I don’t think I’ve have ever been as scared in my life as when the lights dimmed and our show, The Wizard of Gurnwah, was just about to start on that first night. For that split second I just wanted to run away. Run and hide in some dark corner. But my legs had turned to jelly, my mind refused to work. I couldn’t move. I stood frozen to the spot like a gormless idiot up in the Gods at the back of the theatre.
Reality smacked me hard across the face with both hands. Why was I doing this? Why didn’t I stick to writing books? At least with a novel, the reader, sitting alone on a beach somewhere, could say, ‘God, this is terrible’ and throw it in the bin, and that would be that, story over. But this was a stage play. Not just a stage play, a two hour musical comedy! What the f**k were me and Sully thinking of? How did two middle-aged men with no experience of the theatre world think we could get away with it? Who did we think we were? Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sir Pat Rice, no sorry, Tim Rice.
I looked out at the 230 people sitting there in the full-to-capacityTheatr Soar in Merthyr, waiting. Most of them had paid good money to be entertained. My parents sat up near the front, probably as scared as I was. My friends, my family, and lots of curious people sat wondering what this was all about. I didn’t want to let them all down.
Deep down I knew the actors could pull it off. They had been brilliant since the first rehearsal session only four weeks before. Plus Neil the director had worked magic getting it done on time to the highest quality. What worried me more was the script. Would it work? Would people get our sense of humour? Would it offend some people or in fact everyone?
It was too late now… it was show time! I closed my eyes and waited for the guillotine blade to come down and slice my head off!
But then the first laugh came, followed by another and another. Then a huge laugh where I hadn’t even been expected one. What was going on? Were the audience playing with us? Drawing us into a false sense of security, like some psychotic cat with a little Hitler moustache playing with a Jewish mouse before the inevitable.
Again I waited for the mood to change, for the chorus of boos to ring out, the cat calls, people, including my parents, demanding their money back before beating us up with baseball bats!
The laughter and merriment continued. Everyone actually appeared as if they were really enjoying it. No one had stormed out or thrown eggs (or knives) at us. I so wanted to enjoy it too, but nerves still gripped around my throat and wouldn’t let go. The interval came. No one will come back I thought. They did, and on time. The hilarity started again. They carried on watching with baited breath. They not only stayed until the end, they gave the magnificent actors a standing ovation. What? This was Merthyr… bloody Elvis Presley in his black leather jacket prime wouldn’t have got a standing ovation in this town!
Was I dreaming this? Was my alarm clock about to wake me up on the morning of the show? No, it was real. We had pulled it off. The great rock ‘n roll swindle stage play of all time. Take that, Malcolm McLaren.
Now it was time for a well-deserved drink. Well, a few to be honest. I stood in the bar with the cast. From the feedback we received it sounded like our first night had been a roaring success.
We’d done it. I had tasted the blood of theatrical life and actually enjoyed it. I wanted more. I wanted to get drunk on it, the whole experience, the environment, doing creative stuff with other creative people, the feeling it had given me. It made me come alive. Looking back now in the cold light of day, it has changed me forever… I’ve risen from the dead again. Anthony Dracula Bunko… the playwright is now alive… so Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber & Co. …
Be afraid… be very afraid… ha ha… Stay Free…
*** The Wizard of Gurwah is on at Theatre Soar starting 8.30pm Friday 25th, Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th Sept 2015