Friday, 16 December 2011

The Shoe Report

I have done many daft things when I have been inebriated; agreed to run marathons, forgotten I’ve left my mobile in the ladies toilets of a pub, fallen asleep on the night bus and ended up in Essex, thrown up in my wardrobe...
But the stupidest things I do usually involve some form of technology. Like going on to E Bay after consuming the best part of a bottle of Merlot. Last year, when I was on a tour, I woke up in my digs with a fuzzy head and the vague memory of hitting ‘Commit to Buy’ on several occasions. Rolling over in bed I looked down to see that my laptop was still open and in ‘Stand by’ mode. It only took a couple of clicks for me to be informed that I had purchased some ‘Nautical wine glass charms’ and several pieces of costume jewellery with anchors on them. I had obviously been feeling rather homesick for the boat and had comforted myself by purchasing several maritime treats. According to the ‘History’ I had also viewed several rather beautiful vessels so I was fairly thankful that I hadn’t woken up to be the proud owner of a 60ft ‘project’ boat named Gemini Lady.
The other technology/alcohol related mistakes I have committed have obviously involved my Blackberry. There have been many mornings  when I have checked my Sent box with a heavy heart. Only to discover that I have texted an ex-boyfriend/someone I want to be my boyfriend/someone else’s boyfriend.
But my most recent blunder took place at the beginning of the tour that I have just completed. After a particularly boozy company meal which was then followed by more drinks in the pub and then a bottle of wine back at my Digs, I decided to write the Show Report. I was in exuberant spirits and went about the task in the way that I usually write a blog; slightly hammered and with the intention of entertaining.
The next morning I was woken by the throbbing in my head and the sunlight streaming painfully through the blinds. That distinctive heavy feeling was in my stomach and I could not shake the feeling that, once again, I had made a rather dreadful error. I checked my Blackberry but could find no trace of any indiscreet texts, only one to a cast member to say that I was home safe. It was timed at about 2am. But I knew I hadn’t gone straight to bed. I had done something else. I had.... written the Show Report. I lurched from under the covers and out into the little living room which I shared with another cast member.
On the table was my laptop. Still open and with the Stand By light flashing ominously. Standing guiltily next to it was a bottle of Merlot, devoid of any contents. A wine glass with my unmistakable pink lipgloss smeared round the rim was casually perched on the corner of the table. As I neared the scene of the crime, I shamefully noticed that my lipgloss was not only around the glass but the actual neck of the bottle. I disgust myself.
I audibly groaned and sank down into one of the chairs and hit a button on my laptop. My hotmail account flashed up before me, with the words.
‘Your message has been sent.’
Frantically, I brought up my Sent messages. At approximately 2.30am, I had sent an email to all of the creatives and the full technical team with the previous night’s Show Report attached. Although when typing I had evidently missed the ‘e’ key by a few millimetres. So it was actually entitled a ‘Shoe Report.’
I opened the attachment. As I scrolled down and read more and more of the document, I started to cringe. If I had ever managed to achieve the pretence that I was highly professional (which is admittedly very unlikely), I had probably managed to undo all of that with one single email.
The beginning of the Report started out normally enough. I said how many rounds there were, how many were in and all of the timings. But then I had ended the Report like this.
  • Matthew Kelly was in attendance. The cast were very excited about this. They had stars in their eyes.
  • There were big laughs for (insert several funny moments in the show here) Although the best laugh of the day actually came before the show when Mr Davies told us a story about the friends he is staying with. They have a young son and before his arrival, the mother told him that Mr Davies was an actor. The boy looked confused for a while but it later emerged that he thought Mr Davies was a tractor. Easy mistake.
  • After the performance, the entire company visited Kayal, Leicester’s most popular Balti House. If you are ever in Leicester I would recommend it. (Have the lamb.)

Jesus Christ.

The people who read the Show Reports just want the information. They don’t want to hear me prattle on about other things which I have privately found amusing. I dragged myself back to my bed feeling rather ashamed of my improper and disreputable behaviour.

However, a couple of hours later, I was roused from my dreams (a vivid nightmare where I had got my boobs out at a Company Meal) by my Blackberry beeping with a couple of e mails from members of the Creative team. The general feeling was that they had enjoyed my Show Report and had been amused by it’s slightly comical content.

Had they just been sent to me? No. The people who had sent it had hit ‘Reply all’. Other people on the Show Report list will have been aware that, although maybe they had found my Show Report inappropriate, other people had found it acceptable. The knot in my stomach relaxed slightly and I felt marginally better about going into work.

Once there, I was greeted by other people who had enjoyed the Show Reports.

Since then, I have felt happier to approach my Show Reports with a slightly more relaxed attitude. Of course, whenever anything serious happens, I abandon all humorous comments and observations and concentrate solely on whatever incident has occurred. But if the show has passed like a Mike Leigh film (enjoyable enough but nothing has really happened), I see no harm in putting my own mark on them.

Plus, having spoken to friends of mine, making the Show Report an enjoyable read can actually be beneficial. Many directors, sound designers and lighting designers have several shows running at the same time and so their e mail accounts can get clogged up with many Show Reports which then may just get skimmed over. But if yours is welcome in somebody’s Inbox and if it may even raise a smile when they see it pop up, it’s instantly more likely to be read properly.

Another reason why I like doing the Show Reports is that it helps me deal with my Abandonment Issues.

No, seriously.

