The teacher whose name sadly I didn’t catch, brings the theatre to order and makes a glowing introduction, considering he has never met me before, and leaves the empty stage to me.
I have a slight conundrum now as to what I do for the students. Originally the board at Ventfort Hall Manor had suggested to the High School that it would be a good thing for me to come and talk to the students, at no cost to the school. It was felt that maybe this would be an opportunity that would have been leapt at, but the school was slightly ambivalent and said that they supposed they could fit me in just before the students go home at 2.24, thereby giving me 33 minutes in which to speak – not long enough to do a show.
As quite a few of the audience are from the drama department I decide to concentrate on the development of my show and talk about how I came to play the characters in the way I do, and show some of the tricks that I employ to transition from one to another (for example when Scrooge and the charity collector meet on Christmas morning Scrooge holds his hat and cane in one hand, whilst the other gentleman holds them in separate hands, thereby creating a subliminal difference in the audience’s minds).
At first the room is silent as I talk, but little by little the audience become more animated, and chuckle and laugh. When I have finished my remarks I ask if there are any questions. Of course, as ever in a school, there are no hands raised and everyone shuffles around a bit. Drama teacher duly steps into the breach and asks a question, and then an English teacher asks how I portray Tiny Tim and Mrs Cratchit, and finally a few student hands start to be raised and the floodgates are opened.
Many of the questions are about aspects of the show and presumably come from the theatre students, and these develop into talking about the mechanics of touring and how I keep fresh and motivated. One girl asks a really interesting question – how long would I keep going?
I had always told myself that I would stop when I felt I was not doing a good enough job anymore, but at the moment I felt that the show was in a good place and probably better than it has been for a while. I explain how now the style script and performance is much closer to the original text than it used to be when almost everything was played for laughs – which was born out of a fear that if the audience wasn’t laughing they weren’t enjoying themselves. Now I am much more confident in letting the material do the work and relying on what great great granddaddy gave me to work with.
All too soon the 33 minutes is up and the students are released, although quite a few hang around to chat afterwards. I say goodbye to the nameless (I am sorry!) drama teacher and also to Kelly from the mansion who had arranged this session and has been watching from the back of the auditorium.
I return to my car and drive back to the Marriott.
The afternoon is not an interesting one but is punctuated by trips up and down in the elevator as I take the opportunity to catch up with my laundry before moving on. Lots of quarters later I have two piles of freshly laundered and folded clothes – one my white costume shirts and the other my regular clothes.
It is late afternoon by then and I settle down on the sofa to watch The Blues Brothers for the first time in years (I had downloaded it to my laptop earlier). I have been meaning to watch it ever since the sad news of Aretha Franklin’s passing, but hadn’t got around to it yet, and as I settle into the opening sequences I remember how much there is that I love about it, not only the great score and bizarre plot, but those little cameos of Frank Oz (close your eyes and you are listening to Fozzy Bear) and even Steven Spielberg as the Cook County clerk.
When the film finishes I go down to the little Bistro which is almost deserted and order a chicken pot pie followed by a slice of rich carrot cake which I eat as I continue to read Hidden Figures.
When my supper is finished I return to my room and flick through the TV channels and discover that Disney’s A Christmas Carol is on again and this time I pick the action up right at my own new scene for this year, as Bob Cratchit goes upstairs to be Tiny Tim’s room. I watch to the end, mouthing along to the narrative.
The next film up is ‘The Santa Clause’ with Tim Allen and it is this that gently sends me to the land of nod