After 5 weeks of intensive mucking about we suddenly found ourselves backstage at the Assembly Halls Theatre in Tunbridge Wells 90 minutes before first curtain & we were to be opening the Spice of Life Variety Show! The show was in aid of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.
Joe & Letti just managed to arrive in time for our last minute rehearsal which was a big relief. Not that we were worried. For many of our perfomers it was their first experience of a real stage with all the trimmings. The eerie calm of the empty theatre, the glowing stage lights & people chattering on walkie talkies in the background was very exciting but still made even the veteran performers of the club a little nervy.
Our run through was still not perfect. There were several gaps between acts, a couple of missed Qs & a few problems with positioning. We had to contend with a full band's equipment which was absent when we visited the theatre a couple of weeks ago & made our performance space very narrow. Beth had a little bout of apprehension, which was almost enough to register on the Richter Scale. We strapped her to a chair & she eventually calmed down.
We all made our way up to our dressing room & we watched our run through several times on our lovely digital video camera which was kindly donated by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (plug). We all pointed out & discussed our flaws & how to compensate. People were getting nervous, I entered my if-I-don't-perform-right-now-I'm-going-to-explode mode.
No I was fine really. We were introduced & the curtain went up. First up was Kim, Dave L. & Alex as the psychadelic orange stilt martians wading through the smoke to the sound of the 'weird' music before being frightened off stage by the noise of a plane (was it?), they certainly got people's attention. Then on came the 'Dada dat dat-dat' music (similar to The Race) prompting Kevin & Dave A. on their giraffes to do some circling & stuff, while Steve & Beth rode in front, then I stepped on stage (to thundering applause) to support Bethan while she got into position to walk the wheel back across the stage. Then after that she did a bit on the ultimate wheel too. Weren't we cruel to make her do so much?
Next up Joe came on walking on our walking globe with unnatural casualness (shouldn't be allowed I reckon) & Letti traversed the stage on her hands which was quite a distance. There was a cringeworthy moment when the two crossed centre stage, Joe squeezed through a very little gap between Letti & the band equipment but he cooly just seemed to come to a complete stop just as I thought he was going to do an involuntary rimshot from above on the drumkit. They were followed by our three youngsters Sukey, Jack & Holly on stilts (crowd went aaah!) to pose as a background for Kevin to come on & do his fire eating spot, stupid man.
They were followed by Mark shuffling along as an old man (obvious joke will be passed up) carrying an old case. Luckily though kind hearted Pete comes along to help him out & carry the case for him. But lo & behold thanks to some mime work the case won't move an inch. It takes a lot to make the illusion work but Pete pulled it off brilliantly.
Then after a Star Trek transporter shimmer sound & a camp "Ooh Behave!" (this is what happens when Dave L. gets hold of a sound effects tape & is put in charge of mixing the soundtrack) Dave L. & Dave K. trouped on to the sound of Austin Powers for their club passing spot picking up all six from the ground & then doing a few tricks & finishing up passing seven.
Then it was my turn to perform with some diaboloing, all I've got to say is thank god I made the whip catch at the end. Or maybe it had something to do with the fact that I did over 300 of them in practise the day before? As I finished the whole crew poured on to fill up the stage with juggling & stilts to take our well earned applause. It had all gone brilliantly, we met every Q, there were no awkward pauses, no major mistakes & it went down very well indeed.
& So our star turn came to a close & with stunning professionalism we all swiftly made it to the bar. Everyone had done exceptionally well & put on a great performance. A special mention has to go to Mark & Cora who cunningly managed to avoid doing anything remotely skilful by a Paris-Dakar distance.
The show was dedicated to Kevin's Dad, Kenneth Fletcher who sadly passed away earlier this week.