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We’re playing Shakespeare in Words, tonight. A kind of anniversary performance, in the same lovely place where we debuted almost exactly one year ago – but with the new version, showcasing how the play has grown since.

Nice, isn’t it?

Except… Let me make you a little list:

  • Brutus is running a fever;
  • his understudy (also playing OffstageShakespeare – what were we thinking?) has an ugly case of toothache;
  • one of the musicians unexpectedly underwent minor but painful dental surgery yesterday;
  • the Pucelle is also unwell in sundry and not-quite-explained ways;
  • the organisers forgot to mow the lawn and prune the onstage potted bushes in the lovely place – and decided that we aren’t worth the expense of mosquito control;
  • the organisers also either didn’t print the promised 40 poster bills – or, if they did, are keeping them carefully hidden in their vault. They only released a half-dozen that we had to hang;
  • then again, the bills were badly printed from the wrong file, and don’t look enormously appealing;
  • the whole thing was scantily advertised in the local press this morning as “the Squirrels’ Shakespeare play”. Just like that. Title? Author? Director? Who cares! What’s in a name, indeed…
  • nobody seems to know about the seats – or even who should take care of them;
  • the director, as a result of all the above combined, is alternately sulking and throwing tantrums. Turns out that she and the local artistic director hate each other’s guts – which possibly goes to explain a few things;
  • through no one’s particular fault, today is expected to be the hottest day in the hottest week in the whole summer: if the forecast is to be trusted, we’ll be playing with 35° C, and 88% relative humidity…
  • we are therefore foregoing the usual afternoon in loco more-or-less-tech rehearsal, in the vague hope that at least a few of us will still be alive by curtain-up;
  • last night we even found ourselves evicted from our rehearsal room because of some meeting or other, and, what should have been a dress rehearsal quickly descended into a whorl of complaints, bickering, resistance to last-minute tweaks, bad temper, and general uselessness;
  • this morning I woke up feeling not all that well myself.

There. It think that’s all – but I might have left out something, and no doubt something else will manage to crop up before the day is over. And even if it doesn’t… Can you imagine us, bloodied and battered, gasping Shakespeare amidst the high grass and the wild bushes, in the dreadful heat, swatting away mosquitoes, all to the benefit of our families and little more?

Heat, fevers, mosquito, wild greenery, hostile natives, general hopelessness… Oh dear, how very Heart of Darkness! Can we hope we’re learning our lesson, and next year, when it’s time to decide whether to work with these people or not, we’ll know better?

Supposing we survive Shakespeare in the Jungle, that is.