Saturday, 13 February 2016
Be Careful what you Wish for...
Make positive affirmations. They work.
Or, perhaps, looked at another way: Be careful what you wish for.
Throughout my twenties I visualised the comedy character I play, Madame Galina, touring the provinces like Anna Pavlova. In my daydreams I was dragging a blue trunk, staying in old-school theatrical digs and being partnered by either of my two idols in the Royal Ballet at the time: Michael Nunn and William Trevitt. This was before I had ever performed further afield than my own front room with all the furniture pushed out of the way.
Then, in my mid-thirties, about to move back to London from Aldeburgh, where I'd been living for a time, I was walking past the Sue Ryder shop and volunteer Janet signalled furiously for me to come in. Then she dragged a blue trunk out of the stockroom and round the counter, gesturing for me to take the handle. The trunk was heavily full of something.
Janet hissed, 'Gillie said you don't have proper luggage, so I've been saving you this. Yes, there is something inside. But don’t open it till you get home, in case someone has kittens seeing it! It's for you to wear as Madame Galina. Thrilled you've got yourself that London residency.' At Murray's Cabaret Club. 'My aunt forbade us girls ever to go on to Murray's in the sixties after the theatre, of course. "Filth goes in there! The Krays, that Keeler monstrosity. Filth!" Oh, but you're onto something with your ballet act - we all said after your show in the Jubilee Hall. Even though you boiled that massive urn right underneath the wall heater on full blast because you were freezing - Susan Mary said - and fused most of the lights, so we could only see you when you came dancing downstage right. No, don't thank me, now - come on. Just get the trunk home and see what's inside...'
Opening the blue trunk when I got home I found Inside a rabbit skin fur coat.
For cheapness' sake, on tour as Madame Galina I would book myself into the standard of B.and B that thought it was too posh for hot chocolate sachets, reeked of zoflora, and had patterned settees, walls and carpets to turn your sight kaleidoscopic. One Blackpool landlady led me across the road to listen at the open window of a rival's establishment:
'Hear that hoover going, chick? Notice there's no fluctuation in the tone. She's just left it on under the table, window open, trying to kid on that she runs a clean establishment. And she injects her eggs with tartrazine to make the yolks look more like the chickens that lay them have room to manoeuvre. And she wouldn't do you the courtesy - which it is really - of checking your room for tidiness before you go off to the Tower Ballroom and do your theatrics.'
And in 2004 my dancing idols MIchael Nunn and William Trevitt, having left the Royal Ballet and formed George Piper Dances, asked me to be in their Channel 4 series The Rough Guide to Choreography.
All my Galina dreams had come true.
Was it magic? Or does It all really come down to this: that when I’ve visualised an hour and a half standing ovation for my meltingly elegiac, piercingly doomladen and pyrotechnically gauntlet-throwing Swan Lake at the Palais Garnier, I will sound more chirpily persuasive down the phone cold-selling to theatre programmers?
'Oh, a must for your forthcoming season. You might have heard about my recent triumph at the Epstein Theatre. No? Well, the Liverpool Post its very self described Madame Galina as the result of a one-night stand between Margot Fonteyn and Tommy Cooper - trailing clouds of Lily of the Valley talc, flashing the most unnecessary pink of knicker - insults, innuendo and tiddle-tiddle thud in thirty-dozen stuck together doilies! Doesn't that sound...er...hello?...hello...?'