Even Homer, as is well documented, nods. But I sometimes think that theatre directors must have been sound asleep throughout the long weeks of rehearsal.
Why else would they take charge of 42nd Street and allow the ageing actress who breaks her ankle in the first half to be wheeled on in the second half with her leg in plaster – and the plaster over her tights?
I have seen the show many times. Only once have I observed a big toe striving for authenticity by making its post-interval appearance unencumbered by nylon.
Shows involving medical conditions make any company prone to pitfalls – pitfalls that a director should avoid. If, for instance, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the production of the moment, for heaven’s sake make sure that the actor who is required to hobble around with a broken ankle and a crutch is deploying the crutch in the correct armpit – the one on the opposite side to his purported injury.
He may be sure that the audience will include those who will know from personal experience whether he has got it right or not.
And shows that are supposed to be reflecting Society with a capital S are belittled by every actor who refers to the droring room. The director should have squashed that before shoving it under the noses of the paying patrons.
For the same reason, when My Fair Lady has a Higgins who is prone to flourish an obtrusive R, the director should take him gently on one side and seek to persuade him not to describe Eliza’s nerves as being “as roar as meat in a butcher’s window.” Higgins, after all, is supposed to have a mild interest in the English language.
The director should also be aware that when Society sips champagne, it looks far more believable if it holds its glass by the stem instead of warming it up by holding the bowl. All right, perhaps it would look a little odd to the uninitiated, but at least it might further their education.
In fairness, it should be acknowledged that there are times when it is clear that the director has actually tried to do a bit of directing. One example came in a “freeze” during a western musical. It worked superbly – except for the cowboy in the back row who became the most obvious and most stupid person on stage by choosing that moment to adjust his outsize hat.
Perhaps the director had not hammered home the simple theatrical fact that a freeze really is a freeze; that not a muscle must be twitched until it has run its course.
Even so, that carefree cowboy could surely have noticed, from one week’s rehearsal to the next, that this was the point in the show when nobody seemed to be moving. Directors, as I am trying to demonstrate, do need whatever help they can get.
n Members of the audience at Hall Green Little Theatre who thought they knew the story of Roald Dahl’s BFG. (Big Friendly Giant) may wonder why they don’t remember Sophie’s mother being pushed round in a wheelchair.
The answer is that Amanda Grant, who plays the part, twisted her ankle badly when rehearsing for the production’s disco dancing before last Friday’s opening, and she has finished up in plaster for six weeks with a torn muscle.
But the show must go on, and Amanda, who also plays Miss Plumridge, the head of the orphanage, not to mention The Queen of England, took to the wheelchair, helped out sometimes by a pair of crutches and a handy bed.
The show runs to the end of this week and there’s been a special request for no break-a-leg jokes.
n If you saw the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, you, like me, will have been transfixed by the practised precision and the breathtaking wizardry involved as thousands of immaculately-rehearsed Chinese went through their unpredictable paces – clearly unimpaired by anything approaching the Health & Safety considerations that have become part of the daily round in Britain.
We surely ought to be extra-circumspect about using the word theatre in future, now that we know what it really means.
n It’s about 40 years since I interviewed Sir Donald Sinden, who would surely share with Sir Michael Caine any award for Acting’s Most Recognisable Voice – so I have been particularly interested to learn that he is known as A Ham So Rare He Can’t Be Cured.
I was less impressed to read that an actress, who began her career with mellifluous tones, now speaks Estuary English because she says that’s the only way to get on. Furthermore, it is now being authoritatively suggested that the spelling mistakes with which the papers of 21st-Century students are liberally littered should be overlooked and accepted as alternative approaches to the customarily accepted view of the Oxford Dictionary – because an examiner is fed up with wasting so much time marking them.
It is all too easy to imagine where our lovely language will have been dumped in 50 years’ time, in the wake of this trendy trend to drag it down to the level of the idle, the incompetent and the illiterate. With a bit of luck, I shall never know, as I would have had to blow out 127 birthday candles before finding out and I’m already intermittently short of puff.