Bloomer in the wings

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A while ago I had occasion to visit back stage in our local theatre, naturally a whole host of fond memories come flooding back.

Theatre is in my blood, and I first `trod the boards` at the tender age of four in a local production of The Old Curiosity Shop. Since then, I have appeared in dozens of amateur shows.

Indeed, I think the very last one was here in Nelspruit. It was, as far as I remember “Wait until Dark” and produced by The Lowveld Reps back in 1970 or so.

To me, nothing can be as exciting as the smell of Leichner make up, lit mirrors, the bustle of the stage crew, the last minute look at my lines and the stage manager calling “Beginners please.”

As amateurs, the drama that went on behind the scenes of some of our productions far exceeded the play performed.

Actors arriving in a state of intoxication ten minutes before they were going on was the norm. Imagine it. “Come on Ted, snap out of it…here drink this bloody coffee man and for Gods sake sober up!”

Slapping his cheeks and getting Ted into his costume while he could hardly stand, then getting him up the steps and into the wings, we waited for his cue. Saying a short prayer, then pushed him on and hoped for the best.

In my time I’ve had a fire back stage and alas, a producer who slipped while taking beers for the guys up on a lighting platform and was killed outright on the cement floor below.

It was on the Copperbelt, way back in the fifties that our producer decided to do the pantomime, Cinderella. I remember I was Gerda one of the three ugly sisters, and we were to perform a comedy ballet scene, directly after the local dance school had completely their polished performance.

We three guys were dressed in frilly pink two-two’s with socks stuck into our bra’s, and were performing the Swan Lake when we saw that our stage manager in the wings was beckoning us. We gave him a casual glance, and realized all was not right.

He was shaking his head and lifting his knees up, and his action got us flummoxed.

A moment later, our Producer was in the orchestra pit holding a large sign up for us to see. “Do not lift your knees up!” it read.
We were getting ready for the grand finale, and couldn’t for the life of us understand what they meant. How could we dance without lifting our knees?

Just as I was about to be thrown across the stage and caught by my fellow dancer, to our surprise, the lighting guys did a `black-out` on us, and the curtains closed.

We made our way into the wings where the Stage .Manager was waiting. “Who the Hell`s not wearing underpants?” He demanded.

It appears that during our performance on stage, someone had gone into our dressing room and found a pair of red Skants laying on the floor, then all Hell let loose.

Lifting our two-two`s, in unison we all confessed, “Not me!”

As usual, the audience applause brought the house down.

Oh what happy days, and how truly blessed I am to have such delightful memories.

Geoff Kennell

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