A Bear-hug and two fried eggs

Tuesday afternoon 4pm – I perform the play to 150 girls at The Mount Quaker School in York. Myself and Louise Williams, Head of English, hope the girls will imagine the situation if it was their brother, father, cousin, or uncle who was conscripted to fight in the war – or who refused to fight because of their beliefs.

The girls are quietly attentive throughout and some at least seem to have learnt things they had no idea of 75 minutes earlier.  Scott, the 19 year-old IT wizard at the school, who had however never run a theatre show before ( will he be up to it? I ask Louise) , operates the sound with just one hour’s practice as if he’s being doing it for thirty years. A cool head or what? He vanishes afterwards, seemingly into thin air, and Louise helps me clear up – the rest of the school now eerily empty.  She lets me and my van through the school gates, then waves me off into the sunset.

And WHAT a sunset as I head north-west to Lancaster. A vast sky full of pink and gold and cerise stretched out before me like a canvas by Monet.

As I leave ‘God’s own country’,  I ponder on my next venue.

I have been very worried about bookings at Lancaster’s Gregson Arts and Community Centre. Bookings? What bookings? Not a single one when I checked a few days ago.

My hosts Andy and Niki ( who last put me up 30 years ago, and who I’ve seen maybe twice since) try to reassure me… ‘They’ll turn up on the door on the night. You will have an audience.’  Hmm.  We shall see. I decide not to tell Andy, whose idea it was that I came all this way to perform here, that I was a hair’s breadth away from cancelling when I saw that there had been no bookings. I won’t spin out this tale any longer. Two words will suffice.


Graeme Bond, venue director for 25 years, and now bowing out, this being his last show, is pleased as punch.I have never before been hugged by a venue director in front of an audience while the applause is still going. A huge warm bear hug.

Andy and Niki were right of course. I should have trusted them. But when you have no Arts Council grant to cushion you, the sight of a zero on the bookings website one week before a performance is enough to quail the strongest of hearts.

At breakfast the next morning I do tell Andy about my nearly cancelling. He says nothing, just smiles as he flips a second perfectly fried egg on to my plate.







1 thought on “A Bear-hug and two fried eggs

  1. Michael, I am so, so glad you did not cancel your Lancaster performance. I was utterly engrossed and enjoyed the evening for so many reasons.

    I was fascinated by how you actually conducted the one-man play, how you can actually have arguments on your own on stage, how you used so few props in so many ways. I have been a keen theatre-goer for 40 years and it is a delight to find there are still new things to discover in live performance. I would like to watch again to pay attention to how you did that because I was too busy enjoying the play to study the technicalities.

    I have an interest in the peace sector and in conscientious objection and I was surprised at how accurate the play is. One is so accustomed to Hollywood rewriting true stories and the media only telling half a story, that I did not anticipate a true story could be told and yet be so compelling. You put to shame big budgets and professional journalists. However, you do have the advantage of telling a story that would be implausible and far-fetched if it were only fiction. It is an incredible story of courage and cruelty, of pacifism in war, where a society devoted to destruction turns on its own who don’t want the destruction. But it is a hard story to tell even now a century later and I think it takes courage to tell it, let alone publicly perform it.

    At a time when I keep hearing people despair at the state of the world, it is wonderful you are going round showing how individuals can follow their conscience, stand up against peer pressure, face adversity and actively say “This is wrong; I will have nothing to do with this no matter what you do to me”.

    I was entertained, captivated, inspired and delighted that evening in the Gregson Centre. I have been able to use some of your drive and energy to motivate myself to continue to work toward peace in my own life this past few weeks.

    Thank you for not cancelling.


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