Monday, 9 February 2015


It's the final performance of Robin Hood, and I'm backstage in the village hall. At any other time, this would be the play group's storage area, but this week the plastic boxes of toys and the child-size tables and chairs have been stacked to one side. With the introduction of a clothes rail, it's suddenly a dressing room for the Shoreham Village Players.

Around me, other members of the cast are waiting for their next scene. There are never enough chairs for us all, but it's no big deal; when someone gets up to go on-stage, someone else sits down. When someone needs to reach their costume on the rail we all bunch up a bit, when someone gets cold and wants a seat by the only radiator, we all shift round.

There's a speaker on the wall, for us to hear the action on the stage, but it only seems to be picking up the music from the piano, so every now and then one of us checks where we are in the script, making sure that the youngest players don't miss their entrances. Kenny brings round my stick for the auld crones scene and we go through our lines once again, too caught up in the comfort of the ritual now to dare going on stage without another practice. Next to us, Emily and Hatty quietly sing their shared song, reassuring each other that they really do know the words. Kate, our director wanders through; she knows it's too late for her to say anything now, but we all sense her unspoken determination for us all to do the very best we can.

Patsy and Janet check costumes, helping to fasten the out-of-reach buttons, pinning up an over-long skirt. Michelle is in charge of make-up; transforming Luke into a talking frog, Josh into a bat. Beth flutters her glitter-lined cats eyes, while the Shoreham Witches show off their sparkling painted nails and the Scottish Widows adjust their tartan skirts. Our Dame bemoans the discomfort of a false bust, and I'm dressed as a man, but nobody seems to find anything strange.

Every few minutes someone passes round a bag of sweets.  While we're still discussing the relative merits of jelly babies and wine gums, a tin of Quality Street appears, quickly followed by a tube of Pringles, then a pack of chocolate biscuits. At the interval, just when it's most needed, a tray of tea and coffee arrives as if by magic.

We've a wide range of ages between us, but that doesn't seem to matter. People pose together for group selfies, they share games on their i-pads and mobiles. We all sit and listen as Ellie tells us about the time they staged Oliver, when it was so cold backstage that everyone sat in sleeping bags to keep warm. People share memories of other favourite shows, talk about the characters they'd most like to play, put forward suggestions for the next production. While we chat, we keep an ear open for what's going on on-stage. When we get to the point where the audience is supposed to join in with a song, everyone backstage sings loudly as well, realising for once that we don't need to keep our voices down.

Before we know it, we're all on stage for the curtain call, smiling out at the audience, standing in line to take a single bow. All that's left is one last chorus of the final song and as the applause fades away, I realise how just how aptly the words describe what it's been like to sit backstage with the Shoreham Village Players.

'If there's a moral to this tale,
It's do not shut the door.
In Shoreham Forest, there is room,
For all types rich and poor'


Elephant's Child said...

How lovely that you have found a community of like-minded souls.

Kevin Carter said...

Lovely tale. Would love to do something like that, but too scary!

Shopgirl said...

I love the moments of passing round the sweets. The family like atmosphere is apparent here and it makes me smile with a tinge of envy.