A Theatre Dogsbody's Theatrical Thoughts

1 February 2008

Theatre can be a dangerous game. As an actor there’s a veritable obstacle course: you have to try not to trip up in those shoes, fall over in that costume or choke on that ribena/ cold instant coffee/ ice cream you have to consume on stage. The audience, however, is usually a little safer. Ok, you get spat on a bit, you might get a hard-boiled sweet chucked at your face or even – if you’re really lucky – a long metal pole in your ribs. Never before, though, have an audience been teased with the opportunity for spontaneous combustion… Watching the first night of any production, there are always going to be things that the cast and crew aren’t used to, props that haven’t been used much. Such as deodorant. It was a little tense when one character at the ADC began to release liberal amounts of spray-on deodorant into the audience. (“Global warming’s great for ice cream sellers so keep spraying those CFCs!”) As the overpowering Blue fragrance lapped against my face, I contemplated that the worst thing that could happen next would be for someone to light a cigarette on stage. At which point two ASMs brought on a table on which flickered three lit candles.

Visions of “I Scream Arson as ADC prepares for Renovation” flashed before my eyes but luckily no flames followed. I have to admit that there was a bit more dramatic tension than there might have been otherwise, which resurfaced later in the play as one of the characters contemplated striking a match in a run-down, ramshackle factory and is told, “Don’t light that! There’s gas!” One of those moments when the line between theatre and reality gets hazy.

Having gone to great lengths fireproofing props for productions in the past, I know how seriously the theatre takes its fire safety. In fact, I’ve probably inhaled so much that it’s a good job I don’t like smoking. Perhaps, though, this flame checking should be extended to the audience? Just a little squirt for those in the front three rows as you show your ticket at the door? Please don’t be put off your theatre going this week, though, there’s lots to see: All the Ordinary Angels, After the End, The Grimm Tales and The Gnadiges Fraulein; after all, how much damage can some chilli, a giant pelican and a couple of stoned clowns really do?