Actors from the Natural Theatre Company might find themselves performing in Russia shortly. Although still unconfirmed, we’ve been provisionally invited to appear in the British Ambassador’s garden in Moscow to celebrate the queen’s birthday.
We’ve been to quite a few of these events around the world. Each embassy organises its own version. It doesn’t have to happen on her majesty’s actual birthday but it usually takes the form of a garden party attended by whatever other ambassadors and trade delegations happen to be in town. Along with the usual toasts there is a selection of entertainment, both imported (us) and local, along with a buffet featuring the best of British specialities. At one particular event in Eastern Europe this latter included mini-scotch eggs on sticks washed down with thimble-sized glasses of Guinness. When I pointed out that this delicious beverage actually originated in Eire, they were a bit miffed. I suppose it was all they could get hold of.
In Turkmenistan I was expected to grace the occasion as my alter ego Lady Margaret. The limousine failed to turn up at the dressing room so I walked across town to the British pub where the party was taking place. My route took me through a Soviet-style fruit and veg market where the traders threw cardboard boxes at me. Otherwise my perambulation was trouble free. I was met at the gate by the totally unfazed wife of the Algerian ambassador who confided that the rather boring speeches were still going on and that I should wait a bit before making a grand entrance.
In another country, which shall remain anonymous, we were plied with so much champagne after our performance we nearly missed the plane home. I inadvertently left my best jacket at the embassy and had to ask them to post it back to England. Then I remembered that in the pocket was a postcard intended for a pal at home which said in no uncertain terms how ghastly it had been having to sit next to the British Ambassador at dinner the night before.
The jacket duly arrived with a nice note and with the indiscreet card still sticking out of the breast pocket. I’m sure it had been read, but these fellows know a thing or two about diplomacy.