Behind the Scenes - Episode 4
Pedalling and puffing my way through chilly West London streets, I wore a big cheshire cat grin. It’s rare to find acting work to be proud of these days, let alone that shared with excellent friends. It was rehearsal day and my destination was a basement flat, a subterranean sanctuary for a bunch of actors to hammer-out something like a play. Better still, we were preparing something we had done two years previously. Our take on John Van Druten’s Voice of the Turtle was to be revived and rehearsed underground and yet performed in the UK’s highest hotel. A challenge happily accepted.
As a jobbing actor in London, rehearsing and reading plays in domestic settings is not much of a novelty. If anything it provided a familiar and relaxed environment for such silliness. Tea breaks were numerous and the opportunity to snaffle a spoonful of the host’s nut butter (almond is always preferred) was never far away. That said, we worked jolly hard on this little piece. The tale of an actress meeting a military man on leave in the twentieth century’s deadliest decade deserved dedication, thought and lots of repetition (that’s french for ‘rehearsal’ dontcha know!)
In the latter stages of rehearsals we dug out and dusted off our old costumes and were reminded of funny little character quirks: a photograph left in a breast pocket, a small book of poems, a trinket, little evidences of work from years gone by, work we could smile about and be proud of. Reinforced with our not-so-humble self-congratulations we readied for the big event.
The performance at the Shangri-La in the Shard.
Now, suffice it to say, I had never stayed at this establishment. In fact just standing in one of these rooms, let alone the grand Westminster Suite that we inhabited on the fateful night, is enough to take one’s breath away. London lies noiselessly snoozing and twinkling gently hundreds of metres below. She spreads out as far as one cares to look and coaxes you to the window. For a time the room itself is irrelevant and your nose presses against the cool glass. Once you’ve fogged the pane sufficiently, you can pause to inspect the chamber around you. Tastefully adorned and with a hint of the orient one can slump into a pricey sofa and feel utterly at home. Just the place for an intimate piece of theatre.
There’s something especially unnerving about performing with Revels in Hand which is similar to hearing women talk about having their second baby. Having forgotten the throes of their first labour they enter into it a second time with less apprehension. A mistake. When the event is upon them they think to themselves ‘Oh god, why did I agree to do this again?!’ Similarly, when one hears the audience filing into the room wherein you will perform hopefully truthful theatre mere inches away from their faces one thinks ‘Oh god, I wonder if any of these windows open.’
However, these feelings of defenestration are dashed to pieces as soon as a lilting laughter is heard bouncing into the bedroom serving as our green room. Spirits revived and morale bolstered I readied for my first entrance and the rest, as they say, is history.
Having been in a few of these private theatre shows, I often wonder what it must be like being on the receiving end of a Revel’s in Hand play. A glass of something bubbly to begin with, a refill and a canapé or four in the interval and another glass and a chat with the actors at the end, theatre in between and all in front of the greatest panoramic view in London. By God, even without the theatre that sounds like a wonderful evening! From my perspective, to revisit such a charming and funny piece after years more experience and a dollop more perspective was a blessing. I can only hope that the audience shared in the joy of that evening. I have a sneaking suspicion they may have done.
Once the smoke had cleared, the blaze of the evening now but a few warmly glowing embers in the grate, the staff at the Shangri-La treated us to a deliciously festive supper and bottle or two of champagne.
I honestly can't describe a more pleasant evening being at ‘work’.
If you would like to hire a performance of The Voice of the Turtle, or any other Revels in Hand shows, contact us here. We have performed for parties large and small, in venues as extravagant as the Shangri-La and as challenging as a country field! Whatever the event, we can bring a totally unique sparkle.