Budapest to the Black Sea

Budapest to the Black Sea

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Dear Uncle Ted

I have been in ‘show business’ for many years and have worked in most fields of this noble industry and I often receive correspondence from young people eager to make their way along the stardust trail that I have trod for more than forty years. I thought it might be a service to my younger readers to publish my advice to some of these supplicants.

Dear Uncle Ted

I have been trying to break into the theatre but as yet I have had very little success. My mother thinks it would be helpful if I were gay but I would find this life style change rather difficult as I already have a very active sex life with several girl friends, one of whom is carrying my unborn child. I am a very normal sort of chap, my hobbies are breeding pit bulls, cock fighting and I am a Millwall supporter. Do you think my mother is right?

Unsure of S. London.

Dear Unsure of S London

First let me reassure you that the theatre is refreshingly free from some of the prejudices that blight society as a whole, however your mother is right to a certain degree in that there are some specific areas of the industry where being gay may be an advantage. These areas are opera, ballet, drama, musicals, West End, provincial touring and rep, pantomime, summer seasons, direction, set, costume and lighting design, stage management, prop and costume making, stage door keeping and conjurers assistant. Theatre-in-Education is a field where a young man with your healthy out-doorsy interests can flourish. What can be more satisfying than driving a transit van load of props to a sink estate primary school in order to put on a two-handed version of Coriolanus to a room full of hostile ten year olds at nine-o-clock in the morning.

I wish you well in the future and good luck with your forthcoming happy event.

Dear Uncle Ted

I am a wardrobe mistress with several years experience in provincial theatre and have long yearned to get work on a West End musical. Recently I went to a party where I met a West End production manager. We both drank quite a lot and one thing led to another and we ended up in bed together. He has since made it clear to me that he would like to pursue this relationship and has implied that he could get me a job on a forthcoming production. He claims that this show, which is apparently based on a Haynes service manual, is a sure fire hit and that I could be in work for years. I have no morals whatsoever and I am keen to fast forward my career but frankly having sex with this man was so unpleasant that I may have to draw a line and head back up the M1. What shall I do?

Hesitant of Up North

Dear Hesitant of Up North

This kind of question comes up time after time and it’s never easy to get the balance right. Perhaps you should remember that the success of British theatre is based largely on the self-sacrifice of nice middle class girls like yourself and that you should just grin and bear it. That way you get the job and at least one of you has a good time in bed. I find that when I am engaged in an unpleasant sexual act concentrating on a beloved childhood pet sometimes helps.

PS: Be careful though, I know a bit about this ‘Haynes service manual’ musical and I am sure it is a solid gold turkey.

Dear Uncle Ted

Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a sound designer on musicals. When I was little I used to arrange our family hi-fi in the living room and make my Mum and Nan listen to ‘Godspell’ time after time. I plastered the walls of my bedroom with pictures of West End sound designers and their favourite mixing consoles. At school I set up the sound for every conceivable function and now I am about to go to college to do a Dip Ac/Dc MBD in Environmental Sound Theory. Last week by a lucky chance I was invited by an acquaintance to meet some West End sound crew. You can imagine my excitement. I made up my mind to keep very quiet and to just soak up as much wisdom as I could from these audio titans. We met in a pub, which was rather rough, and at once the conversation started to flow. At first I revelled in the acronyms, the numbers, the jargon, all the money that I had spent subscribing to ‘Audio Fittings Monthly’ seemed well spent but as the evening wore on the atmosphere changed and the talk moved on to other topics. There was a lot of discussion about something called ‘per diems’ and ‘half-day travel’ which I didn’t understand and towards the end of the evening they started to complain about the hotels they had been made to stay at. By the time we parted I had the niggling suspicion that these audio titans were perhaps rather shallow bitter people. Have I made a bad career choice? Please advise me.

Disillusioned of Chingford

Dear Disillusioned of Chingford

Thank heavens that you have contacted me in time and thank heavens that your acquaintance had the good sense to show you a sound crew in the raw. You seem to me to be a sensitive caring young man and I think that perhaps the theatre in general and sound design in particular may not be for you. Are you religious? If not perhaps something in animal husbandry would suit you better. You can fill the theatrical void in your soul by collecting West End musical soundtracks on CD and at least these will have some resale value at car boot sales in the future.

Dear Uncle Ted

I am so confused and so worried, I do so hope that you can help me. I am a widow, my beloved Hubert having passed on some years ago. It appeared that he had left me in comfortable circumstances but what with the credit crunch, the recession and so on I now find that I am starting to eat into my life savings. Recently I attended a play at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford starring Felicity Kendall and Penelope Keith. At the interval I was feeling a bit woozy with the niceness of it all and a charming gentleman helped me to a chair. Despite the fact that he had a slight Merseyside accent I rather took to him and we didn’t go back in for the second half, we just drank gin and chatted in the bar. After a while, the gin having had its way with my tongue, I confided my financial woes to him. It turned out that this man is in fact a theatrical producer and he told me that these days the West End is the safest place in the world in which to invest and that he could “let me in on the ground floor” of a production that he is about to put on, a musical apparently based on a motorcar service manual. It sounds rather exciting and I am tempted to take the plunge and invest my life savings with this man. Is this wise?

Mrs W of Godalming.

Dear Mrs W

Personal finance can be a worry these days, what with oily Canary Wharf hedge-funders and Colombian money-launderers, it’s hard to know what to do for the best but in this case I can give you some solid advice. I think that I know the man that you refer to and I know for a fact that he is honest as the day is long and that his word is truly his bond. He is also correct in saying that the West End is a safe bet for your life savings and from what I have heard of the ‘service manual’ based musical it sounds like a sure fire smash to me, so be sure not to miss this opportunity to join the Lloyd-Webers and Cameron Mackintosh’s of this world. Now is your chance to become a high-roller!

Dear Anonymous of Old Compton St

Contact me immediately! You must not proceed with this project. What the director is proposing for Act 1 is definitely illegal in all EU countries and I can assure you that the inappropriate use of agricultural equipment in Act 2 can only end in tears.

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