Bums on seats

by Dave Early

‘Don’t stare at them Cyril, it’s rude. Poor creatures. Such a humiliating existence. And you can’t help but feel a little responsible…’

‘It’s not only them though is it?’

‘How do you mean, dear boy?’

‘Well, the things we used to put ourselves through…’

‘Come, come. A role is a role, no matter of the production value. It is neither you nor I upon the stage, save behind the make-up. A good actor, Cyril, plays the part not as an individual but sine qua non for the divinity of the banquet. You’re not honestly telling me, after all these years, you felt shamed by our profession?’

‘Of course not. Not by the performances at the time…’

‘Glad to hear it. Art is its own reward. Could you imagine how vulgar it would be if I were to project anything other than professionalism… and further more, a humble appreciation of the opportunity, whether ‘twas a tuxedo I wore on set or a maiden’s pinny? A flat cap or blonde wig? Diversity, my dear chap, is the epitome of excellence.’

‘No, no. I don’t mean that at all. I wouldn’t dream of speaking ill of the industry… though those wigs didn’t half itch…’

‘Oh, you’re not wrong. And I always had a devil of a time in heels. Brings about a newfound respect for the fairer sex, doesn’t it?’

‘Indeed it does.’

‘All right, I can appreciate your regrets. I too wish I had had the opportunity to grace The Old Vic, or The Globe. I confess, the chance to play Solinus or Pericles would have gone a long way to filling the eternal void the artiste must carry within him. After all, and let’s be honest, those roles were written for us… as it has often been said. Alas, it wasn’t to be. But that is the very reason why we should be proud to have thrown ourselves into the characters afforded us. How can you dismiss, dearest Cyril, the mixed emotions we evoked in countless millions? That is correct, I say millions. We cannot be remembered for the parts we wished we had played. Remember, without the audience…’

‘Absolutely. I could not agree more with your point… expressed most eloquently, I might add. But in truth Archie, do you not feel somewhat… let down? I mean, we put our hearts and souls into performing. Remember Tea for Two?’

‘Ah! How could I not? Your interpretation of the teenage miscreant was masterful.’

‘Too kind. I was thinking more of your representation of my father…’

‘Wonderful. The make-up department worked a miracle, don’t you agree?’

‘You’d been to make-up?’

‘Cheeky monkey. I played just as many youthful characters as those that were less youthful.’

‘Only teasing, Archie. You were magnificent.’

‘We both were… And the pay wasn’t bad either, eh?’

‘Archie! Artistic integrity?’

‘I’m only saying.’

‘But I quite agree. In fact, it sews nicely into my point. We worked hard. We displayed our talent, our God-given propensity for melodrama and subtlety in equal measure. We earned our plaudits and our luxuries. It meant something…’

‘You’re missing the challenge?’

‘It’s more than that. I feel embarrassed. Embarrassed for the spectators, embarrassed for the wasted gifts we share, embarrassed by the apparent pointlessness of a lifetime’s exertion only to discover that one can draw the same crowd without making any effort at all.’

‘You mustn’t think that way.’

‘Come Archie, how can I not? Don’t you ever wonder whether it was really our great performances that invited the accolades, or simply our appearance?’

‘Oh Cyril. Dear, dear Cyril. You must not get drawn so easily into these pits of despair.’

‘I can’t help it.’

‘I know, I know. It’s the artistic temperament, I’m afraid. It afflicts us all from time to time. But don’t you see? We are performing. In fact, this is the most challenging of roles we have ever faced. No costumes, no artificial sets, no rigid plots. As the stage is larger than the television studio, this, the adlibbed theatrics, is larger than them all.’

‘But…’

‘No buts. Find the character within. Look around us… they are all watching, waiting… they crave entertainment, and we are the actors to provide it.’

‘It’s just so…’

‘I know. But here, look, that must be the director – what ghastly attire… let’s hope his creative impulses are better than his sartorial ones. There, he’s indulging in a conflab with those two audience members over there. I bet they’re critics, you can usually tell by the stiff countenance. They’re pointing in our direction. ‘Peace, ye fat guts.’ Straight over their heads. Right, this is our cue. Can you pull yourself together for this?’

‘I think so.’

‘Splendid. Just follow my lead.’

‘What direction are you thinking of taking?’

‘I’m thinking a hard-hitting approach. You know… Out of the blocks like a bat out of hell.’

‘I think I see where this is heading. Straight for the crowd pleaser? Brilliant. You’ve still got it, you know?’

‘I know. Now bend over… Oh dear, I’m going to need a stiff Crème de menthe after this.’

Dave Early cannot be summed up in one sentence; one word perhaps, but not one sentence.

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  1. #1 by Jennifer walmsley on August 20, 2010 - 10:01 am

    Excellent dialogue. Loved this panto theme. Has been actors inside, I presume, a horse.

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