A Backstage Emergency in Fairytale Land

..

he Narrator has called the denizens of fairytale land together for urgent talks. He’s not in the best of moods. He casts a weary gaze around the green room and speaks.

“Right, I’m told we’ve got a problem on our hands. Tonight’s story is supposed to be the Three Little Pigs, is that right Assistant Page Elf? Fine. Tell me what’s going on.”

“Well, your Narratorship, erm, the thing is, you see…”

“Drop the flannel, pointy features. Give it to me straight.”

“Well, you see, the traffic’s murder tonight – that oxcart tailback and all that, aha, and…”

“One-word answer please, or I swear I’ll de-bell you with my bare hands. How many pigs are here?”

“Two.”

“Oh marvellous. Where’s the other one?”

“Doing a loft conversion, Sir.”

“Just wonderful. Do we even have a wolf?”

“Can’t get him on his mobile, Sir. He’s been doing that Doctor Who session all day. His agent says it won’t be a problem, because he doesn’t appear until Act Two anyway. But he might not have time to change out of his velociraptor costume.”

“Oh great. So we’re looking at two little pigs and a fat dinosaur luvvy… Call me a traditionalist, but we need a Plan B and fast, people. How about you Snow White, you’ve been hustling a gig for ages – are you ready to go?”

“Your Sirship, the thing is…”

“Sigh… Go on then. How many dwarves have we actually got – and I mean in the building, not en route?”

“Well, Your Narratorship, you’ll appreciate the usual problem we have with Sleepy and Dopey, and Happy’s on tour with Pharrell Williams. We do have Bashful here in full makeup, but it’s always a problem to coax him out of the dressing room…”

“Cut the crap. How many dwarves, Snowy?”

“Err, four. And Sneezy’s a bit, um, happy on the anti-histamine pills…”

“Well that’s just bloody marvellous. Have an apple. Listen up, people, elves and assorted magical hoofy things, and listen good. We’ve got a story about to be read – right here, right now. By some miracle, they’re still bothering with the preface and all the academic blather about Freud – and the kids have been sent back to make sure they’ve cleaned their ears. But we’ve got minutes to go until page up, and we can’t muster a sodding cast! If we’re not ready, we’ll be back on the shelf and they’ll go and read Harry Potter & The Latest Load of Codswallopamus instead. Ideas, people (and things) – and now!”

“Well, since you mention bath-time, what about that other one about the little piggies?”

“Not exactly a full programme, but it might help to stall for time. How many of them are here?”

“Hang on a minute… Well, one stayed at home, and another is down at Tesco. Erm, three.”

“Three ****ing toes?! Do you want to traumatise the children any more than we’re supposed to? I don’t suppose one of them knows the lines for the builder pig, do they? Oh, blank looks, lovely. Didn’t think so. God, back in the rep days even the bloody magic beans could understudy…”

“How about Sleeping Beauty, Sir?”

“Not bad thinking there. She can just lie there while we fanny about with the lighting.”

“Oh…”

“Go on then, Elfstein. Do make my day a little better.”

“You see, Bookmaster, she and the Prince really clicked during rehearsals and they’re off on honeymoon in Venice. Cinderella’s not happy about it – apparently she’s selling her jilted lover story to the papers.”

“I’m livid, so I am. [Offscreen, she’s actually Welsh – which not a lot of people know.] After all I went through, all that scrubbing and bullying, those months practising to Strictly with only a mouse for a partner, even having to lug that bloody pumpkin home after the spell had worn off… the pedicure – he buggers off with some somnolent posh tart. Princes – they’re all the same…”

“Alright, alright. Sorry about that Cinders. We’ll talk later. I don’t suppose we’ve got any trolls, have we? They’re always good for dramatic impact.”

“Union meeting Sir.”

“Rapunzel?”

“Shaved her head for that sci-fi flick, Sir.”

ollocks”, quoth he, and they all knew he was mightily miffed because he’d dropped a capital letter and in no-nonsense sans-serif. “How about we dress up the surplus pigs as dwarves and just get them to stand at the back?”

“Apparently they’ve gone down to the Hog & Barrel.”

“Right… well paint me surprised and call me an aubergine. And we all know why, don’t we? The Ghost of Christmas Pissed is buying, yeah? Wouldn’t mind but it’s not even his birthday for another two weeks… How about that magician bloke who spins gold out of straw? The Great Rumplethingo?”

“Doesn’t perform when anyone’s watching, Sir. It’s in his contract, apparently.”

“What kind of a magician… oh never mind… Right. Crunch time. Everybody (and everything) stop talking and start doing. Stick any pig you can catch in a bloody tutu and bung ’em on top of the beanstalk. Put a wig on one of the dwarves and two of them can lie end to end under a sheet pretending to be Sleeping Beauty. Aladdin, you’re up kid – all you have to do is walk on and stand there, maybe wave your cardboard scimitar about a bit. But do try to look a bit more butch, darling. We’ll just have to wing the rest. Actually, do we have any reindeer knocking about?”

“Err, Dancer and Prancer are refusing to perform because the stage is too slippery. Dasher’s on the bus. But Rudolph has depped in some bloke called Flasher…”

“Hmm, we’d better not risk that one… No more time. Positions everyone. Hoist the pig. Dry ice and lights to purple… Page up and … go!”

Once upon a time, in a land far away (where the lighting controller seems to have been at the gin – I said purple… thank you), there was a lovely little ballet-loving pig stuck on top of a plant and an ugly woman under a sheet.

Who seemed to have her feet facing upside-down… though nobody seems to know why (and certain dwarves might soon have to look for other employment – perhaps as traffic cones).

Then, and for no apparent reason whatsoever children, some random bloke in a turban walked in.

“Who might you be, oh exotic stranger from the orient?” ad-libbed Piggy Elliot from his lofty perch. And do you know what happened next, children? (Because I wish I did…)

Musicians: PLEASE be on time for gigs! On time means being there and being ready.
It’s really not so very much to ask, is it?

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Posted in c) Musicianship, e) Rants & Ramblings

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Next Gig

We play every month at Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington, South London.

Sat 29 July 9pm, £15 (£9 adv)
JLT with Ed Jones tenor

For London-wide jazz listings see

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