In 2001, my local drama group put on a production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and I decided to try for a part. I went along to the auditions hoping to be cast as Helena or Hermia, one of the female leads – who got to wear pretty dresses and swoon over handsome men in tight breaches. Instead, I was cast as Puck, the mischievous goblin who flies around the forest planting spells on people, and who has a highly dodgy relationship with the King of the Fairies! Suffice to say, I wasn’t happy.
Rehearsals began and things went from bad to worse. I was asked to ride a bicycle, perform cartwheels, reside in a makeshift tree-house and wear shorts – something I hadn’t done since 1979. But a strange thing happened. I began to enjoy myself. I hadn’t realised the part was so funny. I was soon whizzing around the stage like a hyperactive child on speed. Opening night arrived and my blonde hair had been cut into a pixie style and dyed ‘fire-orange’. Along with my green make-up and matching green velour shorts and tunic, I looked quite the woodland nymph. My white plimsolls, spray-painted for the show, hadn’t quite dried, so I ended up with green-stained feet. But apart from that, the show was a massive success…well, if you ignored my encounter with the army netting in Act Two.
The set designer had managed to obtain a large ravel of camouflage netting from the British Army, which somehow I managed to get my ears stuck in. These were not my natural features, but the jugs on the thirty-inch donkey head made for the character of Bottom. The director had this brilliant idea that when Bottom awoke from his dream, he’d see Puck moving spookily about the stage wearing the Ass’s head. Rehearsals hadn’t been a problem, as we didn’t have either the Ass’s head or the camouflage netting. But during opening night, I moved forward to deliver my line and realised I was stuck. The netting locked tight, like a well-designed seatbelt, and I was yanked backwards. The Ass’s head swivelled ninety-degrees blinding my view and masking my mouth. For the remainder of the scene, my moves were confined to two steps either side of where I was entangled. By the time I got off stage, I was sweltering, my make-up was smudged, my voice was croaky and my nose was rubbed sore from horse-hair friction. Despite the Director assuring me that ‘no one would have noticed’, I remained sceptical. A green goblin wearing a back-to-front Ass’s head and stuck in army camouflage netting, is something most people would notice.
But playing Puck was great fun…although it did leave me with a strangely jaundice skin-tone from the make-up, bruised shins from repeatedly descending the treehouse ladder, and satsuma-coloured hair that needed bleaching. But other that, it was amazing. So much so, it inspired the idea for ‘The Summer Theatre by the Sea’.
You can buy The Summer Theatre by the Sea from Amazon