By Tim Stedman
Today we broke the back of Act 1 by rehearsing quite late into the evening. A long day after a morning of singing eventually got us to the ‘slosh or slap’ routine.
I had scenes with Aladdin and then Widow Twankey joined, then the villain Abanazar. Finally we did a front cloth scene with all of us and the Emperor, Policeman and attendants.
Most actors want lots of lines; as inveterate show offs lines mean the focus of the audience is on you and therefore you are important. In most pantomimes my character has huge importance at the start with scene setting, communicating plot and as a warm up but fades with the arrival of the dame and lovers and most importantly story.
With that see saw of importance the natural reflex as an actor is to fight such a demise. I’ve always been happy to shed lines in my opening swathes of monologue. Be funny, fast or get off! Pace, a huge concern for a director, often dictates we need cuts. But towards the end of today I was stood with 6 actors all who had masses to say whilst I had to listen on the end of the chorus line.
Beside myself for a titbit of spotlight I was suggesting ideas, disagreeing over blocking, trying to be part of the creative spotlight. I even brought on a chair to sit on so the director would realize how little I was involved. All in jest and good humour but a message nonetheless. With a Paddington bear stare from the director I hastily returned to standing.
And then bizarrely a bit of training kicked in. I just listened. And then I listened as my character would listen. And from nowhere on a head turn mirrored by Widow Twankey, as we glanced at each other, the DSM (deputy stage manager) laughed at Gordon and I listening.
DSMs are normal people who rarely wish to be on the stage or show off. They’re the nearest gauge we have to an audience much better than fellow actors or even the director.
Back in the scene I was now listening. Supporting the others and telling the story. The story is King, Stedman. The story is King.