In my beautiful room at The Fairville Inn the run of early morning’s continued on Thursday, meaning I had plenty of time to write before my scheduled breakfast slot of 8am ticked around.
I was welcomed to the dining room by the Inn’s owner’s Laura and Rick who have become good friends over the years. Laura brought me a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice and in no time I was joined by my friends David Keltz (the actor who portrays Poe) and his wife Teresa, who always come to support me somewhere on tour and for the last few years have come to Winterthur. We chatted and laughed and caught up until it was time for me to leave the party as I had a radio interview scheduled and I needed to be back in my room.
I sat at the desk doing some more research for my book until it was time to call Warren at the Kingston NY radio station. This conversation has become rather a tradition over the years and we have a good long conversation about A Christmas Carol and my rendition of it. The interview wasn’t promoting any specific show, although the last two venues of the tour at Byers’ Choice and Lakewood, New Jersey would both come under the station’s umbrella.
When the interview finished I started to get my things ready for the first show at Winterthur. I arrived at the visitor centre at 11 where I immediately needed to get into costume as Ellen had told me that there was some kind of morning coffee reception for some of the guests who were attending the show and it would be nice if I could look in and chat.
I had left my costumes hanging on the coat racks in the auditorium, so I went to fetch them and found the hall in complete darkness except for a yellow glow from the standard lamp on my set and the red of the exit lights, it was quite spooky.
I returned to the office, changed and went in search of the reception. None of the staff in the shop seemed to know where it was, and after I’d looked around the cafeteria area for a while I returned to auditorium where I sat in silence playing backgammon on my phone until Ellen appeared and it was time to start preparing for the show.
I retired to the office drinking tea and honey as I listened to the audience arriving just a few feet away on the other side of the louvered doors. Once again it was a sell-out show, so Ellen and the other volunteers were encouraging the audience to all get to the middle of the rows and ‘get to know your neighbors!’ Some people came in to get good seats leaving other members of their party in the store, and the volunteers were given various instructions: ‘my husband will be coming in soon, tell him to come and find me, he is tall with grey hair!’ ‘Ann will join me. Ann in a blue coat. Can you tell her where I am sitting?’ and so on.
If anything the buzz in the hall was louder than the previous days and it seemed as if I was in for another good show, certainly the audience were up for it.
When almost every seat was filled Jeff , the Historical Director at Winterthur, made my introduction and the show started. As I had suspected it was another fun 90 minutes and the audience responded enthusiastically throughout. The lady I picked to be the object of topper’s desires in the front row seemed to be delighted by the attention and her face broke into a huge smile whenever I (he) approached.
At the end of the show the applause again filled the Copeland Hall and accompanied me as I made my way up the aisle and back to my dressing room to change into the fresh costume ready to sign. While I was in the office I checked my phone for news from the UK. It was general election day in which the country was to vote for our new government. I had been amazed that America hadn’t seemed to know that such an important event was taking place, even on the breakfast news channels there had not been a passing mention. Actually checking for news was pointless because under electoral rules nothing of importance could be reported until the polls had closed. All I gleaned was that our current Prime Minister had taken his dog to the polling station.
In the cafeteria there was another long signing line waiting for me, and everyone was patient and kind and generous in their comments about the show. The party which included ‘Topper’s girl’ posed and laughed and as they left one of the ladies in the group came back to whipser in my ear ‘you chose the right person to make happy today, for she lost her son last week. You did a good thing’ Wow, you never know who you may touch or how that moment will effect them.
I returned to the Inn between shows to get a little rest and watched some TV before I fell asleep on the bed for a while. The break was a short one for by 5 o’clock I needed to be back to prepare for the evening performance and to retrieve my costumes from the coat rack before the audience started to arrive.
Back in the office I checked the news from home again, as the polls would now be closed and the first estimates of the results would be coming in. Instantly it looked as if the incumbent Conservative party were heading for a large victory. It was not the result I had wanted, but that result was clear and the electorate had spoken. The majority was much larger than in the Brexit referendum three years ago so a very clear message had been sent out. There is no point bleating or complaining about it and we must just get on with our lives in whatever Britain evolves from here.
The audience for the evening show was slightly smaller than the two afternoon ones, but still numbered over two hundred and there were many familiar faces in the crowd who welcomed me back.
Carol was back to make the evening’s introduction and the show began. It was a strange show, a bit of a curate’s egg really: there were some great high moments, such as Fezziwig’s dance which earned yet another round of applause, and some other sections that didn’t quite work as well as I would have liked, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I received another lovely standing ovation at the end (rather kindly started by Teresa!).
I always get a sense of how a show has gone by the comments I receive at the signing session, so when I got to the chair and I asked the first lady in line ‘how are you?’ I was rather deflated by her answer: ‘Tired. I am so tired. I am so close to sleep.’ Anything about the show? No.
Ok, second couple: ‘we came to your show two years ago and loved it so had to come back!’, good, this was going well. ‘But last year we were a little disappointed.’ Oh. ‘This year, better. getting close to loving it again.’ Not fulsome, but the trajectory seemed to be going the right way again, that was something!
Things got more positive after that I am glad to report.
Eventually the last of the audience left and I was able to collect up all of my costumes and belongings from both the stage and the office before saying goodbye to Barbara and Ellen and driving to my old haunt Buckley’s Tavern where I was joined by David and Teresa for a late dinner.
We chatted, as we always do, about theatre and exchanged anecdotes that we have probably exchanged many times before, but we had a wonderfully happy time, as is always the case. Some of the audience from the day’s shows were also dining at the Tavern and came up and congratulated me and shook my hand, which was very nice of them.
It was around 10.15 when we left Buckley’s and the rigours of a busy day were beginning to tell, I was feeling tired and needed to sleep. We said our goodbyes, even though we were all driving to the Inn, and I made my way to my beautiful room and to my comfortable bed.
I mentioned that Musical choices were getting more difficult, so today’s is brilliantly tenuous:
For any scene featuring Tiny Tim I will play the carol The First Noel. Why? Because there is no L in Tiny Tim!