Tonight will be our final performance. Tomorrow, whatever the state of our hangovers from the last night party, the cast and crew will all get up early to clear and clean the village hall; returning it to its normal state of readiness for the youth club, the women's institute and the horticultural society spring show. I think I might want (need) to have a little rest after that, so this will be my last theatrical post for a while.
For those of you who've stuck with my daily posts - thank you for reading and thank you for the very kind and supportive messages you've left. I've appreciated your good wishes very much.
Last night was performance number three. We were determined to raise the energy levels, put on a good show and get the reaction from the audience that had been missing the previous evening. Five minutes in, it was beginning to work. One by one, the other cast members came back stage grinning widely,
"have you heard that man with the really loud laugh?"
"who's that bloke two rows back - he seems to be really enjoying it"
"have you noticed the guy with the hat, he's having a great time".
Of course, I didn't need to ask the question, I knew exactly who it was. I live with him.
And it was just what we needed. His enthusiasm may have been ever so slightly biased, but it was infectious, the audience relaxed and so did we. It was our best show yet.
I realise that I've said little about my fellow cast members to date. Before I end this series of posts I'd like to set that right and introduce you properly to the cast and crew; in order of appearance:
Harry (Derek Parker-Richardson)
Derek gets very nervous before every performance and quite often needs to nip out for a calming cigarette part-way through, but you'd never notice it when he's on-stage. He brings a lovely blend of professionalism, humility and supportiveness to the cast and his portrayal of Harry has just the right blend of pomposity, vanity and vulnerability.
Maggie (Sharon Longworth)
That's me. In the words of our director I'm "A wonderfully coarse Maggie!"
Ellen (Patsy Groom)
Patsy and I have been in a few plays together now, but I've got to know her much better this time round. Her character Ellen is trying against all odds to establish a trade union for the workers and achieve better working conditions for the girls. Patsy brings her to life with a convincing mix of hard-nosed pragmatism and caring consideration for others. She has a much naughtier sense of humour than I'd realised, and I think she's relished having a role she can really make her own.
Polly (Megan Longworth)
I've always known Megan can act - I've watched her performing her whole life - so I knew she would be absolutely marvellous in Gut Girls. And she is. I am, of course, enormously pleased and very proud that everyone else now knows she's a star.
Kate (Matilda Lloyd)
It can't have been easy for Matilda to come along and join a cast of complete strangers, many of whom have been around for quite some time, but she's thrown herself into it wonderfully. She's one of those great people who you know you can completely rely on to get it right time after time, but she's done much more than that; developing the character and bringing more to it each night.
Annie (Ann Jones)
The power of Ann's performance has, I think, surprised us all. Over the last few months she's changed from the girl who kept being asked to speak louder at rehearsals to an actor who has the ability to make the audience laugh one minute, then move them to tears the next.
Jim (Jacob Hart)
Jim is also new to the Shoreham Village Players. It's been great to have him around and I hope one day he'll be able to talk about sausages without wincing uncomfortably!
Lady Helena (Sue Rivett)
Sue is an absolute star - she has been a model of professionalism and patience throughout our rehearsals and performances and she has made a fantastic Lady Helena - portraying her naivety and well-intentioned interference with complete credibility.
Edwin (Dave Jones)
I'm in awe of Dave's talent, and have really enjoyed acting alongside him - especially when I get to threaten him with a knife every night. But he's also the absolute opposite to the evil character he portrays in the play. I've loved watching him when his wife is on stage. He stands in the wings, mouthing every word of her lines, willing her to get it right and pleased as punch when she does.
Edna / Emily (Jill Webster)
Jill just gets it right every time. She picked up an additional character when one of the cast fell ill, and has played both so well. As Eady she plays the mother to Megan's character and they've built up such a great relationship on stage that I'm seriously thinking Megan might want to trade me in for the nicer version.
Arthur (Neville Fourie)
Arthur is a villain in the play. Neville couldn't be less of a villain in real life, but he's risen to the challenge brilliantly well and has now got us all convinced that maybe somewhere deep down there is a nastier side to his character.
Len (Peter Triggs)
Len usually works back-stage, turning his hand to all sorts of practical tasks and I think this is the first time he has taken part as one of the cast. It's been a lovely surprise to see how well he can act. He has the dubious delight of playing the character that I eventually end up marrying in the play - for that he gets my sympathy, but I couldn't ask for a nicer pretend hubby.
Eady (Liz Nash)
Liz has performed in many Shoreham productions and deservedly brings her own village fan club with her. Eady is my mother in the play and it's been great fun to share scenes with her - and not just because she always reminds me when we're supposed to be going on and what I'm supposed to be doing. She brings to the role a great combination of humour, scorn and despair.
Priscilla (Sarah Dickins)
Sarah is not only beautiful, but patient and supportive to all the rest of the cast. For an Australian, she does a fantastic posh English woman and her portrayal of the frightened, bullied Priscilla has been genuinely moving. On top of that she's even found time to make us all the most delicious cup-cakes!
Mad Jacko (Jamie Lyons)
Jamie has one long scene in the play during which he is heckled by all the Gut Girls. It has sometimes felt a bit seat-of-the-pants as he's struggled to get the lines he knows perfectly well at home out in the right order when he's on stage. But it's been great to see him overcome all that and he brings a huge amount of exuberant life and humour to his character.
Nora (Sheila Webb)
If anyone can ever be relied on to have a smallish cameo role yet steal the scene it's Sheila. She brings so much to her role with just a haughty expression and the raising of an eyebrow. Wonderful to watch.
There have been so many other people involved - all of whom have done a fantastic job behind the scenes - the wise and experienced Kate Britten as stage manager; Vivien Booth who designed the set; Mark Hodges who designed the lighting and Henry Desmond who did so much more than flicking the switches: Chris Euman, who as first time costume manager did us all proud; Jamie Lyons who made the most gruesome fake meat and Joan Cornwell who sourced our props; and so many others who won't be known to the people who read this blog, but who are known and appreciated by everyone involved in the play.
A special mention for Sheila Wilson who gave so much of her time to prompt us during rehearsals, and who, despite whatever pain she must still be in, got up from her hospital bed to attend one of our performances.
And lastly, our brilliant director Lonnie. I've hugely appreciated her support and advice. She has had such a clear and strong vision of what she hoped we'd achieve, and has, I think got more out of many of us than we knew we could do. I hope we've at least partially lived up to her expectations.
As for me, well I couldn't be more pleased with how it's all been.