The Joseph Ambler Inn does not have coffee machines in the rooms, so the first job on Saturday morning was to go down to the little office and use the large Keurig machine there to give my morning a kick start. Back in the room I wrote my blog and then watched the end of the Grand Tour programme that I had started the afternoon before.
At 8 o’clock I went to the restaurant were a delicious buffet was laid out. As I was considering what to choose a party of guests came up to me, they had seen the show the night before and wanted to chat and tell me how much they had enjoyed it, which was lovely. In an early morning state of semi-dishevelment I had to play the role of actor again. The family were very nice and asked if I would be returning next year with any of my other shows: the answer to that was hopefully, yes.
With breakfast done I returned to my room and didn’t do much for a couple of hours until it was time to drive back to Byers’ Choice and prepare for a very intense and busy day, with two shows being staged almost back-to-back.
I had re-set the stage the night before but I went back into the ‘auditorium’ to check on things anyway and found Bob, Dave and Jeff all similarly checking on various things. I chatted to Bob about the previous day’s show and people’s reaction to it, specifically the back drop. In previous years the stage had been placed against the white wall of the workshop, but when I came in September to perform Great Expectations we decided to hang a black curtain to make the stage appear more like a black box theatre. Dave loved how it looked under the stage lights, and to me the black helped to focus the audience’s attention onto my facial expressions.
There had been a bit of debate in the weeks leading up to the A Christmas Carol weekend as to whether we should stay with black (Dave and I in support) or return to white (Bob and Joyce). In the end Dave and I had won and I was keen to know what Bob had thought of the look. Generally it had met with approval and I think that we may stay with black from now on.
As Bob and I were walking through the corridors of the office area he asked me ‘what is a curate’s egg?’ One of my blog posts last week was entitled ‘A Curate’s Egg’, and apparently this is not a phrase in wide use in America meaning that the large majority of my readership had no idea what I was talking about! The phrase is used to describe something that is good in parts and bad in others. I don’t know the exact origin of the phrase but there was a famous cartoon in the 1800’s showing a young timid curate having breakfast with the Bishop. The Bishop is peering at the plate of the curate and says “Dear me, I’m afraid your egg’s not good!”; to which the timid curate replies. “Oh, yes, my Lord, really – er – some parts of it are very good.’
So, there is the explanation!
As Bob and I chatted his phone rang and from the tone of his side of the conversation some issue had arisen. Apparently two high school choirs – CB East and CB West had both turned up to perform! I left Bob to sort things out and returned to the large conference room where my costumes were where I had laid them out the night before.
Not only was there my costume but also a surprise from Pam, who had kindly taken a bag full of laundry for me the night before, and in it she had discovered my ‘lost’ sweater! I was so glad. I hadn’t lost anything so far on the tour after all, in fact I had gained something for when I took my diary out of my leather shoulder bag I discovered that I had accidentally picked up the guest services folder from The Fairville Inn as well. Fortunately Bob could send it back to Rick and Laura.
I got changed and made sure that everything was just as it should be: microphone clipped to waistband and pinned to shirt, watch in one waistcoat pocket, old penny in the other. Shoes tied in double knots so the laces wouldn’t come undone during the show, cravat properly tied. Top hat, scarf and cane all ready. Fountain pen with fresh ink cartridge prepared for the signing session afterwards.
With everything prepared I sat and listened to some music until it was 12.45 at which point I went to join Dave at the lighting desk to watch the huge audience gather.
On the stage CB East had won the battle of the choirs and were entertaining the growing crowd with their beautiful carols. Everything seemed calm, until Dave and I became aware of an audience member get up onto the stage, what was going on? The gentleman was helping one of the carol singers, she was slumping in his arms, Dave immediately ran to help as did other members of the Byers’ Choice staff. The poor girl had been overcome by the heat of the stage lights (I could sympathise) and had simply fainted.
Soon Dave returned and reported that she was fine, and being looked after. I immediately drank a lot more water to ensure I was well hydrated for the show ahead.
The audience continued to fill the hall and the countdown continued and then I became aware that the stool was not where it should be on the set, in fact I couldn’t see it on the stage at all, although with so many carol singers it was difficult to tell. I mentioned it to Dave and he looked from one angle and Bob joined the search and looked from another. Eventually we confirmed that the stool WAS on the stage but had been moved, so when Bob was making the introduction he would need to place it back in the correct position.
Goodness, what an action packed few minutes, it would be relaxing to get into the show!
I was on much better form than the night before, I felt much more connected with the script and the audience. it was hot work, but the audience after a slightly quiet start were soon fully engaged. It was a fun show to an almost full house of around 700 people.
After I had taken my bows and changed I went to the room in the visitor center where I would be signing and could hardly get through the throng of people who were waiting for me. It was going to be a long session and indeed by the time I finished and returned to the conference room I only had an hour before it would be time to get ready again. Before I relaxed I went to the stage and re-set the furniture and props ready for round two. Back in the dressing room I sat quietly and ate a salad that Bob had procured.
At 5 o’clock I went through the whole process of preparation again and joined Dave at the tech console where we hoped that there would not be quite so many adventures this time round. The evening’s entertainment was supposed to be provided by CB West again but because of the earlier mix up only four singers had been able to stay. Instead of standing on the stage the quartet simply mingled among the audience and it was a very effective way of entertaining the crowd.
At 5.30 Bob started the whole show again, and in inviting the audience to come to the signing session afterwards he mentioned that ‘Gerald always loves to talk about the show and hear about what you loved…’, that’s true, but he continued ‘and he loves to hear about things that you didn’t like so much….’ aggghhhh! this may have been an unwelcome can of worms that Bob had opened!
Once more the show went well and once more it was hot work. There was a group of kids in the front row who giggled and laughed infectiously, bringing the line from the original book to mind: ‘It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour’.
The children’s laughter was indeed contagious and the rest of the audience caught it.
I was surprised by my energy level and stamina through the second show, for I had been worried that I may flag a little, but everything stayed with me and I pushed through to the end to take my final bows at Byers’ Choice for this year.
The signing line was slightly shorter this time around but it still took an hour or so until I signed the last book and was able to return to the conference room to pack up my things. I went back to the hall to collect the red shawl, my scarf and the two little soft toys who sit on the set at every performance and discovered that the theatre was back to being a manufacturing facility once more. Work stations were being manoeuvred back into place and the stage was gone. I said good by and thank you to Dave’s legs, for he was busy unplugging electrical cables in the void above the ceiling. Everyone was helping, as they always do at Byers’ Choice.
When I had all of my belongings I went to the car and drove to the Ambler Inn and sat in the bar. I ordered a large thick juicy steak, for although I had one more matinee performance on the following day, that particular Saturday night felt like an evening to celebrate.
24 hours later I would be boarding a flight to return home.
I apologise, but I didn’t include a musical link yesterday. Today we are in Scrooge’s old school and the Ghost of Christmas Past has just announced ‘let us see another Christmas…’ Scrooge’s former self grew larger at the words, and the room became a little darker and more dirty. The panels shrunk, the windows cracked; fragments of plaster fell out of the ceiling, and the naked laths were shown instead.’
Why did the plaster in the ceiling crack? Because, as Gene Autrey memorably sang ‘Up on the house top reindeer paused, Out jumps good old Santa Claus’
That would definitely make the plaster fall!