So, the Canterville Ghost’s second first night came and went – and it was… interesting.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of things that saw it fit to happen. missed cues, blanks, last minutes flying rescues (because the Company is made up of fast thinkers), hitches, mixed-up lines, missteps, misplaced props, a wobbly wing… and the most egregious of them all: our Duke of Cheshire wandering onstage during a scene where not only he didn’t belong – but the Otis Twins were commenting his absence in detail – much to their harried mother’s despair…
“And what’s become of Cecil now?”
“Maybe he’s run away with Virgie!”
“Yes! That place in Scotland, where you can marry in a hurry… what ‘s it called?”
And all the time, our Cecil was floating around upstage, with the general air of one not quite sure what – or when – his next line ought to be…
I was at the back of the audience, the so called Playwright’s Alley, biting my nails. And keeping me company was the mother of the children playing the Twins.
“But, but, but…” she mouthed, all round-eyed. “Should he… shouldn’t he…?”
As I said: biting my nails.
And mind, as a rule, poor Leo is nothing if not dependable. Always word-perfect, always in and on time, always the first to memorize his blocking… Afterwards we had to drag him to the First Night dinner by brute force – as opposed to burrowing home to wallow. He still cannot tell how he managed to botch it.
But then, how did all the other hitches happen?
My friend Fulvia says it was only to be expected, when fiddling with ghosts – especially one as mischievous as Sir Simon. And after all, she might well be right: are there not more things in heaven and earth and theatre…?
That said, as is often the case, most of this hit-or-miss did not quite register with the audience, either lost in the play’s general flow, or truly visible only to us who know how things should really be… It is one tenet of theatre-wisdom that, if you forge ahead brazenly enough, no matter what, you can walk away with many things: the trick is to look and sound and act as though you knew what you are about.
Which is what we mostly did on First Night, and things have smoothed themselves considerably since, and audiences are enjoying themselves very much. Can we hope that, after giving us all multiple heart attacks on First Night, Sir Simon is now appeased?