I SCRATCHED a seven-year itch over the weekend – and it was worth the wait.
Having watched several fantastic local dramatic and musical productions involving friends, I secretly longed to give it a go.
My partner Trish Yendall is a thespian – had to watch the predictive text there! – and received a warm welcome last year when she followed up an advertisement by the Quorn Phoenix Entertainers.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching her play the genie of the lamp in Aladdin 12 months ago followed by singing and taking part in comedy sketches in the group’s May production.
The hardest part was saying I’d love to volunteer, followed by walking into a meeting at Quorn Village Hall to discuss their forthcoming production of Robin Hood.
But, like Trish, I found that their invitation to new members was totally genuine.
I knew the group largely consisted of older people and, with due respect, wasn’t of the same standard I’d seen at Loughborough Town Hall.
But both those points suited me fine. At my time of life, I’d much rather get a full game in League One than sit permanently on the bench in the Premier League.
We read for parts and I took a liking to Friar Tuck from day one. So from mid-August onwards, Tuesday became rehearsal night – an hour’s work, a coffee break, another hour, then off to the White Horse for a pint.
Working with volunteers isn’t easy. There was to be only one rehearsal – the last – attended by all members of the cast and the warning I’d received from more experienced performers eventually came true.
They’d said there would come a time when we all doubted whether the show would ever come together – and that took place two or three weeks before opening night.
We sat in the pub with doom and gloom taking centre stage. By now we were rehearsing on Sunday afternoons, too, but the loose ends seemed, if anything, to be multiplying.
I was discovering the real dramas the audience – hopefully – would never see.
Several people were going through extremely difficult personal issues – for obvious reasons I’m not going into detail.
But there was consolation amid the chaos. From being an individual pursuing my own modest dream, I was suddenly beginning to feel part of a team. That carries with it a fair bit of responsibility but is also reassuring in its own way.
The final Sunday before show day was a killer. A technical rehearsal, followed by our first and only dress rehearsal, was so tiring, I almost had to drag myself away from the village hall.
I’d known my lines for weeks – the challenge now was to control my nerves. I honestly had no idea what it would feel like to do the show for real.
It was like successfully completing a long educational course but knowing all that counts for nothing unless you can pass the exam at the end of it all.
There were nerves in the dressing room come Friday night and our first performance but, strangely, I felt very calm.
I watched the first few scenes from our dressing room before shuffling to the stage. The audience was involved from the start and almost raucous come act two – ideal for a character such as the Friar.
A couple of celebratory drinks and a good night’s sleep led to a strange feeling upon waking.
All had been geared up to opening night. I almost had a sense of disbelief that we had to do it all over again TWICE more.
It proved to be another tiring, but enjoyable day. I’d gladly have slept again rather than going back for the evening performance but got my second wind.
Having done all I could within my limitations – this was my first performance since church entertainment evenings around 30 years ago – I felt a combination of satisfaction and anti-climax afterwards.
It was almost sad that, after all the work that had gone into it, the big event was over so quickly.
On the other hand, Tuesday nights will again be our own – for a few weeks at least.
But, beyond the mere joy of taking part in a show, I’ve learned quite a lot about human nature.
I took much from the patience of those trying to direct us. In one case, at least, the person involved has been at a higher level, yet persevered with us nevertheless.
There were the longest-serving members who have entertained on this same stage for years but were totally chivalrous in allowing us to take our turn.
Then the younger cast members, including the lead roles of Robin Hood and Maid Marion, who proved to be great advertisements for the new generation.
Youth was also well represented among those who did the lighting and technical work – there would have been no show without them.
And what can I say about the costume makers? They were fabulous.
Very important, too, are the kind members of the audience. People will come and support you and be suitably kind and generous in their comments – another tribute to human nature.
Being part of a show is not for everyone – I understand that – but I’d recommend it.
It’s brilliant being part of a great whole, testing yourself to the edge of your comfort zone and starting to make good friends along the way.
You’ve probably guessed the rest – can’t wait to do it all over again next May!