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2004-01-06 Lap dancers and dogs eating cause problems

I am proud to say I have never corpsed onstage. By 'corpsing', I mean finding myself in a situation where I develop uncontrollable giggles in front of an audience. Many performers succumb to corpsing, and I (mischievously) have on occasion been known to set it up, while of course retaining the semblance of a consummate professional.

 

I apologise to those who may have until now thought that butter wouldn't melt in my mouth. Some of my colleagues can be triggered by the slightest thing, either on or off stage, and what follows can result in mayhem.

 

Performers can be forced to perform under a variety of different circumstances, and usually their audiences are totally oblivious to the fact. One of the worst nightmares for any singer is to sing with a cold or throat infection. Normally it is possible to struggle through one infected performance but after that it is more difficult and damage can be done, especially if the infection drifts southwards to the chest.

 

Last year, an acute ear infection meant that I had to perform several shows while really only hearing internally, by sensation, sort of like singing underwater. A small percentage of our work involves corporate entertainment and on occasion we have found ourselves singing through clouds of cigar smoke ? roll on the smoking ban I say! Fortunately I do not suffer from cold sores, but I have watched from the wings as a cold sore succeeded in turning a passionate kiss into an almost meaningful hug. I have been left onstage to improvise dialogue as my food-poisoned leading lady threw up noisily in the wings - luckily it was a comic operetta. I have suffered for the duration of Haydn's sublime "Creation" while a guide dog in the front row proudly wafted the scent of rotting cabbages and past-its-sell-by-date Pedrigee Chum upwards through my nasal passages.

 

In Düsseldorf's Savoy Theatre, I remained staight-faced though open-mouthed as I received my curtain-call bouquet, as our stage management, by way of a practical joke, had employed the 'services' of two scantily-clad lap-dancers from a neighbouring club to make the floral presentations. While performing on BBC's "Friday Night is Music Night" in an open-air Proms-style concert in Falkirk in Scotland, we and the entire BBC Concert Orchestra looked out on a scene which might as well have been 'Craggy Island' on "Father Ted", as we gave our all to an audience of no more than 30 people sheltering beneath their umbrellas, some of which had blown inside out. Every night is a first night for the audience, so one must always give of one's best, no matter what the circumstances. Inevitably, there can be problems with the sound, lighting, acoustics, or set which can affect one's performance. Memory lapses can mean that lyrics are replaced by gibberish.

 

Tension in the cast can render love scenes most interesting, and as a rule, like a couple not going to bed arguing, it is obviously best not to go onstage with an argument unresolved. It is quite difficult to sing a happy upbeat song while glaring at one's colleague. Believe me, I know. Equally, if a performer is uncomfortable in a production, the embarassment can easily transmit to the audience. Audience body language is probably best ignored, as often those who look miserable are the most effusive after the show ? "there is nowt so strange as folk".

 

Thankfully I have never been heckled, but I have been joined onstage by an enthusiastic member of the audience in a performance at Mullingar Cathedral. The unfortunate lady was escorted away but only after she had rubbed her entire 'ladyhood' suggestively, while repeatedly calling out to the packed Cathedral ? "Sexy Sam, I'm achin' for ya!".

 

On Good Friday 2002, after the penultimate performance of a sell-out week at the Gaiety in Dublin, my dear mother passed away at Sligo General Hospital. Easter Saturday was the last night, and as we all know, the show must go on. Saturday March 30th 2002 was, and will remain, the worst night of my life.

 

So bear in mind, when you see a performer onstage, you don't always know what they might be going through ? it may be a performance within a routine.