Modern Technology, Ping-pong, and a Quick Thump of the Fist

June 12th 2017
So there I am, all set up and ready to go at the Oasis Hub venue, Waterloo, on Friday evening June 9th … a hundred plus folk have turned up to see ‘THIS EVIL THING’ (despite having stayed up half the previous night to watch ‘THIS ELECTION’S HUNG’).

This performance is part of the Peace History Weekend, set up by the Movement for the Abolition of War. Bruce Kent is all set to give a short introduction, BUT…

It’s 7.28pm, two minutes till I step forward onto one of the nine wooden crates which form the ‘set’,to begin the journey of the COs in World War One. Two minutes. And there is no lighting. Well, no stage lighting. The wondrous new state of the art lighting and sound desk is sulking (because it ought to have been Corbyn and not May trying to form a government?).

Phone calls to all manner of high-ups including, I think I heard, to the geek who invented this particular piece of technical wizardry, reap no results of the ‘let there be light’ kind.

It’s a challenging venue anyway, being a modern church, large, wide and echoey, which occasionally doubles as a venue with folding raked seating – as well as being used as a space by the attached Oasis Academy school. It’s overseen by two wonderful guys, Andrew and Roddy, who have been so helpful with the whole performance.

Indeed, when we arrived at 6 o’clock to set up for the show, there were about 8 ping pong tables on the performing area…interesting, I thought – I’m sure the COs would have loved a ping pong table for recreation in the grim work-camps and prisons some of them were confined to. Could I incorporate these into the play, I wondered? It’s ok, says Andrew, I’m just about to put them away.

The church/venue has no blackout either, so daylight, indeed sunlight, pours in from the windows to the right of the playing area. And on this sunny summer’s evening, the western sunshine was positively flooding in. Who needs stage lighting, I thought? Save on electricity too. But hang on, by the time the play finishes the sun will have gone down behind the Kennington rooftops, so we really need that stage lighting…

It’s not looking good. It’s now 7.29, one minute to go. I’m told we’ll have to proceed with just the dim overhead lighting which will hardly illuminate myself and the crates – when my brother, Louie, who is kindly operating the sound for me this night, rushes down to tell me, ‘It’s sorted. We’ve got the stage lighting working!’

‘Great!’ I say. ‘Who did Nathan (in charge of lighting) speak to?’

‘He didn’t. He used his fist.’

‘What?’

‘He was pretty fed up and gave the lighting desk a quick thump with his fist in frustration, and suddenly, it started working. A loose connection, maybe?’

Ahh, modern technology, dontcha love it?

And so it came to pass…that all went off beautifully, despite constant police sirens and the thrum of traffic outside, and I lost another few pounds in weight. Cyril Pearce, creator of the Pearce Register of the over 18,000 British WW1 COs, joined me for the Q and A; and Andrew and Roddy were amazingly helpful again in assisting me with the crates afterwards, and when I couldn’t get a cab, Roddy said not to worry, he’d give us a lift home in his not very large car, packing the crates in skillfully, a skill developed by, as he said, many a house move in recent years.

I forgot to mention – the altar of the church is ‘put away’ for performances, but what remains on either side, looking down on the playing area, are two lovely sculpted angels. St. Andrew and St. Roddy perhaps?

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