On each show I work on, I get struck with the most unbearable Post Press Night Blues. The better the show, the more crippling it is and I know exactly why. The show I worked on before this last tour was a total gem of a production. The Creative and Technical team were adorable and even though the Tech Week was not without it’s issues, we all bonded and supported each other. The LD made everybody tea in our breaks and the Composer teased me fondly about my constant hair twiddling. The Set Designer and I started and ended every single day with a bear hug and we all laughed uncontrollably when he managed to set his own head on fire. All the Press Night cards that were exchanged between us were filled with in-jokes and complimentary words and then we all went and got hammered together in an R and B club in Notting Hill where I told my DSM at regular intervals that she was pretty and that I loved her.

The next day at work I came in, feeling undoubtedly hungover and intensely lonely. Everybody had left me and now I was by myself. No more camaraderie around the kettle or chummy banter. And if one of the cast set their head on fire I would be expected to do something about it and not just laugh and point.

When one of my actors arrived he found me slumped at my desk surrounded by empty champagne bottles and discarded false eyelash containers.

‘What’s up babe?’ he enquired.

I peered over my sunglasses and explained my mourning for the creative team and how every Press Night I was forced to deal with my Abandonment Issues.

‘Oh but this is the bit I love best!’ he exclaimed. ‘I love it when everyone leaves and then it’s just us. Just the actors. And you.’

I tried hard not to burst into tears at this terrifying prospect. And throughout the rest of the performance I nursed my feelings of loss. But once the show was over, I realised that I could still have daily contact with all of these people by using the Show Report. This actually cheered me up immensely and my sense of loneliness eased.

But back to my last tour. Once I was safe in the knowledge that my audience did not think my chirpy Show Reports  inappropriate, I started to take real pleasure from entertaining those who read it. As I was too busy to write or blog, it was a joy to have a genuine and professional reason to write daily. It should also be noted that the creatives and the producer, as well as being unbelievably talented and exceptionally professional, also had a fabulous sense of humour. Plus the production itself was jovial and the tone of my Show Reports slotted in with the show. I sometimes ventured off the topic of the performance and gave my opinion on the theatre itself and the venues that we were touring to. Sometimes I passed comment on the activities that the cast had partaken in during the day and what my digs were like.

So then I started asking other Stage Managers how they approached their Show Reports and was delighted by some of the responses I got. It turns out that the best way to write these all-important documents is to use honesty, humour and Spell-check. Apparently one Show Report mentioned a ‘full standing ovulation’ at the end of one performance. And I also got sent a Show Report which talked about how a cast member had been feeling poorly because they had been bitten by some kind of insect.

The Show Report itself stated that ‘Ms Davidson was feeling under the weather due to an incest bite.’

I got sent a Show Report written by a CSM who had simply had enough of a well-known actress who was very high maintenance. Let’s refer to her as Ms Jenkins. The Report went something like this.

·         The Stage Left truck has a downstage wheel sticking and needs attention.
·         The cuff on Mr Andrews’ right hand sleeve has started to unravel and needs attention.
·         Ms Jenkins, as a rule, just constantly needs attention.

The other fabulous thing about live theatre is that sometimes stuff happens and you don’t even need to try and make the report funny. It just is. Like when during a Shakespearean piece somebody says ‘upgrade her’ instead of ‘upbraid her’. Putting that in a Show Report is sure to make someone smirk.

The other great use that Show Reports have is that the actors actually get slightly terrified of them.

‘Am I in the Show Report?!’ they quiz you, accusingly. I find that no answer is required. Just a smile.

There is no question that I will work on some productions where doing my style of Show Reports is not acceptable (I doubt that if I worked for Nicholas Hytner he would want to hear about a jolly company surfing trip) and I will certainly sometimes demonstrate some self-censorship. But while I work for companies who embrace the fun and sheer joy of theatre as much as I do, then I will continue to write my Reports with those elements in mind.

There have been many requests for me to make my Show Reports public but actually, as I read through them now, there are many things which, out of context, don’t actually make much sense to someone not involved in the show. Plus out of respect to the company, who have been so wonderful to me, it may not be appropriate to publish private documents.

And of course I am still dreaming of the day when my semi-autobiographical novel (!) gets published and makes me my fortune. So maybe I will just save them all for that. This is the novel which of course then gets turned into a hit comedy/drama series with Sheridan Smith playing myself and Benedict Cumberbatch playing my hot actor love interest. (I can dream, can’t I?)

Last Saturday I sent my last Show Report to the team and was delighted by the responses I got. I like to think that in a few years, not only will these reports tell me the running times and audience figures, but also trigger memories of the time we spent together and the incidents that made me laugh. I am also keeping a record of all the things which have been sent to me and have relished the intriguing insights into other companies productions.

After a long, hard show when all you want to do is get home/get to the pub, it can be hard to muster up the energy and the brain-power to then compose your Report and it can be all too easy to poke at the keys and come up with standard sentences such as ‘clean show’ and ‘attentive audience.’ Believe me. I have done it.

But I love the feeling that by throwing in something vaguely funny, I may have made someone smile after a long day. I have even gone and purchased a Thesaurus so that, in future, I can chuck in some clever long words. So now, if there is an accident and one of my cast starts bleeding, I can write in the Show Report that they were suffering from haematogenesis.

Get me.

I’ll just always remember to Spell Check.



    2. The upstage doors opened and closed like the operators were retarded. Oh yeah…


  2. Some nice ones on here, if you haven't found them already: