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Christmas Mysteries: A Sherlock Carol @MaryleboneTHLDN

A mash-up of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes would seem an unlikely pairing. Yet it provides a surprisingly fun Christmas-themed adventure. These two Victorian tales (albeit separated by about 40 years) provide the basis for an inspired adventure at Christmastime that just also happens to turn out to be a murder mystery as well. With lavish costumes, a few spooky set pieces and some good old-fashioned stage trickery with lights and a lot of smoke machines, it is hard to resist. It returns to the Marylebone Theatre for Christmas after a run there last year.  The premise is that after Holmes sees off the criminal mastermind Professor Moriarty, he is left adrift in London. People thought he was dead, and he might as well be. Disinterested in the misdeeds of other Londoners, Holmes has even given up on his friend Dr Watson. It's almost as if he has become a Scrooge. Or half a Scrooge, moping about shouting, "bah" in respon

A small walk on part: Sir Not Appearing in Spamalot West End

Normally new media reporters just comment via various social media platforms on what they are seeing rather than what they are doing... However after recently reviewing the current production of Spamalot at The Playhouse Theatre, I was invited back to play the pivotal character of Sir Not Appearing for a Tuesday night show. Of course it is one thing to be sitting in the comfort (or reasonable comfort given the age of many West End theatres) of a theatre seat, but another to take a peek behind the scenes and see the work involved in putting on a show every night...

Arriving at the stage door an hour and a half before the curtain, I was escorted into the green room to wait for part one of my costume fitting. In the corridor other cast members were busy getting costumes fixed, so I passed the time taking in the glamour of luxury that the Playhouse Theatre affords.
For those familiar with the movie and the show, Sir Not Appearing is a walk on (and walk off) part. You walk on dressed a bit like Don Quixote and the rest of the cast shout at you to get off as you're in the wrong show. It sounds simple (and it is) but as you do get a line and have to walk on at a particular cue, a rehearsal is required. You will note from the clip below the subtle cues given so it is practically idiot proof and only one rehearsal was required (which seemed to make the rest of the cast happy).

After that it was back to the green room to complete the costume. Now I gather from the crew that most guest Sir Not Appearing's tend to be on the fatter side, so as someone who is more tallish and thin, there was more pulling in than letting out required for my fitting.

IMG_4475 Makeup came and glued on the goatee and moustache. When it was laid out on the table it looked like it was some small sort of animal that had been recently killed, but after a lot of stage glue (to counter the sweat pouring off my face), I had more facial hair than I have had in my life.

A body microphone was added to make me wired for sound and then I was ready for the stage. The whole process, which took about twenty minutes to complete, was distilled down to six seconds in the following Vine.

There was a little more waiting around until the call but it was a chance to chat to the cast and crew who were all pretty upbeat about the show, which has been running for some time on the West End and getting great press. Musical Director Gareth Weedon promised to play an extra loud chord for walk on entrance if I mentioned him in this post. So since he did, I have. I also got a chance to talk to Bonnie Langford as she got ready. Given I was somewhat distracted by the novelty of having my own facial hair, the topic of discussion focused on wigs and hairpins.
listen to ‘Bonnie Boo: tips for getting ready before going on stage’ on Audioboo

As Sir Not Appearing makes his appearance half way through the first act, I spent the time watching the show from the wings trying not to block the cart from the "Bring Out Your Dead" scene or preventing a sword or two from going to its resting place. Given the tightness of the spaces backstage and the need for quick costume changes for cast members, it is ingenious how the sets and props fold away as if they were made by Ikea. Before making her big appearance as the Lady of the Lake, Bonnie told me she was wearing Sarah 2. It looked lovely.

Shortly afterward it was my big moment and I was moved into position. I think I hit my cue, did my comedy look at the other cast members, say my line and walk off. It was over in about 10 seconds so it was hard to tell, and unless somebody surreptitiously recorded the show from the audience, there is no proof that I did not. I returned backstage to change out of the costume and slip back into the theatre just in time to watch the end of Act One. My theatrical West End debut was over...

With thanks to the cast and crew of Spamalot West End for being so welcoming and Jemma from Neil Reading PR for organising the experience...

Spamalot continues on the West End until November 2 and tickets can be brought from the usual outlets and the website. In addition, over the summer there is a series of "celebrity Gods". Christopher Biggins is on this week... Even if you don't get a chance to walk on the show, it is very silly and worth a look...

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