Someone wrote to me last week asking for the cast list of a Natural Theatre show performed in March 1983. By coincidence, only a few days before, a mad flurry of spring cleaning had unearthed a pristine poster for the production and I was therefore able to display what seemed to be a remarkable feat of memory in answering the request.
The show, which was a massive hit and toured for several years, had a food theme and was called ‘Eat Me!’ The finale involved the semi-naked actors being drenched in golden syrup from a radio-controlled device hidden above the performance area. The Guardian critic declared it to be the most extraordinary ending he’d ever seen on stage.
Getting covered in syrup was not without its technical problems. In actual fact, a quick lukewarm shower was all that was required to clean up after the act. But you’d be surprised how many theatres on the European small-scale circuit lacked such a basic facility.
In a circus in Berlin, the staff would prepare a huge tub of hot water al fresco. We would run out of the tent and jump in, twice nightly, much to the fascination of the eagle-eyed East German guards in their watchtower just over the adjacent Berlin Wall. Imagine their conversations about western decadence!
On one occasion the sticky liquid went up my nose and for a moment I panicked. I didn’t want my death certificate to say ‘drowned in syrup’. Luckily in a few seconds the syrup liquefied and hey presto I could breath again.
In Switzerland, the theatre’s manager arranged for us to nip out the back door and into a nearby apartment. As it happened, it was late night Christmas shopping in the small town and the alleyway at the back of the theatre was packed with astonished shoppers, amazed to see three treacly men in their underpants rushing past in the snow. The owner of the flat had gone to see the performance and it took him sometime to walk round the block to let us in. A crowd formed, goggle-eyed as the syrup solidified on our shivering bodies. Eventually, a neighbour opened the door and we pushed past and ran upstairs to the bathroom. He was just phoning the police when owner arrived to explain all.