A Worrying Show of Hands In Favour (and Disco Lights in World War One)

So the tour bandwagon rolls on from Bewdley to Stroud, forty miles or so south in Gloucestershire… the bandwagon consisting of one man and his partner – his Peugeot Partner – (not getting anything for that plug, alas) – and his nine crates lovingly made from reclaimed wood.

Nick and Fiona, two of the kindest people in the universe, host me for three nights. Tomorrow, October 12th, I’m at a school, but not a Quaker school, a Steiner one – well, Wynstone’s Steiner-Waldorf School to be precise.

The night before they phone me in a bit of a state to say there’s been a measles outbreak in the school! Do we want to go ahead? Oh cripes! I really don’t want to cancel a performance but nor do I want to risk catching something or passing something on…
Nick and Fiona, a similar age to me, calm me down – we’ve all had measles as kids they remind me (long, long time ago…), were immunised, etc. It’ll be fine.

Of course it will.

So next day Nick and I set off to the school, to be met with boisterous pupils running and chasing each other hither and thither with great abandon (somewhat different vibe from the Quaker Schools where I saw not a single pupil running in corridors) – a group of them suddenly burst into the Barn Theatre where we’re setting up for the show, and just as quickly dash off again.

Nick, with no theatre experience, but comfortable with computers, has offered to do the sound. He operates it perfectly – an absolute pro – and I ask him what he’s doing for the next two months.

Petra, the teacher hosting us, is thrilled with the performance, and the 60 or so pupils seem absorbed in what it has to offer. In the Q and A, Petra asks who, as a result of seeing the play, feels they might have been a conscientious objector 100 years ago?

About 4 or 5 tentative hands go up. (Is that all, I think to myself?)  And who, she asks, would have been in favour of going to war, of joining the army?  A far greater number of hands (all male, I think) are confidently raised. Hmm. Plenty of work still to do then.

We pack up and leave, head back to Stroud, and in the morning Nick asks why I’m studying his neck so closely.  ‘Red spots! There are three red spots on your neck!’
We laugh.  Stupid joke of mine. My apologies to those who are genuinely suffering.

That night, Friday the 13th, it’s the beautiful Lansdown Hall, a former Temperance Hall built in 1879 I believe, now a smart gallery and performance space. I’m hoping for a good turn-out from the alternative, pro-peace Stroudie crowd.  It proves to be a great night apart from one moment.

In January at the Kempe Studio, Stratford, an audience member stopped the play when I was in full flow because the woman next to him had fainted. After 15 minutes I carried on.

In Stroud it was I who had to stop the play. The lights suddenly went doolally and ones that hadn’t been programmed by Ned, the experienced technician there, started to flicker red, blue and purple then all three colours together. I thought, we have to sort this.

So I stop the play, shout up to Ned to ask if he knows what’s happening – he’s mighty pleased I’ve stopped so that he can rectify the situation; I chat to the audience in an amazingly relaxed manner (surprising myself), reminiscent of the late, great Leonard Cohen in his latter years -chatting about the woman who fainted in Stratford, the magic and unpredictability of live theatre, while Ned sorts the lights (something to do with patching, a mystery to me…), and then we resume.

Excellent response from the audience, but afterwards someone does say to me, ‘Glad you sorted that problem out. I was beginning to wonder what disco lights had to do with World War One.’

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