Meanwhile back in Basildon . . .
After the few days of excitement at the National Union of Journalists’ ADM in Wexford things seemed very quiet back at work.
My personal life was still going well at this stage. Quite a lot of it centred on the Basildon Arts Centre, some of it as an am dram actor and some as a member of the audience.
As I have said before the manager was from Rhyl and I often used to call in to catch a show, sometimes as part of my job and sometimes just for the sake of it.
Obviously there were some shows which were just one-nighters, such as Acker Bilk, Cleo Laine and similar big names.
There were also less well known (at the time) acts such as Magna Carta, an excellent folk rock band which was formed in 1969 by Chris Simpson, Lyell Tranter and Glen Stuart.
By the time I saw them in Basildon the line up had been changed a couple of times, but Simpson and Stuart were still the mainstays. I met them after the show and had a good chat in the bar. I now have original vinyl albums covering the years 1969 to 1980.
It was not only local am dram productions that were put on at the Arts Centre. Professional companies also appeared with theatre productions or musicals.
That summer of 1974 included the Sooty Show which was there for a week and brought in hundreds of little children longing to see the little puppet who had entertained them on television.
Malcolm let me have a look backstage during the week Sooty was on. The sets and sound equipment they used for their show, much more than you would have thought, was moved to the back of the stage area and well into the wings during the evening if there were other productions on. After all a children’s puppet show wasn’t aimed at evening audiences.
I say puppet show but they actually had quite large sets.
It was quite amazing to see how the stage technicians could move sets, sound equipment and even lighting bars around to allow more than one show to use the stage area on the same day.
Of course there were productions where the stage sets stayed for the full week, such as the touring company presenting Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which starred a well known pop star from the 60s.
I was good friends with one of the stage technicians, a chap called Lawrence, and again had a look backstage to see all the sets which had to be changed during brief blackouts to give the impressions of a desert encampment, Pharaoh’s Palace and even a prison cell.
One thing I did discover was that the “star” was not very popular with other members of the cast as well as the stage crew. Apparently they considered him too arrogant and reckoned he put on airs.
The members of the company decided to get back at him during one show.
There was a scene with Potiphar’s wife where Joseph had to leap on her as she lay on her bed. Just as he jumped she adjusted the position of her knee and the “star” had a definite change of note in his singing.
It is amazing how much the backstage crew and even other cast members know about the people we see onstage. They know the good ones and they know those who just think they are good. What they should all remember is that technicians and fellow actors can make or break a star if they wanted.
People I met at the Arts Centre that summer were to cross my path again – and it wouldn’t be that far in the future.
More about that later.