The Moorpool Players' John Healey went down with acute tracheolaryngal bronchitis, which is hard enough to say even if you haven't got a bad throat.

It was in fact bad enough to cause the postponement in November of the Harborne group's Day of Reckoning, which will now open on March 14.

But I learn that quite a lot of people thought it was considerably worse than it really was. In fact, they were taking their pick of the rumours - either that he had collapsed on stage at the final rehearsal and been rushed into hospital, or that he had actually died.

It was the second rumour that was the stronger - so much so that there were gatherings at which it was announced that John had already had his day of reckoning.

He tells me, "There were announcements at a whist drive and a dog lovers' club. I really was ill, but I didn't go to hospital."

Undeterred by the tales, which went on for about three weeks, he continued to do his bit for the Players in various ways and he was manning the box office when a caller rang and expressed his deepest sorrow about the news he had just heard.

John thanked him and assured him that he was now feeling much better.

After a silence of which Harold Pinter would have been proud, a series of stutters at the other end of the line brought the conversation to a close.

Day of Reckoning will run at Moorpool Hall, Harborne, from March 14-18. John will be on stage as a vicar who has a drink problem and an affair with a parishioner. I trust that his perceived second coming will not have heart-stopping consequences for audience members.

Have you ever wondered what actors do with condoms? The answer is not all that obvious - as Sarah Garrington's teacher at King Edward's School, Birmingham, found out.

During a sex education lesson, pupils were shown how to put on a condom by a demonstration using a cucumber - standard practice, I am assured, in secondary school sex education.

Proceedings were brought briefly to a halt when 16-year-old Sarah announced, "Oh I know how to do that already. I've put on hundreds in the theatre!"

Her teacher, possibly thinking she had stumbled on a scenario of hitherto unsuspected goings-on among the region's thespians, was under-standably a little surprised and asked why. Sarah explained, "It's standard practice because it stops radio microphones getting all sweaty and uncomfortable under your costume."

Sarah knew this because her father is James Garrington, chairman of Tudor Musical Comedy Society which is preparing for its production of Guys and Dolls at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall next week - and Sarah has been helping him with the sound on productions since she was 10. Moreover, it has always been her job to cover the microphone packs.

This time around, Sarah plays wisecracking Mimi, one of the show's Hot Box Girls, alongside her mother Pam, who will be seen as a member of the Salvation Army, and her father who is among the gambling Guys.

The programmes of Birmingham's Crescent Theatre are the best you will meet in a day's march. They are pocket-size and packed with information, not only about the production but, where appropriate, the background against which the play was written.

I have said before that examples ought to be preserved in the Theatre Museum in London - even though this would involve overcoming the fact that the museum says it does not seek to represent amateur theatre.

And now I report a letter that the Crescent has received from a pair of delighted patrons in Sutton Cold-field. They write: "We'd like to compliment you most warmly on your truly excellent programmes. We rarely buy programmes at other theatres or concert halls - they are very expensive and they contain much advertising.

"Yours, however, are wonderful value for money, always containing fascinating and relevant details."

It is a deserved pat on the back for Crescent administrator Jane Mather, who clearly spends hours on the challenging task of making each successive programme match up to its predecessor.

Incidentally, have you caught up with the Lynne Truss book in which she points out that the rarely-used female form of administrator is administratrix - and that its plural becomes the weird and wonderful administratrices?

My colleague Christopher Morley, the Post's classical music correspondent, tells me he had a great time with Royal Sutton Opera last week - enacting his new role as president during its production of Die Fledermaus.

The only surprise was that it was not as new as he thought it was, because in the course of the handshaking and hospitality he discovered that he actually became president last year, having succeeded the world-renowned mezzo-soprano Jean Rigby.

Modestly explaining his elevation, Chris told me: "For some reason she couldn't be as readily available for functions."

My random witterings on tongue-twisters a few weeks ago touched a chord with Barry Lankester, former BBC man in the Midlands. In particular, my reference to Peter Piper's peck of pickled pepper caused him to recall a production of Princess Ida at the University of Birmingham in 1954, in which he was involved as King Hildebrand.

It seems that the musical director was Ernie Pendrous, freelance trumpeter and conductor, who did his best every night to wreck a bit of Lankester libretto that went, "For I'm a peppery potentate/ Who's little inclined his clime to bate."

This same pernicious Pendrous never missed his chance to look His Hapless Majesty in the eye and mouth his own version - which involved replacing that four-word inverted phrase at the end with a rather naughty infinitive. ..SUPL: