There are things in life you say you’re going to do for years and years (and I mean years), but at some point, you must simply bite the bullet and go for it. And that’s what I did about a week and a half ago. For many moons (about seventeen years to be precise), I’ve been threatening myself with the prospect of getting involved in Amateur Dramatics again. I even wrote a blog about it, ‘Exit Stage Left’. But only now did the time seem right.
I’d heard on the grapevine that our local theatre group were holding open auditions for a performance of Roald Dahl’s ‘The Twits’. It wasn’t my ideal choice of show, if I’m honest; I liked the book well enough, but I was hoping my first foray into acting would be in musical theatre. Our local theatre group does do musicals, but this show is a play. And I just didn’t feel I could put off dipping my toe in the water any longer. I couldn’t attend the last set of auditions because they coincided with my daughter’s school play. Who knew what would stand in the way next time around? I’ve been involved in the world of am-drams in a very small way before – around the age of eighteen or so I did evening drama classes for a short while – before real life took over. But over the years I’ve been steadily losing my nerve with regards to getting back into it. Firstly, there were the years training to be a nurse, then there was full-time work (even shift-work at times), writing books (obviously), and starting a family. Only now that my children are seventeen and eleven (and the trilogy is finished) have I felt ready to do something risky – do something for me.
However, the thought of walking into that audition – a roomful of complete strangers – was a little more than my poor nerves could handle. But I recalled that a lovely author/blogger friend of mine, Lizzie Loughlin, had once commented on one of my blogs that she too had always had a penchant for doing some am-drams. Lizzie is not only an author/blogger friend, she and I also go way back as real friends (not only virtual ones). And fortunately for me, she lives just down the road. After persuading Lizzie to try-out for the play too, the audition date was set in stone. There was no wheedling my way out of it now…
The night of the audition arrived, and Lizzie and I nervously set out to our local music centre where try-outs were to be held. Neither Lizzie nor I quite knew what to expect, neither of us had attended an actual audition since school! On entering the room, we were surprised (and a little bit unnerved) to be greeted with a roomful of (mainly) children. Lizzie and I gave each other an awkward glance. Oh my God, what had I gotten her into? Had I misread the info? Was this a cast for kids only? Scouring the room with anxious eyes, we saw a few adults peppered about who appeared to be trying-out too. My nerves settled a little. But only a little. I remember sitting there trying to work out who was an established theatre group member and who was a newbie, like us. Only time would tell.
Until that morning, I had almost forgotten the story of ‘The Twits’, but luckily I’d sat through the audio book before work to refresh my memory. I believe that little bit of prep proved to be helpful. Soon enough, my name was called out (the first name to be called). We were assigned parts to establish what we were capable of. Firstly, I was to read for ‘The Roly-Poly Bird’ – an exotic bird who helps to foil The Twits. Lizzie was asked to read the part of ‘Mrs Muggle-Wump’ – the mother monkey. My heart hammering in my chest and trying to control the shakes, I did my bit, and I felt I held my own. I think the gods had been with me too, because ‘The Roly-Poly Bird’ is a great part, so I had a lot to work with. And Lizzie was an absolute natural as Mrs Muggle-Wump. The first obstacle was over. Being a fairly animated and energetic show (oh God…), we were then asked to follow and imitate a dance routine in groups. Ugh, I was useless! My coordination seemed to fail me that night, and I couldn’t memorise that routine no matter what. Would that count against me? In about forty minutes, it appeared the audition was drawing to a close. I was a mixture of pleased and disconcerted – I would get to go home (yay!) but I hadn’t really proved myself (boo! [you see? I have a talent for pantomime too]). Sure enough, it was then announced that everyone was free to leave unless they were trying-out for Mr and Mrs Twit. I had never particularly intended to be ‘a Twit’, but I turned to Lizzie and said, “shall we… since we’re here…?” Lizzie shook her head adamantly. We were both new to am-drams and a leading role was not something she could face so soon. But me being me, feeling I hadn’t quite got into my stride yet, and having the overly competitive trait that I do, I felt it was worth a go.
The first two ladies who tried out for Mrs Twit were unbelievably talented; strong, clear voices, great comic timing, and almost certainly blessed with extensive dramatic experience (they had, I later found out [Facebook is a marvellous thing]). I was starting to feel a little queasy; not wanting to follow those two women with those performances, and with something that would doubtlessly be inferior. But the gods were with me again, and the scene was changed to one I felt more comfortable with; one I’d envisaged acting as Mrs Twit. So I was also free to do my own thing without sounding like a poor imitation of the two proceeding ladies. Now, those ladies still outclassed me, I’m quite sure, but I felt I held my own again, and that I’d done the best I could.
So, Lizzie and I headed back out into the night. The audition was over, and the relief was palpable. There would be another open audition two nights later, and we were to wait until the weekend to find out the results. I didn’t sleep that night; the rush of adrenaline (fear) must have been too great, but I was in no real rush to find out who had been cast. In fact, in the intervening days my courage began to fail me again, and I thought it might be no bad thing if I wasn’t chosen at all. Y’know, rehearsals two nights a week was a big commitment, and missing all those cosy nights on the sofa would make a terrible dent in my couch-potato lifestyle.
Last Saturday afternoon, we were emailed the cast list. I tentatively scrolled down the list…and there it was…my name listed third! I wasn’t Mrs Twit…but I was cast as ‘The Roly-Poly Bird’! I scrolled down further and my initial pleasure was distinguished. The cast list was only ten names long. And Lizzie’s name wasn’t there. This certainly took the shine off things. This foray; this journey, this new chapter was supposed to be for both of us. We would be doing this together, and the pressure would be lessened because we had each other to bounce off. But now I would have to go it alone, with a group of strangers… Lizzie was disappointed, of course, but the cast is a very small one, and it turns out all of the cast of twelve – bar three of us (Mr and Mrs Twit and the Roly-Poly Bird) – are all kids. So, some great adult-actors didn’t make it. And I was lucky – I really think if I hadn’t tried-out for Mrs Twit, I wouldn’t be in it at all. The judging panel got to see a bit more of me. But Lizzie is keen to try-out again in the spring for their new production. And next time, we’ll go in with better tactics. Or at least we’ll know what to expect.
I had my first rehearsal on Tuesday. Me being me, I’d done some prep. My part is pretty sizeable and I’ve a lot of lines to learn (some of them are funny lines, too), so I’ve no regrets about not being cast as Mrs Twit. I’m a newbie, this is a good place to start. The production takes place in February, so it’s going to be a busy time ahead for me. My nights of slobbing-out on the sofa are going to be a thing of the past. But it’s a good thing. Sometimes you must push yourself. Sometimes you must face your fears, or you’ll never end up doing anything. I’m a mother and I have a responsible job. But this thing; it’s something for me. And next time, Lizzie will be right there up on stage with me. This is a new facet to my life, and I’m going to try to enjoy it. Now, I just need to keep telling myself that when I’m so terrified about the opening night that I want to throw up! Wish me luck.