After lunch, we hunker down and share scary stories…
“And it’s only when we get to the theatre that I realise Robin’s actually expecting me to go on tonight.
“‘I can’t! I don’t remember the words!’
“‘Nonsense – you did eight shows a week for nine months. It’ll all come back.’
“‘But that was nine years ago – I don’t even remember the first line!’
“‘I’m sure you’ll be fine. Your dresser will sort you out.’
“So he takes me to the dresser and I tell her that I don’t know the words.
“‘You’ll be fine. It’ll all come back to you once you get started,’ she says.
“‘But how does it start? I can’t remember the first line! What’s the first line?’
“And then my alarm rings and I wake up, both relieved that I don’t have to go on – and just slightly disappointed…”
HalfItalian went last week to a special performance of The Woman in Black. To mark its thirtieth anniversary in the West End, all previous cast members had been invited. Had they all shared The Actors’ Dream the night before? Who’s to know?
After the play had finished the director, Robin Herford, had asked everyone who’d been in the play to stand up. It was quite a crowd even though, with a thirty years run, some of the actors are no longer with us. Of course, being The Woman in Black, their ghosts probably felt at home.
ActorLaddie tells us that when he has The Actors’ Dream, he’s desperately trying to find a copy of the script. He knows that if he just has the script, it will be fine. But scripts are there none, not even for ready money.
BolshyBuddhist and I used to have teacherly variations of this dream where we’re about to be inspected but haven’t done the planning / got the resources / and the bloody class won’t do what we say anyway.
“Talking of nightmares,” I say, “there was a case in the news last week where the children opened up their GCSE paper and found that the book they’d been studying for two years was not on the syllabus. Can you imagine being the teacher who got that wrong? Just horrible.”
A cold shiver goes through us all. There but for the grace of God….
“Did I ever tell you,” says BolshyBuddhist, “about the time a whole cupboard’s worth of GCSE folders went missing? He had not. So we sat comfortably and he began.
BolshyBuddhist was the Head of English at a secondary school when he decided to take an early retirement. A long and, alas, all too familiar story involving a new bully of a Headteacher – let’s call him Mr Cawdor – and an ambitious Headteacher’s wife – Mrs Cawdor – who had joined the school’s English department.
End of term came and BB had cleared his room, with the exception of a cupboard of precious GCSE coursework folders. These BB had arranged to hand over to Mrs Cawdor, personally in person. So it was that he came in on the appointed day and so it was that he found the cupboard bare. A nightmare moment indeed.
He started to investigate and eventually discovered that Mr Cawdor, in his infinite wisdom and sagacity, had that morning told the site manager to sling the folders into the bin. And we’re not talking here of a regular Dunhem pedal number but a massive industrial size wheelie bin. Which, fortunately, had not yet been collected.
BB has a bit of a back problem: there was no way he was climbing into a bin. So he watched from the side and, though he’s in essence a serene cove with narry a vengeful bone in his body, there must have been a certain sweetness in hearing Mrs Cawdor curse her husband as she waded through the remnants of adolescents’ PE kits and abandoned lunchboxes to retrieve the precious folders.
Such things, we agreed, are what dreams made on.