I don't think I've ever stepped off stage and been told to run before. But I did last night.
It was a strange day all round. My schedule had three shows in it. And because two of them were being filmed for TV (one Canadian, one American) they also involved rehearsals.
A rehearsal of that sort of thing isn't really a rehearsal. You don't go on stage and run the words - there's nothing more uncomfortable than delivering material to nobody. I can't
say the words to an empty room - stand up, like a tree falling in a forest, only really makes a sound when there's an audience to hear it.
No, what a rehearsal really means is someone showing you where you'll enter and exit the stage from, maybe asking what kind of microphone/stand combination you want to work with and various of your shirts being held up on camera so that a decision can be made as to which one you should wear.
It only really needs to take 10 minutes... but they generally find a way of stretching it out and making it last an hour or two. I have no idea why. Nor do they.
Doing two tapings in one night is a bit weird and meant everything had to run exactly to time. At 11am, I had to drop two shirts off in the hotel reception so that one of the shows could take them away and check them. Then I'd head off to a rehearsal at the other taping. I'd leave a shirt at the first "rehearsal" and then head to the venue of the second taping for a "rehearsal" there... and by the time that was done, even though it could all have been dispatched in 30 or 40 minutes, it was time to make my way to my solo show.
The day's schedule had been finely tuned... it's just that it didn't really include a meal time. It felt as though every minute had been occupied. Largely by the kicking-of-heels in various backstage areas.
So at 6pm, I grabbed a sandwich on the way to my venue and started to set the show up so that we could start on time at 7pm.
And then I strapped myself in for the what I knew was going to be a frantic night.
The audience numbers had dipped low on Monday night - the fact that it was a Monday was no doubt a factor, the fact that the show was now one of thirty or more english language shows instead of one of three was probably a factor... and I'm pretty sure that the monsoon that threatened to wash the streets away for the hour before the show was a pretty big factor too.
Less energy in the room means you have to work harder to make the audience coalesce. We got there on the Monday but I was really hoping there'd be a more sizeable audience for it on the Tuesday night so that it would energise me and give me some momentum for the upcoming two-tapings-dash.
I was lucky. They weren't the biggest crowd I've had here but they were big enough and while they held the show at arms' length for about ten minutes it didn't take long for the audience to trust me with it and relax and it raced away from there. Probably the best of the run so far. Great fun.
I was out of the door by 8.15 and running the short distance back to the hotel in order to dump the kit from the show in my room and make it downstairs for an 8.30 car. I made it by 8.32... engine running... and we were off... the first part of the mission had been accomplished.
But the rest of it wasn't going to go so smoothly. Both the TV tapings were starting at 10pm. I was meant to be on first at the first one - so I'd be onstage at about ten past the hour - and then I was second from last at the other... meaning I ought to be on stage some time between 10.40 and 10.50.
But 10 o'clock came and there was no sign of the show starting... and people started getting agitated. And when I say people, I mean my Bjorn. And when I sat Bjorn, I mean my agent. The next thing I know is they're saying the show won't start until 10.30 at the latest... and that means it's now impossible for me to do both shows.
So the decision was made to pull out of the first recording and head over to the other one - it was one of the festival's big galas and was being hosted by the brilliant Bill Hader in a 3000 seat theatre.
So I get there and try to watch the show and let the pre-show adrenaline subside a little as I now have a bit of a wait before I'm on. I change into the shirt that they've
agreed and go into a different make-up room so that they can redo the make-up done at the first taping.
As I'm waiting in the wings, I realise there's a slightly off grammar to this gig. Just a little something I haven't seen before. When someone finishes their set and leaves the stage, a voice over then back-announces them and they step back on to the stage and acknowledge the crowd one final time. I've never seen that done before and it didn't come up at "rehearsal" so I asked the stage manager if that was what was expected of us all and she confirmed that it was.
So I go on and do my set and as I'm leaving, I think to myself, "don't forget to do that bit where you step back on stage and acknowledge the crowd!"
Except that the first thing I see when I step into the wings is Bjorn who's holding my bag and my shirt and yelling, "Run!"
"Just a minute," I say, feeling ever so slightly confused. I step back on stage, I salute the crowd, I step back into the wings.
"Quick," he yells again, "Run!"
And so I do. I run. And he runs. And as other performers scatter in the backstage corridor to let two sprinting loons through, he breathlessly explains that the first taping is running so late that it might
still be possible to get me on stage to close the show.
"There's a car waiting for us outside," gasps, Bjorn.
"No there isn't," says a female voice, just as we reach the stage door. "I'm sorry. There was an emergency, it had to go somewhere else."
There was some light swearing.
But we didn't have time for the heavy stuff because it was more important to make progress. So we sprinted into the street and ran for a good 300 yards before we finally hailed a cab.
I was in the process of changing shirts in the back of the car when we pulled up outside the studio. Phew. Just in time. More running. People holding doors open. Showing us short cuts through the building that we hadn't seen on the first visit.
Adam Hills was on stage (and storming it, naturally) and everyone could breathe a sigh of relief. I was there. The host - Danny Bhoy - just had to go on when Adam had finished and introduce me and we'd be on the home strait.
Only then they told us that because it had run so
late, there was some problem with the sound, which meant they might not be able to record the audio for the whole of my set unless they stopped first and reset something.
Danny did a fantastic job of keeping the energy in the room on a high while they did whatever they had to do. In less capable hands the evening could have fallen apart a bit here and turned into a truly uphill struggle.
My body had been in about-to-go-on-stage mode four times and had four strange come-downs... and now I was about to go on stage. As Danny was finally given the go ahead to introduce me, I glanced at my watch and saw that it was midnight.