Pinky's Book Link

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pinky's Advice: If you can't do it... teach it!

                   Pinky fends off a couple of thespians. (Mark, Alan and Pinky!)

Amateur theatre did become a bit of a sporadic hobby for me throughout my adult years, despite the shaky start outlined in yesterday’s post. 

Let’s see... from the age of twenty-five until I was about forty I played a scheming servant; a psychotic baby-killer, a cruel and hypocritical religious fanatic, the self-absorbed director of an aged nursing home, a bossy theatre director, the child-hating socialite wife of an affable but hen-pecked husband, a bogan, a dishonest lawyer, a snobby factory boss hiding a terrible secret… are you beginning to see a pattern here?

When I lived in Sydney in my early twenties I joined a theatre group and was granted the role of a servant girl in a play called “The Chocolate Soldier”. My first entrance on stage was to run in and animatedly shout, 

‘The soldiers are coming! The soldiers are coming!”

I’d decided to wear a pair of ancient court shoes I’d discovered in the boot of my car as part of my costume. They had been on their way to the dump but seemed to suit the era of the play and I was on a budget.

On the highly anticipated opening night I lunged onto stage hollering my lines with all the dramatic flair I could muster, thrilled to be performing on stage in the big smoke (albeit amateur theatre). 

My spectacular theatrics unintentionally extended to slipping over in my worn shoes and landing flat on my bum. Naturally the audience found this to be hilariously funny and it took us a while to establish that the play wasn’t actually intended to be a comedy. The director was not impressed.

The same thing occurred the following night and the night after that. I wasn’t actually falling over by now as I’d managed to anticipate the moment my shoes were going to lose traction, but it was clearly apparent each time that I’d slipped and skidded and there was always a loud titter from the audience.

“Pinky,” sighed the director, “would you please do something about those shoes!”

On the final night the director’s wife brought in another pair for me to wear. My entrance was as smooth as a Nancy Kerrigan swivel but as I was exiting the stage I suddenly felt the elastic snap on my voluminous petticoat. 

I was forced to ungracefully hobble from the stage clutching the mass of heavy, white Broderie Anglaise in an attempt to drag it off with me, much to the amused delight of the spectators.

I went to auditions for the same theatre group’s very next production but unfortunately I didn’t make the grade. I can’t think why.

One time and one time only, did I manage to score the role of the leading lady. I was to play the role of Deirdre in “Deirdre of the Sorrows”; an ancient Irish princess who roams the Irish wilderness and tragically falls in love with the wrong bloke. Forced to marry the horrible, wretched old King instead, she melodramatically stabs herself to death at the finale. 

Not only did I have to come up with a passable Irish accent, I had to bring some credibility to a heart-breaking death scene. Three comments about my performance remain with me until this day.

Director: “Pinky, you look and sound like you have colic when you’re stabbing yourself. Can you work on that please?”

‘Friend’: “I felt so sorry for you having to wear that ugly costume, Pinky.”

Mother: “I don’t know how you remember all those lines, Pinky!” (This is one of the most back-handed compliments any pseudo-actor will ever hear.)

My swan song in the world of grease paint was to play an old crone (surprise, surprise) in the T. S. Eliot verse drama, “Murder in the Cathedral”. 

The director decided to costume the Women’s Chorus in itchy, thick cloaks made of what I imagine were horse blankets. Not a very sensible choice in the North Queensland Summer I can assure you. 

The performances were imaginatively staged in an actual Cathedral and the ‘women’ had to sit amongst the audience on the pews. Every now and then one of us would spontaneously leap out of our seat and loudly project our one or two lines of poetry, unnervingly startling any unwitting member of the audience who was unfortunate enough to be sitting beside us.

Our creative director (the late and great Jean-Pierre Voos) had procured a real horse to make a stagey entrance down the aisle in the middle of the performance. 

The nag managed to squeeze out an equine ablution every single night, filling the cathedral with the pungent aroma of horse manure. 

With the heat, the smell and the sheer boredom I swiftly deemed it was time I threw in the theatrical towel and seek greener pastures. Probably not a huge loss to the local amateur theatre scene methinks!