Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Handymen and Heroes

The situation with the pub has got worse.  (If you don’t know what I’m talking about you need to read  a previous post called Upstairs, Downstairs. My blog isn’t like ‘Lost’, you know,  I’m not going to do a re-cap at the beginning of each entry.)
The shrieking is continuing and our play is still constantly being disrupted. I have sent several e-mails to the Pub Manager, David. And he replies dutifully to every single e mail.  I have put thought and great care into the e mails(probably not as much as I put into this blog but I always run a spell check)  and it is clear that he is doing the same but we are going round in circles. I am running out of polite and gracious ways of saying ‘our play is the most important thing in the world so when it is on, you and your staff must shut the fuck up’. And he is struggling to find ways to say ‘I run a pub, not a bloody library’ without causing offence. Each day these e mails pass between us but I can tell that we are growing weary of each other. He has stopped beginning his with ‘Dear’ and I have ceased to put kisses at the bottom of mine. Hey, I can be a right bitch when I want to be.
He does always promise though that they will try to ‘keep it down’. Whatever. When people say they are going to try to ‘keep it down’, they invariably don’t. It is one of those great lies of life and I regard it with suspicion. You know, the same way you are suspicious of people when they say ‘The taxis just round the corner’, ‘your cheque is in the post’ and ‘I won’t come in your mouth’.
Whole meetings have been dedicated to this (the noise issue, not what to do about men who come in your mouth without warning), and people are always coming up with various solutions. At one point, somebody from The Office suggested that we place an Usher IN the stairwell for the entire duration of the performance. Our Ushers are very sweet locals who volunteer and are only paid with the privilege of watching some fabulous free theatre. They do not come and give their services for nowt so that they can then be placed in a dingy, lightless stairwell to confront the pub staff when they get rowdy. Having to deal directly with the public is bad enough.
We have yet another meeting with people from The Office and we decide that the Ushers should not be expected to deal with the pub staff and that we need to think of something else.  Various ideas fly backwards and forwards. There are some we can’t afford (sound-proofing the doors) and there are others that are tempting but not really realistic (planting vast amounts of cocaine behind the bar and getting the pub shut down.) That was my idea.
One of my cast is getting increasingly fraught as the shows go by and has a suggestion of his own.
‘Can’t you just kill them???!!!’
I was in his dressing room at the end of a particularly badly interrupted performance and watched him as he tore off his costume and threw it in the laundry basket.
‘I mean, these people should die. Die!!! They are so fucking disrespectful!’
Actors appear to have murderous thoughts about a lot of people; audience members whose mobile phones go off, bloggers who write about shows during previews (not guilty) and people who eat crisps loudly and continuously during plays. One of these days I swear that one of them will crack, go on a bloody rampage and after a four day manhunt be tracked down to a West End pub where there will be a tense stand off. After fifteen hours of bargaining they will get dragged into a Police van screaming ‘I was doing a monologue and the phone went off twice! Twice! And he didn’t stop it! In the middle of my monologue!’
Just as one of these ‘what do we do about the noisy pub staff’ meetings is wrapping up and I’m yanking my Marlboro Lights from my pocket, one of the admin girls comments loudly,
‘It’s very strange. We never had a problem when Mike was the stage manager.’
In this entire situation, I had assumed that we, as a theatre, had been directing our murderous feelings of hatred and resentment towards the pub. It had never even crossed my mind that my stage management ability was under scrutiny.  I don’t wait around for the standard post-meeting tea and cake and flee The Office, shamefaced and slightly distraught.
In the theatre I locate my Production Manager who is measuring something (measuring, always measuring) and casually ask him about Amazing Mike.
 ‘Oh yeah. Mike. He was the stage manager here. He was great.’
‘Yeah. Great team player and amazing carpenter. So useful to have around.’
This is bad news. Especially as I struggled to assemble my Ikea wardrobe and even now the right hand door swings open for no reason and I have to jam my radiator against it.
So the score is Mike 1 –Me Nil. Production Manager sees my crestfallen face.
‘But it’s great having you here too! You’re really great at... the scheduling. Mike was crap at that.’
Tis true. I like a good schedule and tackle them with relish. One all.
‘Soooooo...... how was the pub situation when Mike was here?’
‘It was very good. He was very good at dealing with it.’
Mike 2 – Me 1
After further questioning it transpires that one night, Amazing Mike overheard one of the Pub Staff moaning about a broken cupboard in the kitchen. Amazing Mike heard this cry of distress, sped down there with his toolbelt and fixed the dodgy cupboard in a flash. Within minutes the Pub Staff were carrying him around on their shoulders in a celebratory frenzy and jubilantly chanting his name.
Okay so maybe that didn’t happen but that’s the image I get in my head. I also can’t prevent myself from picturing him clad head to toe in skin tight lycra, a picture of a purple hammer emblazoned across his chest like some kind of superhero. Carpenter Man.  Armed only with a Leatherman he is saving the world from badly assembled furniture, one chipboard cupboard at a time.
From that day on, he went down to the pub after every single performance. He befriended all of the pub staff and was a regular at lock-ins. They all absolutely adored him and called upon him to fix and refurbish their rather dodgy pub furniture.  In return for his services they kept quiet on the stairwell and crept about silently, in fear of upsetting Mike and having to repair any breakages themselves.
Now how the hell am I supposed to compete with that? I rack my brains but struggle to work out what services I could offer the hostile pub staff. In a moment of need and crisis, nobody wants Scheduling Woman to appear on the scene equipped with a Filofax, post-it notes and a biro.
‘But he never works here anymore?’
Production Manager sighs. ‘No. I had to fire him.’
Things are looking up. ‘How come?’
‘He turned up to a matinee still pissed from a lock in the night before.’
Game Over.
So yeah, maybe I do struggle with electric screwdrivers. Okay, and normal screwdrivers. And, yes, I’ll admit that if anyone ever presents me with a broken piece of wooden furniture I instinctively reach for the Gaffa tape.  But turn up inebriated for work?  I wouldn’t dare.
‘By the way,’ Production Manager continues ‘speaking of schedules, I have been looking at the one for next week and it’s a real head-fuck. Could you please give me a hand and sort it out?’
He hasn’t even finished the sentence and I have produced (seemingly out of nowhere), a biro, my Filofax and some small post-its.
It’s Scheduling Woman to the rescue.

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