Hot stuff

The weather of late is just what you pray for if you are on holiday. Witness the jolly crowds of ice-cream glugging tourists thronging our streets. But for a working boy of a thespian bent such as myself, getting through the day can be a sweaty ordeal.

Over the years one has discovered that, gloriously ornate and atmospheric they may be, traditional theatres invariably lack air conditioning, at least in the areas behind that dusty red velvet curtain. Dressing rooms are often hell holes in the basement, their gloss painted walls running with condensation, where rusty taps run lukewarm at the very best and the electric fan found lurking under the sink coughs out the dust of ages when switched on.

And then one is expected to don several layers of brocade costume, a false nose, some thick tights, perhaps even a pair of gloves, and top it off with a hot scratchy powdered wig and step onto the stage to sing and dance one’s heart out while looking as cool as a cucumber.

The unconventional venues favoured by the Natural Theatre Company on its extensive tours are no better. The acres of red-hot marble of the impressive but shade-free Broadgate Arena in the City of London come to mind. There we always seemed to be performing our outdoor spectaculars in Dubai-like conditions. Woe betides any characters required to be barefoot. Once, in a beach scene, our speeches were peppered with involuntary squeaks as the soles of our feet welded themselves to the floor.

Photographs of our shows in a Berlin circus tent in the 1980’s show us apparently wearing halos. We were actually steaming despite rolling up the heavy canvas sides every morning in a futile attempt to release the fug of the night before.  Someone left the back-stage fridge open and the educated goat from the daytime circus show ate all our melted greasepaint sticks and cream foundation.

Perhaps the most heroic example of sun-induced suffering for one’s art was in Croatia where one of our actors, who has understandably asked to remain anonymous, badly burnt his bottom after too long a stint on a blazing hot nudist beach. That night he had to appear at a corporate gig wearing one of our skin-tight nude suits. Chafing is not the word, darlings!

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