Saturday 13th February
Listening to ‘Snake Oil’ performed in audition at the Island Arts Centre, Lisburn, which has great acoustics. The show is centred around three very talented singers: Ella (Claire McCartney), Prissy (Beccy Henderson) and Vera (Nuala Davies), the Jazzabelles. Their rise to the top of the 1950s Belfast swing scene is hampered by a cashflow problems from their manager, Vince, (excellently portrayed by Stephen Beggs), who’s not all he appears.
The Lisburn rehearsals are a particular treat, great lighting and sound giving clarity to the voices enunciating the details. Some rehearsal nerves on opening in Omagh were dropped by the time we made it to an excited crowd, similarly on the second date, Antrim, the air sizzling with cheeriness.
The Lisburn soundman tweets and ticks across the mikes. On a stage with clusters of collaborative talk on music and props, the drummer checks his cymbals and an actress sits in the armchair from Prissy’s home, studying a mobile. Then, we’re backstage for top and tails of each scene, and I’m facing curtains, imagining a radio play, flashes of backs of legs. Then the last few notes of a song and from wings, Debbie McCormack (stage manager) and I scramble on with sheets and phones or an eight track, or ‘that’ armchair.
And that was my last day as stage-hand on a musical, across Omagh, Antrim and Lisburn; dressing rooms, fridges, biscuits, stunning frocks and formal wear, pretty dress for prettied people. The tour has ended, for now. Unfortunately I was too ill to cover the Downpatrick and Armagh dates, but seamless cover had been arranged. The musical was booked out, thanks to coverage by folk like Culture Northern Ireland (Article: Listen to a Preview Track from Nick Boyle’s New Musical) and Discover Northern Ireland’s Ten Things To Do list. Paddy Brown got me into this, himself a singer, actor, and stage-hand, and Debbie, I also know from self-publishing comics, was a splendid talent to work with. Thanks to all the crew and venues for giving me this excellent opportunity.