I have an enquiring mind and absorb loads of information on a daily basis through newspapers, TV, websites and radio. I’ve also got a reputation for picking up stories by earwigging people’s conversations in coffee shops. Well, every man needs a hobby!
Stored in my mental filing cabinet – which is much easier to move around than a metal filing cabinet – is the fact there are 2,500 amateur dramatic societies in the UK that put on 35,000 productions every year. I learned that from writer Michael Coveney’s new book about the Am Dram world, entitled “Questors, Jesters and Renegades”.
While I’ve never been involved with Am-Dram, people I know who have, tell me what I’ve always suspected. The Am Dram universe is more awash with green-eyed jealousy, illicit relationships and actors with egos far bigger than their talent than the world of professional theatre.
If you suddenly feel eager to join your local Am Dram group…be careful!
Because according to Michael Coveney’s book, amateur dramatic productions are plagued with disasters waiting in the wings, which are hysterically funny for the audience but nerve-shatteringly terrifying for the poor amateur thespians they happen to…
Prop telephones stubbornly refuse to ring when they’re supposed to, then suddenly do ring at an inappropriate moment. Fake glass bottles refuse to break in dramatic fight scenes.
Actors unsuccessfully try to exit through doors that won’t budge. During a murder mystery, to cover the fact a prop gun had failed to fire, the actor who pulled the trigger ‘helpfully’ said “Bang!”. An actor fell off the stage, broke his arm and was whisked off to the local A & E still dressed as a pirate. Which was really odd because he was playing the title role in Chekovs “Uncle Vanya”.
But the story that made me laugh the most occurred in an amateur production of “Hamlet”. In the solemn closing moments, as several bodies were being slowly carried off stage, instead of the Funeral March being played, the curtain fell to a rendition of “Tea For Two”.
Now that’s a moment of theatre that would’ve even tickled Shakespeare!