Monday 20 February 2012

This is what Half-Terms are for.

How I Spent My Half-Term Holiday
by Bette, aged 25 and a quarter

On Friday afternoon I skipped away from school, changed my clothes and ate some toast, and drove with Philip and Simon to Sunderland, whereupon I put on a pretty mediaeval frock and a pointy hat and took to the stage as Lady Angela in Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience.  I felt that Friday was the best night of the run, and it all went splendidly.  After the curtain fell I retired to the pub, as is traditional.

A long-awaited lie-in, some house-cleaning and soon it was time to go back to Sunderland for the fifth and final performance of Patience.  Laura said to me, as we were sipping our secret backstage fizzy wine, "If you cry tonight, I'll punch you in the face.", so I kept the weeping at bay, and after we had performed the house down, packed up our costumes, taken down the set ("Heads on stage!") and enjoyed tea, cake and speeches, we tootled off to Laura's flat for wine and karaoke. (You haven't heard 'A Whole New World' until you've heard it in Mackem accents), finally flopping into bed sometime in the morning.

Bloody brilliant.  Thanks for having me, St Andrews.

Far earlier than my aching head would have preferred, Phil and I carefully on tiptoe stole out of the flat, leaving Jen, Seann and Laura sleeping, and returned to our side of the river.  I put down my Patience costume bag, picked up my Pirates costume bag and headed out for a looong rehearsal.  Not gonna lie, at that point performing in Pirates was the last thing I wanted to do.  In fact, Phil and I were secretly planning to just do Patience again.  I mean, once we were on stage they couldn't stop us, could they?  Surprise!  Anyway, after a somewhat chaotic run-through, I returned home and played host to the mother and the aunt, who have come North to see my shows.

The first and only day of the fortnight that did not involve any sort of rehearsal or performance.  The mother and aunt and I went to Fenwicks and the Tyneside and the Laing art gallery and the Baltic (to be perfectly honest I mutinied and stayed in the Baltic gift shop and cafe), and narrowly avoided the Biscuit Factory, and then back to the Tyneside to see the Artist and then to Zizzi's.  Calzon'Pizza (Silly name.  I would have called it a Pizzazone.) is possibly the greatest invention of the century.

I couldn't cope with any more culture, so I waved the mother and aunt off to Durham and Simon and I sat around watching useless rubbish, which is what, I think you'll find, half-terms are FOR.  Soon it was rehearsal time again, only this time we had Pub Plans.  (Pubs are also what half-terms are for.) After a fairly successful run-through, Simon and I marched over to the Men's Bar (which, in the new refurbished Union Society Students' Union, goes by the silly name 'MENSBAR'.  Probably 'MENSBAR @ Students' Union.  Why do so many things have silly names nowadays?) for Diesel and crisps.  When they called last orders we convinced our GBFs Phil and Chris to come to the Goose for some more drinks and gossip, and when we got kicked out of there we went to some bar until actual last last orders (FYI, blackcurrant sours (or 'sars', if you're Northern Irish) enrich our lives.) THEN a dirty takeaway and then home, for pyjamas, tea and after-show party mischief plotting.
As far as chronology is concerned, this photograph is a lie, but it sums us up pretty well.
I was up and at 'em on Wednesday, despite Tuesday night's over-indulgence, with a trek into town on the hunt for various bits and bobs and secret birthday accessories.  Mission.  All day it seemed completely improbable that it was dress rehearsal day, but nonetheless, I rocked up at the RGS at 6, installed myself as chief make-up Nazi artist ("No no, singing men, you need LASHINGS more eyeliner.") and then boom, we were on!  Dress rehearsals are always a bit hectic, but this one was relatively successful, and I enjoyed the beginning of my stint as naughty Isabel! And then we went to the pub.  And then pyjamas, tea and Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

I decided that the thing my Isabel costume was missing was a large hair ribbon, because nobody else had a hair ribbon and I like to make the audience look at me even when it's not my turn for the limelight (I am a total bastard to direct, and Simon is worse.  I pity anyone who has ever had to direct the both of us.), so I went and purchased myself a bonny blue ribbon, and, more excitingly, welcomed off the train my dear chum and partner in mischief Little Hannah, who comes to live with us a couple of times per year.  Hannah had brought a bottle of home-made sloe gin and Alice brought maple syrup and pecan cakes, and we celebrated Hannah's birthday most satisfactorily!  Then it was Opening Night!  The mother and aunt had returned to be in the audience, and we put on a jolly good show.  I was rubbish and kept doing things wrong (AND the poxy hair ribbon fell off, which I suppose was my comeuppance for being a diva), but on the whole it was grand.  And then we went to the pub. And THEN the core cool people decided that after last orders it would be a brilliant idea to all pile into Laura's little car and decamp to Casa Bette/Simon (via the chip shop, which had technically closed half an hour earlier - it was a case of "What have you got left?" "Two portions of chips and a sausage." "We'll take them!") to drink wine and watch the DVD of our last performance, HMS Pinafore: The War Years: Buxton Edition .  Hannah fell asleep on the sofa but the rest of us had a splendid time, and accidently stayed up until ridiculous o'clock again.  What half-terms are for.

Naughty Isabel terrifying poor little Frederic.

We languished in bed with sore heads for a while, and then sent Little Hannah out for sausage sandwiches.  We caught up with some more trashy tv (Geordie Shore AND Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents!) and then headed off to a(nother) pub to meet Rory and Hull people, before returning to Pirateville.  The second night's performance went much better than the first, and afterwards we went to the pub.  At last orders time some tipsy idiot (Simon) had the brainwave of going round the corner to Mr Lynch's for cocktails.  Whoops, another very late night and sore head!

Too lazy to go out and find actual food, we had birthday cake for breakfast, and managed to bring ourselves to life just in time to attend the 60th Anniversary Reunion celebration for members and alumni (I sneakily manage to be both!) of Newcastle University Gilbert and Sullivan Society, my beloved NUGSS.  It was fascinating to meet people who had been in the society in the '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s, and you can imagine my glee at the moment when the whole room became an impromptu Pirates singalong.  Tarantara! 
After a quick shopping trip for after-show party supplies (bread, bacon, birthday badges) and a very quick turnaround, it was back to Jesmond for the final performance.  Three shows always seems such a flash-in-the-pan, especially after my five-night run of Patience.  Still, "Nothing lasts forever in the theatre.  Whatever it is, it's here, it flares up, burns hot, and then it's gone."  (All About Eve, the film version of my life)  Surpise pirate candles, handkerchiefs and Queen Victorias abounded, and we had the best audience of the week.  While the more conscientious members of the cast helped with the get-out, Simon and I went to the pub.  After last orders, it was party time!  Every NUGSS after-show party I've been to (Twelve, in all) has gone down in society history for some reason or other, and while this one may not have been the most scandal-filled, we all had a blooming good time.  I fell back on my usual after-show party routine of drinking gin, demanding everyone tell me who they fancy in the cast, and flirting with any passing baritone, while Simon licked people's faces and talked about our fellow cast members in code.  We hi-jacked the party and made everyone celebrate Simon's birthday, and bundled our blotto selves into a taxicab at 4.30, and retired.

Sunday was spent, in time-honoured tradition, on the sofa in our pyjamas, watching Facebook explode with show photos.  Poor Simon slept through most of his birthday, I spent a great deal of it worrying about my lost phone and purse, and we had to say goodbye to Laura and our little housemate Hannah.  The idea was an early night, but post-show bereavement gives me insomnia, and it was after relatively little sleep that I dragged my despairing self out of bed, into clothes and up the hill to work this morning.  That's that, then.

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