Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bollards, fences and boxes

When you're doing a reading, always turn up early.

Yeah, right.

Bitch-Lit reading in Sheffield yesterday evening. 7.30 start, plan to get there an hour beforehand to change into costume and check out the venue, so leave at five for the one-and-a-half hour drive. Oh-oh. Traffic blocked at Glossop. At 6.30, when I'm meant to be there, we're still scooping round those scary bends between darkening misty hills, not a city light in sight. 6.40, we hit the outskirts, zoom downwards to the centre only to find what no one has warned us about: the roads around it are completely dug up, it's all bollards and diversions, hardly any lights or signs, and no one around - why not? - it's like the surface of the moon, the dark side. We're going round in circles, and now we seem to be driving away from the centre again... One lone man walking. I wind down the window. 'We're looking for the station!' He scratches his head, not sure how we'd get there with all these altered directions... Another: with all these altered directions, he's not even sure any more in which direction it actually is. It's seven o' clock now. John's driving, so I rummage in my bag, thinking I should change in the car, but then find I don't have the room. Two young girls, about twelve and ten. 'Know where the station is?' 'Oh yes! Well... erm... MUM!' they scream up to a window above the shops. The window opens. 'Mum, where's the station?' The woman starts yelling down instructions we can't hear.

It's 7.10 when we get to the back of the station which we know is opposite the venue, the Showroom Cinema. 'Stop! I'll run from here!' I grab my bags and costume and jump from the car, my skirt dropping from the hanger onto the pot-holed ground. Snatch it up, run through the dark round the side of the station car park, stumbling over potholes, only to come to a high workman's fence and be diverted a very long way round. It's 7.15, when I finally reach the steps of the Cinema Showroom. I fling myself, breathless, onto the box-office desk. 'To the stairs and then left,' I am told. I race down the stairs. There's no left turn... I race back up. 'Where's showroom 5?' I call to an usher. Oh, he meant past the stairs and turn left!

Everyone else is ready and waiting. So where can I change? Not in an office as they'd vaguely suggested we might, but in the loo... Great. Race to the loo. Can't paint my bitch lips on, must have dropped my makeup bag when I rummaged in the car...

I emerge with my arms full of bags, coat, clothes and a coathanger to find the audience already being seated. Where can I put them? Under that table there, I'm told, which I must squash past the legs of the audience to get to. So much for making an impact as your character...

And the setup, which I'd come too late to have a say in? A lectern with a mic we didn't really need, and which would hide our carefully planned costumes. And each side of it and a little behind it, two chairs for the readers, which meant that in the long room where the seating was arranged horizontally, each pair of readers was hidden from half of the audience. And as for the Q & A session: well, I tell you, it's amazing the rapport we achieved with our sell-out audience from behind a big blue box!

Here Maya Chowdhry and I are trying to converse around the lectern with the other two readers:

And here we are at last released from the box [From left to right: me in my wig and dressed as my avenging wife character, Sophie Hannah as herself (because, as she told the audience, she is her character), Suzanne Elvidge as her avenging cook, and Maya Chowdhry as a fairy punk]

No comments: