Author Archives: Phil

Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 29

Tracey was buzzing. As she walked out of the stage door, her body was pulsating with the adrenalin coursing through her bloodstream. Stepping out into the cold, dark night calmed her a little but she was wider awake than she had ever been. Streetlights seemed brighter, the aroma left by drunks relieving themselves in hidden corners at the back of the building, sharper, and the distant noise of cars passing down the nearby high street seemed calming.

On the far side of the car park, her Nissan glowed under the lights. She always parked where it would be properly illuminated, not for safety but because she liked the way the special yellow metallic paint made it stand out among a sea of silver Audis and mummy carriers. Pressing the button on the keyfob, it made a reassuring beep to say the doors were unlocked.

Just as she gripped the door handle, a voice said, “Hello Tracey. How did the performance go?”

Spinning around Tracey looked to see who had spoken. For a moment, no one could be seen and then a figure emerged from the shadow cast by a people carrier.

Well? Did you have a good time?”

Even in her heightened state, it took Tracey a few seconds to recognise the face. Then the penny dropped. “Julie”.

Yes, it’s me.”

But I thought you’d gone away. Sparks said, well he mentioned, I mean he…” she struggled to remember exactly how he’d described Julie’s disappearance, “There, there was a note. He said you’d just left.”

Julie smiled. “Yes, I left a note. But I don’t suppose he really understood it.”

You left us in the lurch. He was worried.”

About his career. He would be worried how it would look if the great magician couldn’t perform.”

Well, we had a show to put on.”

We? Suddenly you have joined the profession have you daaaahhling” Julie drawled mockingly.

Tracey frowned. “Well someone had to stand in. This show matters if we are going to save the theatre.”

Oh you hero. How good of you to volunteer. I mean, it’s not something you’d ever wanted to do is it? I bet they had to drag you up onto the stage. Tracey the superstar. Tracey’s name in lights.”

No, I didn’t want to do it but everyone said I was the only one.”

Really? There aren’t any proper”, Julie snarled the word, “actresses out there? People who have learnt the craft. People who are desperate to make their mark in the business? None at all? The only person they could find is the girl from the office?”

For a moment, Tracey paused. This wasn’t the first time someone had questioned her right to the job. “Maybe I haven’t spent years at bloody drama school, but I’ve done my level best. It’s been hard work, but you are right about one thing – I am enjoying it. When everything goes right, it’s brilliant. At the end of the show, when we took our bows, I felt on top of the world. And so, miss can’t be bothered to stick around, yes, I loved it.”

Really? And you think you’ll still be loving it on a wet Wednesday when you’ve got a half-empty theatre and only bored pensioners to perform to? You’ve still got to give it your all for that miserable matinee, not just the opening night.”

Another pause. Julie was right, the show was due to run for a month and so far the eight shows each week had just been a number, but as her heart rate dropped, Tracey found herself realising what it meant. Every day she was going to have to turn up and perform. No taking a day off for a hangover or just because she felt like it. There might be harder taskmasters and Kate. She wasn’t going to be beaten though. “If that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do” she replied defiantly.

Are you sure? We learn a lot at drama school and one of the things is stamina. It’s the difference between professionals and am-dram.”

Am-dram?” Tracey looked confused.

Amateur dramatics dear.” Julie laughed. “The difference between people who know what they are doing and people who are just playing.”

Playing? What the bloody hell do you think you do all day missy? Flouncing around in a posh frock isn’t rocket science you know.”

Really? Remembering your lines would be a start.”

What?” Tracey was confused “You mean you…”

Watched the show. Of course. I saw everything. Your fluffed lines, your missed cues, your swim in gunge, everything.”

Again, Tracey paused. Her mind spun. The two of them stared at each other under the light and she realised that she was still gripping the car door handle. Letting go, she looked at her fingers for a second and then a thought struck her. “Hold on. The gunge. How did that get in the stupid pot? It wasn’t in the rehearsal.”

Julie threw her head back and laughed. “You think all that stuff Sparks does is real magic? Do you think he does it all by himself? Any assistant knows how all the tricks are done. We have to do at least half the work, even if Mr Big Star takes all the credit.”

You mean…”

Of course. Making things appear in boxes is something we do all the time. After all, you were bobbing up and down on that stage lift weren’t you? It didn’t take much to fill the jar before you ‘appeared’ in it for the first time.”

Oh my God! I could have drowned you bitch!”

Yeah, right. It wasn’t that full, just enough to give you a surprise. That and ruin the Lady Mayors’ outfit for the evening.”

But why? I mean it’s not like you wanted the job. You left remember?”

Julie’s face became serious. “Of course I wanted the job.”

So why did you leave?”

I left you little idiot, because I didn’t just want the job, I wanted the man that goes with it.”

Shocked, Tracey asked, “You. And Sparks?”

That was the idea.”

But I thought you two were just…”

Just good friends? Just working together? Just a professional couple?”

Yeah. I mean, people hinted, but I thought they were just joking.”

Maybe they think they are. Maybe even he thinks it’s a joke.” Julie snarled.

But what does he think? Didn’t you tell him?”

Oh, he thinks lots. He liked the idea in hotel rooms between shows. Yes, travelling the country with someone is a great way to get to know them and yes, I won’t be the first assistant to fall for the man with the magic wand, but I can see through all the cool bravado. Underneath, he’s a really interesting guy.”

So did you tell him?”

I tried, but he wasn’t really listening. So I left.”

Now it was Tracey’s turn to snort with laughter. “That didn’t seem to work very well did it?”

Julie looked crestfallen. “No. I didn’t realise how quickly I’d be replaced did I?”

Only on stage. I’m not filling in for you in the bedroom.”

Ha. Hasn’t he tried it on with you yet?”

No, actually he hasn’t. I think he’s too worried about the show.”

The old ‘show must go on’ bollocks. I guess his career matters more than anything. He’s got big plans you know.”

I know. And those don’t include me, or at least as far as I know they don’t.”

Julie perked up. “You’re sure?”

Oh come on. As you said, I’m not that good at all this. I mean I love the applause and it’s better than being stuck in the office, but traipsing around the country after some bloke? That’s not my style daaaahhling.”

So you don’t want to do this?”

I wouldn’t say that. I’d like to do a bit more, but you’re right, I’m not cut out for a life on the stage. Perhaps film or TV would be more my thing.”

So I could come back?”

Don’t see why not. The rest of the cast miss you. I’m sure Sparks will get over himself, especially if you tell him the truth.”

Oh”, Julie looked at her feet, “You think it would work?”

Don’t see why not. How about we talk about it tomorrow? I want to get in my car, it’s bloody freezing out here.”

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 28

Sitting in her dressing room, Tracey relaxed. The second half had been pretty much incident free. She didn’t have so much to do and her big finale, killing the baddie had gone well. Best of all, when the cast have come on to stage for their final bow, the audience went wild as she walked on. As a main character, she processed down the steps in an amazing gown that looked like it should be in a cake shop. All the applause was for her. It was possibly the most wonderful moment of her life.

All the learning, all the work, it was worthwhile. Would the thrill still be there after a month of performances? It didn’t matter. For the moment there was a bottle of chilled champagne and a dozen roses sat beside the mirror. There wasn’t a name on the card, and she knew they were probably from that soppy old sod Gareth, but it didn’t matter. This was the treatment stars got and she wanted to revel in it.

Freddie stuck his head into the room. “Well done Tracey. You played a blinder. Who’d have thought you’d never done this before.”

A few minutes later, the dame wandered in and said the same. “Darling, you are a trooper. We didn’t think you’d do it, but you only did.” He gulped down a cup of the bubbly, “Listen, a few of us are going for a drink later. Fancy it?”

She paused. Normally a drink after work would be just right, but she was tired. On the other hand, how often is a girl asked out by a man in that much makeup? Not in the sort of bars she frequented of course.

Oh, go on then”, she replied, “Are you going to get changed back into your normal clothes first?”

Darling, you don’t think I’m going out like this do you? Gotta keep the magic in the theatre. It’ll be too exciting for civilians to see me in full regalia.”

She laughed, “Anyway, you might get asked again if you are a transvestite.”

OMG. That little kid earlier. We drag them up on stage for a little time in the limelight, just so the moms and dads can Instagram a picture you know, and the little bugger asks that! He said his auntie had told him to say it too! What a bitch!”

It made the audience laugh though.”

Oh yeah. They love it when stuff goes wrong. Look how they laughed when Ali opened the shop door and the whole front fell backwards.”

Tracey looked puzzled. “I didn’t see that. What happened?”

You were probably doing a costume change. Yeah. Ali Baba opens the shop door and the bloody set only goes and collapses.” The Dame fluttered her hand about to demonstrate.

Aren’t these things tied to something?”

Should be. Looks like one of the crew didn’t do their knots properly. I mean it’s only a canvas painting, but it still looks a bit rubbish.”

And the pyrotechnics almost blew up the camel.”

The Dame laughed. “Poor guys got a dose of exploding stars up the jacksie. Enough to give them the right hump!”

Tracey frowned, “Quite a lot seemed to go wrong then really. I’m glad it wasn’t just me.”

You? Oh no, you were fine. Look luv, we all fluff the odd line. It doesn’t matter so much for me as I can just mess around with the script anyway.”

Doesn’t the director mind?”

That old queen? Nah. Anyway, I’d soon give him a slap. Scripts are just for guidance in panto. We do something different every night.”

Oh, I’ve been learning it by heart.”

And very good you are too. You stick to the writer’s words and leave the ad-libbing to me and the others for the moment. We’re old pros. It takes years of practice, and that’s just for applying the makeup. “

With that, he swept out of the room leaving Tracey to her thoughts. Maybe she was OK. All the cast had been lovely and she had got most of her lines right. Give it another few performances and perhaps she’d feel more confident. One thing she did know, Tracey Dunn-Jones had found something she was good at.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 27

In the foyer, Freddie was also dealing with someone covered in goo. Stewards flew around waving paper towels to try and wipe the lady mayor down but she batted them away, grabbing the clothes and doing her best to both clean and appear regal.

My clothes are ruined! What the hell are you doing playing a trick like that?” she demanded.

I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. I mean, this isn’t part of the act. At least it wasn’t in rehearsal.”

You don’t know? What sort of place are you running here if you don’t know when you plan to drown an audience member?”

I mean I know it isn’t part of the show. We might throw a little bit of glitter around, but we don’t mess with the audience.”

Well you messed with this audience member, and when I get back to the office, I’m going to suggest that the council messes with you and this place”, she replied, waving a hand around to emphasise the point.

Freddie pleaded, “Please, this isn’t fair. Look how much fun the audience was having. I mean we’re doing so much good work here. You can’t let one little accident ruin things.”

One little accident? Look at the Mayoral chain, it’s solid gold you know. It’s going to have to be professionally cleaned up. That’s council tax payers money you know.” She held the offending item under his nose just to make clear how bad things were. Freddie did start to wonder if it was real gold, as he thought he could see parts peeling off, but thought better of saying something.

Perhaps I can get one of our tech team to have a look. They are really quite competent.”

Really? They don’t seem to be able to nail down a giant pot do they?”

Well, I mean, I’m sure we don’t know how this happened.” He paused and then said triumphantly, “There will be an investigation!”

The mayor didn’t look impressed. “Oh great, an investigation. I’ve worked in local government for 30 years. I know how much use ‘an investigation is. I don’t want things investigated. I want to know who did it and then fire them.”

Fire them, your honour? Surely we should work out what happened first.”

What happened,” the mayor replied angrily, “is that someone tried to drown me with a vat of what tastes like a mix of wallpaper paste and flour. If drowning the civic party isn’t cause for a sacking or two, then I don’t know what is. And, as for the funding for your little theatre, that now needs some serious consideration too. Now get out of my way, I’m going home. I feel a long bath is required.”

You don’t want to stay for the second half?” Freddie found himself saying weakly as the party stormed out of the front doors.

Watching them go, he didn’t notice Gareth appear beside him.

Good news old chap. I’ve managed to sweet talk Tracey into carrying on.”

Still starting at the now closing doors, Freddie replied, “Going on. What do you mean?”

Well, she was pretty shaken up the poor thing.”

Freddie turned around, “Shaken up? She’s shaken up? I’ve just been told we’re all for the sack and I’m supposed to worry about your office girl getting a bit mucky?”

Steady on Freddie. I mean Tracey has pulled a blinder to get the show on the road. Without her, we’d not even have a show to open. I know this is a bit of a shaker, but I’m sure things will be fine. You know what ladies are like, they will calm down again I’m sure.”

You don’t understand. This is bad. Really bad, but what’s worse is that the ticket sales aren’t as good as they usually are. I don’t think Sparks is as big a draw as we hoped he would be.”

Gareth looked at the busy bar. “Surely not. I mean this place is packed. You must have flogged loads of tickets”.

Hardly any. For the first couple of shows, we give freebies to the council staff and local schools. None of this lot has paid a penny.”

Oh. Why do you do that?”

Well, we like to get a good crowd in for the first shows so there’s some word of mouth. It gives the cast a chance to get used to a full house and when the critics come in, it all looks better. The whole thing’s a sham though. In two nights’ time, we’ll be lucky to have a hundred in.”

Gareth looked shocked. “You didn’t say. I mean that’s terrible.”

That’s showbiz. All smoke and mirrors. Never let them see you cry.” Freddie tried to laugh and then just put his head in his hands.

In the distance, a bell went to announce the second half would be starting.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 25

Quick Morgiana”, shouted the genie, “Al Racheed will be here any minute.” Morgiana looked suitably frightened at the thought of the ‘bad guy’ catching her. Casting his eye round the stage the genie spotted three giant oil jars. “Ah, that would be perfect, quick hide in one of the pots!”

In the audience, Freddie mutter to Gareth, “This is the big magic number to end the first half. Sparks gets to earn his money.”

Gareth looked at the stage. So far, Tracey seemed to have been doing OK. There had been a few fluffs on her lines, but the other members of the cast had covered those up. “How are the Councillors looking?”he asked.

Freddie peered into the darkness. The front row was full of smartly dressed old people, several wearing mayoral regalia. They didn’t seem to be smiling much and he doubted they would be joining in with the singing later. “It’s difficult to tell. They don’t smile much at the best of times.”

Did they laugh at the ‘Don’t polish my lamp’ lines?”

Don’t think so. Good job everyone else got the joke. I’ll give Tracey this, she can pull off a smutty line really well.”

On stage, Tracey lowered herself into a jar and pulled the lid down on herself.

Boo, Hiss” cried the audience as Al Racheed stomped on to the stage waving his wooden scimitar.

Where is that pesky slave girl?“ he bellowed, “I will find the wench and cleave her head from her body”. To demonstrate he meant it he swooshed the scimitar around.

There was a chorus of ‘ohs’ and ‘boos’ from the audience.

Tracey popped her head up from the jar, wearing the lid as a hat. “Help me genie. Don’t let the evil Al Racheed find me.” She dropped back down as Sparks appeared in a puff of smoke high up on the balcony of a wooden building.

Don’t worry Morgaina, that evil man will never find you.”

The audience cheered and then booed as Al Racheed snarled at them.

Be quiet you lot,” he shouted, “I’ll find her and when I do…” he waved the weapon.

She’s behind you!” called a lone voice from the audience. Freddie groaned.

Playing to the crowd, Al Racheed replied, “Is she really?” and turned to look at the pots. “I bet she is in one of these!”

Boooo!” called the audience.

With a flourish, he pulled the first pot forward and lifted off the lid. “She’s not in here!” he cried, “She must be in one of the other ones. Putting the jar back on its stand he moved along the row and repeated the examination. “She’s not in this one either!”

Again, the jar went back on its stand and he looked at the final one. “I have you now!” he cried and pulled it forward grabbing the lid. The audience gasped. Inside there was nothing to be seen, yet only moments before, they had seen Morgiana climb inside.

At the other end of the row, Tracey popped her head up out of the first pot. The audience cheered.

Have you seen her?” bellowed the baddie, “Where is she?”

Running back to the first jar, he grabbed it and looked inside. As he moved, the genie waved his hands and sprinkled some glitter on the stage. There was nothing in the pot. Tracey appeared briefly in the middle jar. The audience cheered.

Again, the genie sprinkled glitter and Al Racheed looked in the pot. Nothing. He tried the end of the row and again, nothing. This time Tracey appeared in the first jar.

Time and again, they repeated the game. Once, the baddie slipped on the growing pile of glitter. Each time, the audience clapped and cheers. Sparks beamed from under his genie turban.

Suddenly there was a scream from inside a jar. Tracey appeared out of the top but her face was covered in goo. Coughing and spluttering she tried to climb out.

What on earth…” gasped Freddie, “what the hell is she doing?” Grabbing a radio, he spluttered, “Get the curtain ready. Something’s gone wrong!”

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 24

Returning to the table, both women sipped their drinks and Kate was slightly shocked to see some mini muffins were also part of the order.

Taking a bite of her cake, Karen continued, “Where was I? Oh yes, yummy mummies. I think they thought I should be joining their gang. After all, I’d had a decent job, but unlike them, I planned to go back to it. My career wasn’t just something I did until I’d knocked out a sprog for the rich husband I’d landed.”

Kate nearly choked on her muffin. “Sorry” she said as Karen quickly wiped the crumbs from her laptop.

Don’t worry, it’s not the worst thing that’s been thrown at it. Anyway, there was a third group and they were the mums who needed more than childcare and shopping in their lives. Some of them had started small businesses. Nothing earth-shattering, and they generally had to fit around the kids but as I found them, I realised I’d found my tribe as they say. The problem is, that most of them were working on their own and didn’t know how to talk to each other. Finding help can be a bit like getting a good plumber, you can read adverts, but when your mate tells you ‘Dave down the road handles his wrench really well’ then you know you are on to a good thing.”

So you decided to bring them together. That’s a clever move.” Kate was impressed.

Not that clever. I wasn’t the first person to think of it. My USP is that I know these women aspire to do more than just take photos of themselves wearing today’s outfit or write a blog no-one reads. Take Harriet, one of my first recruits. She does bookkeeping. Before children, she worked for a big accountants. Now she can whip your finances into shape and keep on top of them. She does it for several people, including me. She doesn’t want to rival KPMG or anything, but it’s more than just a way to earn pin-money.”

Kate thought back to Ali from her first meeting. They had chatted and swapped business cards. She ran a pet grooming firm. “You mean you lead the horses to water.”

But if they want a drink, it’s up to them.”

But how do you keep it all going? Surely you are out on the road a lot.”

Karen waved her hand over the table. “Welcome to my office. Have laptop will travel.”

But what about the kids?”

Not a problem. Andrew works close enough to home to be able to do the school runs when I’m away. We just have to spend a lot of time synchronising our calendars to make sure at least one of us is around. We get there. Most of the time anyway.”

Kate looked at her plate. The mini muffin had been munched. Perhaps a few lengths of the pool would be a good idea. Tomorrow anyway. But Karen had really given her something to think about. Perhaps these women weren’t CEOs of multinationals, but they did manage to get more out of life than just being a parent. She knew she wanted to make KOD a company she could be proud of, but did she want to be the next Virgin? Certainly having your own private island would be nice, but perhaps it was time to take a long-term view. Did she just want to get the point that she worked and owned a company she enjoyed being at, and helped keep her in Louboutins and Westwood but perhaps Ferraris and multiple houses were a step too far? She honestly didn’t know.

Looking at her watch Karen closed her laptop, “Look I’ve got to get off, it’s dance class tonight so I need to be back by 4.30pm. I’d like to keep in touch, if that’s OK, I think there are things we could do together.”

Secretly pleased, Kate nodded her approval. Standing to shake hands goodbye she got overtaken by a hug and two kisses. Watching Karen walk away, stylish in heels, she thought to herself perhaps she’d finally found someone on her wavelength.

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Kate vs Showbix – Chapter 22

Sitting in the car, Tracey fired up the engine.

Feeling OK?”, asked Sparks.

Yeah. It was a bit of a shock speaking to the lads again. I must have been pretty drunk when I met them, but I’m pretty sure we just had a dance.”

That’s footballers for you. Always got to big themselves up.”

Tracey laughed, “Yeah. I don’t suppose their striking is as impressive as they like to make out.”

Probably not. I bet the listeners will still be talking about this show for a while though, and that’s what we’re here to do.”

One thing bothers me though.”

Sparks looked curious. “Really?”

Yeah. How did that woman know I was a redhead?

*

As the event started to wind down, Kate decided to face her daemon, or at least try to apologise to Karen. Part of her wanted to slink away quietly and hide, but for the moment, a couple of glasses of wine kept that little voice under control. Several people who had asked questions used them to make points about running businesses and families. By the end, her ego was feeling battered and bruised. No one seemed to be offering any pleasant goodbyes in her direction but quite a few sharp looks were aimed toward her.

Waiting patiently as the last few women shook Karen’s hand and told her how pleased they had been to hear her speak. Shelia hung around as though protecting her star turn and gently ushered them out of the door.

Eventually, Kate was alone with the two of them. The venue staff busied themselves clearing up around the trio.

Rough evening, Kate, isn’t it?” Karen asked, “You put your foot in it a bit earlier.”

Well, it’s your own fault.” Shelia scolded, “You know most of the women here have children but they are all successful entrepreneurs. Of course, you can have a family and a business…”

Kate spluttered, “What I meant was…”

I’m perfectly aware of what you meant young lady”, Shelia interrupted, “You meant that those of us with families were somehow second class citizens. Well, we might not have appeared on daytime television, but maybe that’s because we’re too busy getting on with our jobs. All of them.”

I’m sorry, I was just trying to…”

What you were trying to belittle us. Perhaps our group isn’t big enough for you. I expect I’ll have a few e-mails waiting for me when I get back home suggesting that you not be invited again.”

Kate gave up. With one last defiant look at the organiser, she turned on her heels and started towards the door.

Hold on Kate”, Karen called, but the door was already closing.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 20

Is it £1.27 Bob?”

Nah Tony. Oy’ve been saving up a bit more than that.”, he looked at Tracey, “Tell me Tony, are you married? Only we’ve got a cracking lass in here called Tracey.”

‘fraid to say I am Bob. Thirty years this year. “

Bob looked impressed, “Thirty year eh Tony? You get less for murder! Tell you what though, shall we ask young Tracey here if she can guess what I’ve got in my pocket?”

Go on then Bob. Tell her she can’t put her hand in to rummage around though”

Bob shook the bag again. “Go on then young Tracey, what have I got in my pocket?”

Tracey looked confused, “erm, I don’t know. Fifty quid perhaps?”

Fifty quid! Did you hear that Tony? She thinks I’ve got fifty quid in me pocket!”

Down the line, Tony laughed, “Blimey Bob. If you’d got fifty quid in your pocket, you’d be living in Marbella. I paid less than that for my first car!”

Tracey blushed.

Bob continued, “Too right Tony. Fifty quid! I think I’m going to have to count me pennies again. Thanks for calling.” and with a push of a button, Tony was gone. By now, several lights shone out and Bob picked another caller. “You’re on Bob’s mid-morning show. What’s your name and why are you hanging around listening to me clarting about on the radio?”

Hello Bob, I’m Joyce and I work in a hairdressers. We love listening you you in the salon as we work. “

Good to hear from you Joyce. Perhaps I could get you to come around and give me a quick blow dry”, he patted his bald head, “I could do with a little trim.”

Cheeky”, the caller chuckled, “You’re as bald as a babby. I wouldn’t be cutting your hair, I’d be looking for it!”

You’re right Joyce. It’s a finders fee I’d be paying you.”, he jangled the bag, “Anyway, how much do you think I’ve got in me pocket? Young Tracey here thinks fifty quid, but I’m not that rich.”

Oh, that’s a difficult one Bob. The girls in the salon reckon it’s £3.28.”

Is that how much you charge for a haircut now? I can’t remember, it’s so long since I needed one.”

Nah, you’d need to save up a bit more than that Bob.”

Perhaps I ought to ask this young lass. She’s got really nice hair, and loads of it. Plenty to spare for me and the Genie.”

Don’t think you’d look good as a redhead Bob.”

Bob pulled a face of mock horror, “You don’t think so? Maybe red is my colour. Anyway, I’m afraid to keep putting the pennies by. I’ve not got as much as £3.28.”

Awww. That’s a shame.”

Never mid love. Perhaps you need to get along to the panto. Take all the girls from work too.”

Nah. Don’t fancy it much. I heard your new mate hasn’t actually done this before. Someone told me she nicked the part from some other actress…”. With the practised speed of someone used to cutting off a troublesome caller, Bob took Joyce off the air and replaced her with a record.

While the music played, He turned to the pair. “Sorry about that. We’ll get back to your panto again after this track. Have you got any tricks you could do on-air Sparks?”

Sparks smiled at Tracey. “I think I can come up with something.”*

And we’re back with Tracey and Sparks from the Leighton Oxley panto, which I’m told is Ali Baba this year.”

Tracey paused so Sparks jumped in. “That’s right Bob. Loads of festive fun for all the family. We’ve got a great cast, including my co-star here.”

Ah yes”, Bob smiled, “The beautiful Tracey. How are you finding it our kid?”

Erm”, Tracey hesitated, “Well it’s my first part, but I’m really getting into it. The rest of the cast are brilliant.”

She’s too modest. Tracey is a real star. We’ve got all sorts of magical stuff lined up, it’s a real spectacular this year, the biggest show the Midlands has ever seen.”

Bob pulled a surprised face. “The biggest eh Mr Sparks? I bet the guys in the Hypodrome will want to have something to say about that.”

Let them Bob. This is a top show, you’ll not see better magic this side of Vegas”

Vegas baby!”, Bob cried. “Go on then”, he continued, “show us some of that ol’ black magic”

Not sure it’s black magic Bob, but give your pocket another jingle.

Bob obliged, holding the bag up and giving it a good shake. The sound was flatter than before. “Now take a look inside. I think you’ll find that when Tracey guessed at fifty quid in there, she wasn’t so far out.”. Bob emptied the contents out on the desk. Among them was a casino chip.

Blimey, what’s this?” he asked, surprised.”

Sparks smiled. “I think you’ll find that it’s £2.25 in small change and a chip for, well perhaps my assistant would like to read the number.”

Tracey picked up the chip. “It’s a chip worth fifty pounds! She squealed.

Bob applauded. “I don’t know how he did it listeners, but Sparks here has just made me a wealthy man. Me and the missus can look forward to some stonking fittle for tea tonight. If you can do that, then lad, you are a real miracle worker. Are you sure you can’t get West Brom promoted?”

Tracey suddenly remembered her marketing head and jumped in. “Well, that’s small fry compared to what we do on stage. Everyone better get themselves down to the theatre or on to our website as the tickets are selling fast.

Excellent. Thanks you two. Please stick around as we’ve a couple of big names on the show next, Baggies stars Freddie Morgan and Nathan Donnelly who want to tell us about next Saturday’s big game against Wolves.”

The red light indicating the microphones were live went off and Bob started to fiddle with the control board again. Tracey paused.

Sparks smiled at her and whispered, “So far so good. Do you know anything about football?”

Not much, but those names sound familiar. I met a couple of guys in a club last year who said they were players, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.”

You in training to be a WAG then?”

Tracey laughed, “Well a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I always fancied living the high life in some posh mansion with an endless shopping budget.”

And we’re back on”, Bob shouted across the desk, “That was The Liquidator, which as we all know, can only mean one thing – here come the Baggies!”. Fake cheering rang out. “We’ve got two of the teams biggest stars on now. Striker Freddie Morgan and in mid-field Nathan Donnelly, howya doing lads?”

Bostin’ Bob, really bostin’”, shouted Morgan, “We’re looking forward to seeing off the Wolves on Saturday.”

Yeah”, joined in Donnelly, “They ain’t going to know what hit them. Don’t bother turning off the engine on the club bus, they might as well go home at halftime!”

Bob laughed. “Great stuff lads. Training going well then Freddie?”

Cracking Bob. We’re as fit as we’ve ever been. This is the best team West Brom have put out for years and there ain’t no-one going to stand in our way. Might as well give us the three points now.”

What about you Nat? You fighting fit?”

Too right I am Bob. Not that we’ll need it. We could let half the lads stay in the dressing room and we’d still win.”

That’s what we like to hear lads. If there’s any listeners out there wearing black and gold, you better book yourself a seat in the pub to drown your sorrows after the match.”

Tracey laughed nervously. The phone lines weren’t great but she was sure she recognised the voices now. Noticing her blushing, Bob decided it was time for an introduction.

Lads, we’ve got a bit of showbiz in the studio today. We were supposed to have that Suzi Perry on but apparently her phone isn’t working properly. Typical Wolves fan, can’t get anything right. Not to worry though as we’ve got Tracey and Sparks from the local panto.”

Oh no you haven’t” joked Nat.

Without thinking, Tracey responded, “Oh yes we have lads.”

Ohhh” they both went and laughed.

Ignoring Tracey’s blushes, Bob added, “Yes lads, she’s a bit of a glamour puss. Once you see her picture, you’ll wish you’d got yourselves into the studio with me.”

That sounds good Bob”, replied Nat, “You gonna be coming to the match then Tracey? You can see some real action on the pitch, plenty of scoring if you know what I mean.”

Sorry lads, I’ve got to rehearse. We don’t get much time off at the moment.”

Pity about that. Maybe we could take you out for a drink afterwards. A girl’s got to let her hair down sometimes and we’ll be celebrating when we win.”

Maybe, but I’m a busy lady at the moment.”

Hold on Nat”, Morgan said, “I think I recognise her voice.”

I was thinking that. Tracey have we met somewhere?”

Now bright red, Tracey stammered, “I don’t think so. I’m not a big footie fan.”

Yes we have. It’s posh Tracey. You remember Nat, we met her in Mussons last year.”

Nat paused and then the penny dropped, “Your right. Wow, posh Tracey. What did you do? You said you ran some sort of consultancy firm, didn’t you? And now you’re an actress? Well done love.”

I’m not really an actress, well I am, but this is all a bit new to me.”

Nat laughed. “If I remember rightly, you put on a pretty good performance all right. Really memorable, I certainly won’t forget it!”

Bob jumped in, “You all know each other. That’s brilliant! So you have been wining and dining our Tracey have you lads?”

Morgan laughed, “Oh yeah. She enjoyed a good spit roast.”

Bob sat back. This was going better than he expected. “She likes a good feed ay lads? I’ll admit I’m a bit partial to a good hog roast and a few bevies myself, nothing like a good bit of pork you know.”

Tracey sat open mouthed.

Not sure you’d like the same porking as Tracey. She prefers hers sausage-shaped and the longer the better.”

Outside the studio, Producer Ben was gesticulating furiously but Bob didn’t seem to see him. “Bit of a fan of the bratwurst Tracey? I love a bit at the old German Christmas market. A bit of spice and some mulled wine goes down a treat.”

She certainly a spicey lady. Gives as good as she gets too”, chuckled Morgan.

Nat added, “If you fancy a return leg Tracey, Bob’s got our number.”

The producer was hammering on the window and making cutting gestures at his throat. Sparks realised that Bob wasn’t going to rescue the situation and decided to take matters into his own hands. From nowhere, he makes a small explosion appear above his open hand. Startled, Bob instinctively presses a button to start a record. By the time the track finished, his producer had cut the lines to the footballers.

Still unsure what has been going on Bob picks up the show, “Well listeners, today has been full of surprises. We’ve had magic and memories with our guests today. Remind the folks at home where they can see you on stage.”

Smiling, Sparks efficiently read out all the panto details including how people could book to see the show. Tracey appeared lost for words.

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How words get good

We take a break from Kate vs Showbiz, for a quick trip to Stratford Literary Festival.

20220510_084301One of the best things to come out of our writing efforts, is that we’ve taken to visiting literary festivals. I’m still proud that we actually appeared at one (was it really 2016?) but mostly have enjoyed going along and listening to other people.

A busy calendar precluded my literary entertainment for either of us this year, but I did manage to fit in a lunchtime session called “How words get good” by Rebecca Lee.

Based on the book of the same name, the author has worked in publishing at Penguin Press for over 20 years – and this is the distillation of her experiences.

Basically, if you want to know who does what and how in the book world, then it’s an excellent read. Working in publishing, it’s especially interesting to me as the truth is, I fell into my job and don’t know that much about the nuts and bolts other than the bits I look after.

The festival session provided an excellent taster with some fun anecdotes, but mainly served its main purpose, propelling me towards the bookshop!

The book is a bit like a rich chocolate cake – lovely, but I read it in short chunks as I don’t want to gobble too much down in one go.

Along the way, we get to look behind the curtain at how things are done in the book world. For example, did you know that James Patterson doesn’t write his own books? Apparently, he maintains a stable of ghost authors to whom he delivers a detailed plot outline, and then provides feedback as they knock out the words. I guess that in the publishing world, this is well known, but not among the readers.

There’s also an explanation of the various roles in a publishing house showing how each hones the text until it becomes a finished product. The way I describe it sounds very dry, but this is a very readable book, perfect for anyone who likes books in more than just a casual way.

Personally, I was fascinated to reach this entry, spotted in the index:

Parker, Phillip M., and his 200,000 books. 58-59

It seems that Mr Parker (not me, I only have one L, and my middle initial is S) has a computer that writes books for him including the epic Containers of Fromage Frais. Good for the Amazon receipts, but surely lacking soul…

 

 

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 17

Round tables were marked with large names and then there were smaller card by each of the chairs. A few women were sat at Kate’s table. She found her name and nodded politely to them, noting that there was a mixture of business clothes and casual, at least not everyone had come from the playpen, she thought. The clothes were more M&S than designer, but it could have been worse.

A trip to the bar later, Kate settled herself into her seat and looked at the time on her phone. “You’ve got to turn that off” hissed her neighbour.

Sorry?”

You’ve got to turn your phone off” she said again pointing at the device in case Kate didn’t know what she was talking about, “It’s the rules of the forum.”

Hold on, what if someone needs to get hold of me?”

It’s the rules. Something to do with showing respect for the speakers.” she paused, “I’m Ally by the way.”

Kate. Pleased to meet you.” they shook hands.

If I’m honest, it’s so all the yummy mummys have to take a break from the kids for an evening.” Ally whispered, “If they’ve got their phones on, they spend all the time issuing instructions to their other halves by text.”

Kate switched her phone to silent and tucked it in her bag. Looking around the room, the seats were filling up. “Looks like we are nearly ready to go. I wondered if they would start on time.”

Oh, don’t worry about that. Sheila, the woman who runs all this is a stickler for punctuality. It’s a bit like herding cats sometimes, but once you get the hang of it, it makes sense. Don’t over-run with your pitch either or she’ll cut you dead.”

Kate looked surprised. “My pitch? We have to do a pitch?”

Ally smiled, “You really didn’t read the instructions did you? We all have 30 seconds to say who we are and what we do. They call it a pitch, but it’s really just an introduction. Then you jot down the details of anyone you’d like to talk to later and find them once we break.”

Ahh. I get it, so I’m Kate Smith and I run a management consultancy, that sort of thing. “

I thought you’d get it. That suit says you’ve done this sort of thing before.”

Kate nodded. “Once or twice. Not usually as part of a production line though.”

True. It’s a bit overwhelming for some people. I reckon there’s about sixty here today so more than normal.” Ally paused. “Hang on a minute, Kate Smith, you are from that KOD company aren’t you? I’ve seen you on TV.”

A few more head turned at the table. Due the prominence of the two big contracts KOD had done over the last few years, Kate and Gareth had both been on the radio and TV talking about the company. Kate preened slightly at been recognised.

You put that Nolan woman in her place on Loose Women, didn’t you.” Ally’s eyes sparkled and a few of the table members tutted.

Chink”

Before Kate could prepare her response, a woman stood up and fiddled with a microphone.

Good evening ladies. I’m Sheila and welcome to the Midlands Empowerment Forum. I hope the evening is both fun and profitable for all of us.” She looked slowly around the room. “I see we have a few new faces so perhaps I’ll run through the ground rules for our sessions. First, phones off please. We don’t want any amusing ring tones interrupting the speakers.” Several woman hastily grabbed their mobiles from the table tops and fiddled with the buttons as if they didn’t know where the off switch was located. Grudgingly, the phones were then tucked into handbags under Sheila’s stern gaze.

She continued, “We’ll kick off with our pitches in a moment, but first some exciting news. Next month we have a very special speaker, Karen McDaniel, the founder of the national chain of Empowerment Forums. She’ll be explaining how these events grew from a tiny back room in a Camden pub to these glorious premises”, she waved her hand as though pointing out the décor for anyone who hadn’t spotted it, “I’m sure you’ll all be excited by that. It’s quite an honour for Karen to visit us and I for one am keen to know how you grow a business as fast. I’m sure we’d all like a dose of that sort of success.” Everyone in the room chuckled.

After explaining where the toilets and emergency exits were, Sheila handed over to the rest of the room for their pitches. A smartly dressed woman stood up at a table next to the stage and announced, “Hi everyone, I’m Joanne,” some of the audience tried to say, “Hi Joanne”, but were silenced by the glares of their neighbours. “I run a small marketing company. We do flyers and posters which I design myself. If you’d like some samples, I have them in my bag”. After a polite round of applause she sat down.

Next up was Andrea who ran a pottery painting shop followed by Sarah who did some book keeping. Around the tables, each woman stood up, said her piece and quickly sat down. Kate noted that Sheila was timing everyone like a hawk and gave them a harsh stare when they were close to running over.

As the long round of presentations went on Kate began to wonder if this had been a waste of time. Each of the presenters seemed wetter than the rest: with their gardening, home décor, massage pitches. Where were the juicy prospects and how the hell was she going to work out who was married to the cash cow?

At least her table colleague Ally seemed to be having fine, passing aside about certain presenters that she knew and Kate might want to talk to, and seeming to be still shell shocked at being sat next to a minor celeb.

As it came to Kate’s pitch she was starting to lose the will to live.“Hi everyone, my name is Kate Smith, and I run management consultancy KOD, based here in Solihull.”

There was a sharp intake of breath across the room. Kate wasn’t sure what that mean but she ploughed on.“I’m looking to connect with anyone who….”

Oh my god it’s you. Sheila, why didn’t you tell us she was coming.” A woman from across the room interrupted Kate’s pitch.

Sheila looked up from her stop watch, “Five seconds, Kate.”

But Sheila, don’t you know who she is. She’s been on telly and everything. Oh my god, I loved you on Loose Women, it was hysterical.”

The rest of the room started to mutter as those in the know explained to those who weren’t who Kate was.

Times up.” Sheila seemed to be totally oblivious to anything that broke her strictly timed routine. Kate sat down, wondering what that was all about.

You are quite a celeb in our group, well will those of us who like women with balls. You did upset a few people with your comments about working mums, but don’t worry about them, they are just jealous.”

Kate tried to think back to the interview. She been asked on the programme to talk about the closure of HIA, a vegetable research station that was the job that put KOD on the map, wrangling with marauding locals and a lost heir had made it national news. Her being a female leader had added to the news worthiness. What she hadn’t realised with that TV show was you had to play along with whatever top of conversation was happening that day. One of the presenters was talking about how she was knackered today after spending all her time looking after her kids, Kate had made a remark about not having any might help which hadn’t gone down well. She’d found you just don’t get on the wrong side of a Loose Woman.

At the end of the networking session Kate found herself surrounded by a group of acolytes. There was a definite split in the room, with those flocking to see the local celeb and those who looked at her with distain.

Ally did introductions. Kate found the split interesting, there were some who were early entrepreneurs who worked on their own but had decided to split from the corporate worlds for lots of reasons, not just kids. Those who did have children gave Kate a slap on the back and joked about never a truer word. They loved their kids but any time away was a bonus. Kate took this in with surprise, she always thought mums just wanted to be mums and work got in the way, but these ladies were swigging their wines and talking about a night out before the next social event.

Don’t worry about them,” Ally pointed at the break out group on the other side of the room. “Sometimes it can be like school here, who’s popular, who’s got the best toys, etc etc. They’ll come round, of if they don’t I wouldn’t worry. We’re a good bunch and we’d love to learn more about your company.

Sheila, Sheila.” Ally grabbed the leaders arm as she walked across the room. “Don’t you think we should get Kate to give us a talk. She’s the best woman’s entrepreneur here, she’s got… how many staff have you got Kate?”

Kate looked up from her conversation. “Twelve”

Twelve staff, a national success story, a woman who’s dragged herself up by the boot straps, I think it’s a story for us all.”

OK Ally, OK, I get the idea. I’ll need to speak to some other members but it sounds like it might be an idea.” Sheila brushed her off and carried on.

Not feeling it then?” Kate watched Sheila walked away.

She’ll be fine. She likes things done her way, and she likes to be centre of attention and you are stealing some of her limelight.”

By the end of the evening Kate was glowing slightly. She’d never had her ego bolstered by so many women at one time. In fact she couldn’t remember that time she’d had a conversation with a group of women that hadn’t turned into something competitive. The women had been desperate to know all about the workings of her business, amazed at what they had done, the fact that someone was now looking for work in America, how they’d expanded. Kate practically bounced back to her flat, as much as her three inch heels would let her. No one had really mention kids, or why wasn’t she married, or any of the usual stumbling blocks she came across at social occasions. These women might only have spare room businesses but they had appetite, an appetite that surprised her.

Settling down on the sofa with a final glass of wine she curled her legs underneath her and though about how much she is was looking forward to next month, and a chance to see some of her new friends.

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Kate vs Showbiz – Chapter 15

Look on the bright side”, said Tracey, “at least we got one of the bar staff to make the coffee. Freddie’s attempts always taste like boiled shoes and the contents of the vacuum cleaner.”

Gareth swilled his almost empty latte around and watched the foam settle. They had been waiting for quite a while. Lovely as the managerial office was, making small talk with Tracey wasn’t easy and he didn’t know quite how much of her wild night out stories to believe, or indeed, which were suitable listening for a happily married man. She certainly seemed to enjoy a more active social life than he had at her age.

Freddie had been proving elusive recently. It seems that the pantomime was living up to its name. Despite there being another week until the curtain went up on what would be a make-or-break season, the whole place was in chaos. Backstage staff were busy painting giant urns and there were short people everywhere trying on costumes. Gareth had made a bit of a faux pas when asking about midgets, the term not being politically correct any more. “Artists of restricted growth” was apparently the correct phrase, although the bolshie one who explained this in a patronising way nearly found himself labelled “shortarse” in revenge.

Wandering out of the office, the barman was busy nailing a “Casbah Cafe” sign up. A big box of rather tired Christmas decorations awaited his attention. Gareth decided against asking for more drinks and stuck his head into the auditorium to see if there was any sign of the missing manager.

On the stage, he spotted Freddie standing in front of a giant pile of polystyrene that was carefully being crafted to look like the entrance to a cave. Beside him was a very casually dressed Sparks the magician. They seemed to be having a heated discussion.

Back in the office, Gareth said, “I think we might be in for even more waiting I’m afraid.”

Do you think we should go back to KOD?” his colleague enquired, “I mean if he’s not going to turn up again, we’re wasting our time.” She didn’t mention that a quick return would allow her a lunchtime in the House of Fraser sale, and a chance to snap up the Whistles bargain she had her eye on.

Oh, I’m sure it won’t be that much longer”, he replied, although she was already looking wistfully out of the window.

Tracey’s retail dreams were interrupted by the arrival of Freddie, looking harassed. “Sorry I’m late. Look, can I get you a coffee to make up for it?”

No thanks”, Tracey quickly replied pointing at their empty cups, “we’ve already had one.”

I think your people outside are a bit busy anyway.”, added Gareth.

Are you sure? Don’t worry, I was going to make it myself.”, Freddie looked at the pair making slightly exaggerated head shaking gestures.

Tracey leapt in, “You look troubled Freddie. Big night nerves starting to set in?”

Freddie looked downcast. “Not first night nerves I’m afraid. We’ve got a bit of a crisis on our hands.”

Crisis? Surely, it’s all a storm in a, well whatever those giant jars are.”

Oil jars. It’s what the forty thieves hide in. No, we’ve got plenty of those. Bloody thieves coming out of our ears if you’ll pardon my French.”

Really? Sounds expensive. Couldn’t you have picked a panto with a smaller cast? We are on an economy drive you know.”, Tracey chided.

Cast? No. Sorry”, Freddie chuckled, “We only need ten people, and two of them are in the camel.”

Camel?”, inquired Gareth, “You have a camel?”

Not a real one. It’s a couple of the stage hands in a costume. The kids love it.”

Oh. But what about the forty thieves. It’s on the poster you know.”

For a moment, Freddie was confused. “No, no, no. You see we have people doubling up. You never see forty thieves all at once. I mean we did consider getting a local dancing school in to make up the numbers but in the end, they were more trouble than they were worth. You should see the paperwork, and then you have to deal with all the pushy parents…” he tailed off.

Tracey looked at her watch. The chances of getting a shopping trip in were fading away while they discussed camels and thieves. “So, what’s up. Anything we can help with? Our plans are rather replying on this show going well.”

Freddie looked sad again. “There is a bit of a problem. You remember Spark’s assistant Julie?”

The one who was chucking up when we came over a few weeks ago?”

Yes. An unfortunate incident. Anyway, the problem is that she and the great magician have had a really big bust-up and she’s walked out of the show.”

Walked out?”

Yes. Stomped off leaving the act. Left a note in the dressing room saying she was fed up with playing second fiddle to his ego. “

Tracey snorted. “Surely this happens all the time with showbiz types? I saw a couple of midgets…”

You can’t call them midgets”, interrupted Gareth, “Artists of restricted growth is the correct term apparently.”

Freddie groaned, “Did Gary tell you that. He really is a pompous little man. Literally in this case. Dwarf is the correct term, but to be honest I just call them ‘supporting artists’ and ignore the height issue. As long as they fit in the oil jar, then we don’t care what shape they are.”

Doesn’t that cause problems with casting? Do you just say ‘must fit in a jar’? Won’t the PC police be all over you. I mean, I could demand to play the part.”

We are running a production where the leading lady is played by a man in drag, the principle boy is played by an attractive young woman in thigh-high boots and you are worried about labels? Right at this moment, you can try the oil jars for size and I’ll have big Chris from the tech staff sit on the lid to make sure you get inside.”

Dragging the conversation back to the main topic, Tracey broke in, “So what about Julie? How do you know she’s not going to come back?”

It was her note. She addressed it to Barry.”

Barry?” Tracey looked confused.

Sparks’s real name. But he was very picky about being called Sparks. Said that if you didn’t you weren’t being respectful of his artistic status or some such rubbish. I got away with it because he’s never managed to get a bank account in his stage name so if he wanted paying, the money had to go to Barry, but woe betide anyone else using the ‘B’ word.”

Julie really meant it then.”

Oh yes. She’s gone and that gives us a big problem. “

Why? I mean she was great, but surely there must be other assistants out there.”

Freddie laugher nervously, “Of course, but she was playing one of the big parts in this show, Morgiana.”

Sorry old man”, said Gareth, “Who is Morgiana?”

Freddie looked surprised. “You don’t know the Ali Baba story?”

Tracey and Gareth both shook their heads.

OK, let me keep it short. Morgiana is Ali Baba’s slave girl. She kills all the thieves and then stabs Al Racheed, the baddie, to death at the end of the show.”

Tracey looked stunned. “Hold on? She kills forty people and then stabs someone to death? And this is for kids?”

Oh yes. It’s a very traditional panto. I mean there is quite a lot of death in it, but that’s all just part of the fun.”

Still not convinced, she asked again. “Forty-one deaths is what you guys call a good night out for the family? “

Freddie laughed again, “Forty-two actually. Kassim Baba, that’s Ali’s brother, gets killed quite early in the show. The thieves chop him up and put him in the cave as a warning to others.”

Tracey shuddered again. Newspaper headlines screaming “Massacre at the panto” crossed her mind. “Seriously? I mean what do you do for an encore, eat the camel?”

Of course not. No animal is harmed during one of our productions, the audience wouldn’t stand for it.”

But that are happy to see enough people to populate the quarter-finals of the FA cup get the chop?”

They don’t all get the chop. Most are killed by pouring boiling oil on them.” Freddie was enjoying the look of horror on his visitors faces. “As I say, it’s all good family fun.”

The conversation was interrupted suddenly as the great magician burst into the room clutching his mobile phone.

She’s not coming back”, he snarled, “I finally got her on the phone and she said she’s on the train back to London and I can, well, I can do something that isn’t physically possible. “

Freddie stood up and touched Sparks shoulder. “Perhaps when she’s had a chance to cool down a bit. I mean, you know what women are like,” he shot a glance at Tracey, “Present company excepted of course.”

Oh, I don’t know, “ Gareth chuckled, “Young Tracey has quite a tempter on her when roused”. Her look made him wish he’d stayed quiet.

Tracey!”, exclaimed Sparks, “Tracey! You could be our savior.”

Me?”

Yes”, he continued, “You could take the role. I mean you are perhaps a little more, erm, buxom, than Julie, but I’m sure you’d fit the costumes.”

Freddie stepped in, “Hold on. We booked the two of you as professionals. This isn’t am-dram. We’ve a week to go and can’t just drag someone off the street to fill in a major role. I mean, all due respect and everything Tracey, but you aren’t an actress, are you?”

Well, no.”, she stuttered, “I mean, I did a bit in college, but it’s wasn’t serious or anything.”

Perfect!” Sparks shouted in joy, “She’ll do perfectly! I mean there are lines to learn, but you’ve got plenty of time.”

No!”, replied Freddie sternly, “If you can’t get Julie back then either we find another experienced actress to take the part, or we don’t open.”

It was Gareth’s turn to look shocked. “Not open? But you must. I mean if you don’t open, then all our plans to persuade the council fall apart. This is your big earner each year and if it doesn’t happen, then the coffers will be empty.”

Sparks looked at Freddie. “We won’t get another actress at this short notice Freddie old mate. Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Freddie looked crestfallen. “I suppose so. I mean it’s not perfect, but I suppose this is better than refunding all those tickets. What do you say Tracey?”

*

She’s doing what?” Kate roared, “Have you gone mad? We’re letting her take a month off to ponce around on stage?”

Gareth stood his ground. “I’m afraid it is the only option. The show really must go on.”

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