Wednesday, August 06, 2014

First night nerves


Queen Jesus has a lovely rucksack. It’s a magnificent old fashioned framed affair that I imagine my Uncle Arthur using on his rambles through the mountains.

But when I take it off and plonk it on the stage it sits there rather ominously like a poison toad.

It becomes very hard to take anything out of it. The tablecloth gets stuck. The candles all seem to hide in its crevices. I can’t find the dinger for the prayer bell. And the bread has broken in two before I’ve had a chance to ceremoniously break it.

The tablecloth behaved so well in the dress. It almost seemed to unfold itself in a beautifully satisfying and simple way. But since then we’ve had to unfold it completely to fireproof it and we cannot find how to fold it up the same way again.

I begin to think I’ve been wasting rehearsal time. Silly me thinking about the words when really I should have been making friends with the rucksack. And folding and unfolding the tablecloth.

Meantime the roof of my mouth has gone uncomfortably dry and even my trusty thermos betrays me. It won’t pour properly and I have to completely unscrew the lid.

There’s a big critic in the audience, mustn’t think about her, and all kinds of people I want to impress, mustn’t think about them, and that woman is looking so worried and has that man actually fallen asleep?

And my mouth has gone dry again.

Reptilian brain. Fight or flight. But not helpful because I don’t need to fight anyone and running away would not be a good idea. All I need to do is say the lines and my dry mouth isn’t helping. Dear reptilian brain. Hasn’t taken on board the existence of theatre.

It’s a bit like a meditation session where you have to keep struggling to keep the attention in the right place, but it keeps sliding off in every other direction. Only it’s all happening out there in front of a crowd of people and while I know that somewhere inside me there’s a blessed place where I am totally alert and totally relaxed all the same time and I can handle anything and none of this actually matters I’m hardly getting anywhere near that place at all.

I’m just getting the tiniest glimpses of it every now and again, and that has to be enough. Just about enough to get me past the voice that’s suddenly saying This is a really crap bit of writing you’re speaking just now...

But I pick up my stick, just when I’m supposed to, and I get to the end.

Was it Mr Beckett who said You fail, You try again. You fail better.

And you forgive yourself, I think I’d add. 

And maybe try to get a smaller tablecloth.

[THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN opens tonight at ArtSpace@StMarks, Castle Terrace, Venue 125, at 10.30. Tuesdays-Saturdays till Aug 23rd]

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