Way back then I was in the Limelight.

[notice]This post original appeared on the 26th August 2005 on my very first blog Spnak.com (that site now has another purpose) The article is now hosted on my “Other” blog From The Keyboard Of  Paul[/notice]

I used to be a Theatre Person. I was lured in by the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd. I had many mistresses in the spotlights that hit me on stage. I was always truly happy in a theatre or a theatrical space.

I wasn’t just an actor, I was a techie behind the scenes too. In fact most of my theatre life was spent behind the scenes. I would do anything just to get into a theatre and be a part of something organic, something that was live every time and unpredictable. I loved the sound of applause from a grateful audience at an interval or end of the show.

Out of the ten plus years I was in the theatre it was mostly good but as with all good things there has to come some bad and the final bad forced me to stop thinking about the theatre and move on with a real life that had somehow been hidden. After a few weeks of sucking my thumb and hiding away in my bedroom I came out and got on with things. I was 23 years old and I had already had 1 whole career behind me and now I needed to find another… by the way… I am still looking for that second career.

I plan on, from time to time, sharing some of the more fun times with you. It’s a part of my life that I am really proud of and enjoy talking about (read: boring the crap out of…) to friends and family. They have heard the stories before and humour me by listening again and again and they always laugh in just the right places.

To kick things off I want to tell you how I got into the crazy world of theatre.

It all began when I was 12 and I saw a sign on the noticeboard outside my geography classroom.
it went something like this

Sign up below to be a part of the new school production.

After that there was a list of the schools rich kids and kids with academic gold in their future.. so me a pig thick short fat hairy oik with the grace of three left footed yak with a bad skin condition (hey I was in puberty) stuck my name down. I didn’t know the procedure of these things I didn’t know that I had to keep watching the board for audition dates.. I missed the audition.

I went to see the teacher that was organizing this whole shebang and thus started a great friendship and gave me a mentor I would treasure even today when my theatre days are well and truly over (for now). I won’t use his full name but I will refer to him as either Dave or DBK.

Seeing as that conversation was doomed from the start to show my ignorance and inability to read a notice board I guess Dave was right not to include me in the show proper and looking back, I really don’t regret not being a piece of red weed which is what all the 3rd years were being cast as.

At the time though I was really put out that I couldn’t be involved in the show…. By the way I should probably mention that I had signed up for this show with no idea of what it was about. I knew the story of War of the Worlds but I didn’t know that it was based on the Musical by Jeff Wayne and it was a DANCE piece.

Now let’s just look at this for just one second. It was a DANCE piece and there was I a front row hooker playing for third year Rugby team offering my short fatness to be in a DANCE piece. I really needed to learn to read the small print.. mind you my not reading the small print got me out of a potentially embarrassing situation… the basic costume was shiny black Lycra leggings and a very tight black t-shirts… I would NOT have looked good and would have probably cried my eyes out just to get out of wearing it. But I digress

After much thought and probably out of sheer desperation, Dave made a decision that would change my life for the next ten years and would leave me a totally different person for the rest of my life. He put me on the technical crew for the show. I was a show techie. I got to be in school at weekends working on set building I got to drink coffee in the staffroom, and I got to finally see inside the girls toilets. (how sad).

I was the youngest of the Get In crew not really a big deal but I was made up at the time that I was being taken seriously enough to help get the show ready. I was starting to feel even back then that I was comfy doing this kind of work. I spent the whole weekend in the school assembly hall creating a whole new world.

We blacked out the hall with thick black bin liners HUNDREDS of them held together with masking tape and a prayer (they fell down one freakishly hot night and it was a MAD manic panic the next day to get them all put back up before a performance for a rival school.. we did it with an hour to spare). We hung lights installed a sound system and I was allowed to play with a smoke machine (something that still fills me with great joy).

There wasn’t actually anything for me to do during the show but stand around waiting to be told to get out of the way. This was my first experience of theatre that wasn’t aimed at kids. I was wide eyed and my family were sick of hearing about Par-Cans and LX Cues that came in one tenth of a second late and ruined the atmos of the crucial red weed take over scene. But they learned with time that nodding and saying “that’s nice dear would you like more peas with your dinner” would usually shut me up enough for them to either start another conversation or run away and hide from me.

After the week long run of the show had finished on Saturday night there was a PARTY. More to the point a PARTY that I was allowed to go to. It was held in a local coffee bar in the town centre and was organized by the sixth formers involved in the show. It was also the first (but not the last) party I went to where Newark’s riot police were in attendance three times (it was a good party).

With all good parties has to come to an end and this one did at around 2am. I staggered home (not very drunk I hasten to add) and got there by about three am (we lived ten minutes away). I fell asleep on the couch and was rudely awoken by the dog at 8am just in time to walk back to school and take everything down and take it back to the rental place. I left the house and there was a THICK fog (no not in my head in real life). The first thing that crossed my mind was… “Did I fuck around with the smoke machine and leave it on????????” I picked up a can of coke from the newsagents and like a slug slithered through the streets to get to school. The Get Out took less that a third of the time it took to Get In and then I took a trip in the back of a three tonne truck and learned how to surf staging whilst bombing down the motorway at 70 miles an hour. It was a great day but by the end of it.. it was all over and I was left without a theatre and the loss hurt like mad. I knew that I would have to find another dealer because I was hooked. I didn’t want the sunlight, I wanted the darkness of a stage punctuated with beams of light and the sounds of a hammer striking a thumb.

I was depressed for a few days and then Dave came to me and started talking about next years concept. A self devised piece called ..for better for worse. It was about The Environment and all that good stuff. Things pretty much went along the same lines for this show as it had for War of the Worlds I did more as I grew in confidence. I actually made a scene change with lights up (My first stage appearance since I was 6 when I played Henry The Eighth is a song play at junior school.. I didn’t have any lines then either)

I was hooked and I had never been backstage at a real theatre.. this was just make believe so far… what happened next would solidify the next decade of my life.

Until Next Time…