Doctor Theatre

I’m sat at home waiting for the show report.

And it feels really weird. Because I’m the one who sends out the show report. I mean obviously I’m not in a theatre EVERY night. I do have a day off each week. And when I’m in rehearsal I mostly have evenings free – but my show IS happening tonight and I’m not there.

I’m not there because this morning I had a wisdom tooth removed from somewhere inside the depths of my head. If I’d listened to my dentist I’d have had it out years ago. But I’m a bit crap at that stuff so I put it off for as long as possible, inevitably making it all far worse for myself and meaning that they had to throw in a root canal in the tooth next to it to boot.

Now I don’t wish to exaggerate, but I have googled the topic of impacted wisdom teeth quite extensively, and I can tell you that there are several ladies on netmums, who have stated that they would definitely choose labour over what I’ve been going through recently. And I’m not saying that child birth doesn’t look absolutely dreadful because it absolutely does – but it doesn’t happen in the middle of your FACE does it? Anyway it reached the point where I was in such relentless face clutching pain that I was either going to have to rip my own head off – or I was going to have to get cover.

And if I was going to get cover it was going to have to happen RIGHT NOW because next week I start a new job – and my current one goes on for another two. So I need to be in top condition capable of full concentration and ultimate focus in rehearsal from 10am until 6pm, before flying across London at rush hour to call the show somewhere else, six days a week for the next fortnight.

I called Phil. Phil is my extremely brilliant, extremely expensive dentist. I’ve known Phil since I flew over the handlebars of my bike aged eight, landing mainly on my face and dragging my front teeth along the pavement. He always greets me with hugs and kisses and no one else will be allowed near my teeth ever. 

Phil suggested a general anaesthetic – nope! No time for that! I can get one show covered – two max. Okay yes – he could fit me in. Phil suggested sedation – excellent. Oh – no – the sedation nurse is having a baby and if you want it done by Thursday there’s no time to find another. Right – no time to waste – jab me with a local and just go for it. 

I won’t go into to detail except to say that the tooth in question had yet to make an appearance in my mouth so there was a fair amount of cutting and yanking and me hyperventilating before Phil was able to bring it into the world. It took four hours and it was horrible. There was one moment where I was absolutely certain that if he applied a single ounce of pressure more my entire face would shatter and cave in Ren and Stimpy style. And I currently look and feel quite a lot like Phil just spent those four hours punching me repeatedly in the face.

It was MASSIVE. And there was a chunk of me still stuck to it. Isn’t it fascinating?! I can think of a number of words that I’d land on before reaching fascinating. I did quite want to keep it. But I’m not sure the tooth fairy bothers with you when you’re thirty six so I didn’t ask.

I’ve never missed a show. From what I’ve seen people very rarely really get sick in the theatre unless there are understudies and swings. Or we do get sick – but we just crack on anyway. Sure I’ve cancelled a few shows, but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve set buckets alongside props tables for actors to vom into – or worse. I’ve seen DSMs chuck between cues, and I know a fairy who went on stage with the very real risk of one of her ends exploding unexpectedly. And three Christmas eves ago a dwarf was sick in the dressing room in the middle of the matinee. But even she bucked up in time for her next entrance – and she was only about nine.

Doctor Theatre they call it. Also known as there’s no other option so get over it and get out there. Because whether you’re nine or not, there are hundreds of people watching, and Snow White and the six dwarfs just isn’t going to cut it.

I worked with one amazing actor who discovered he had cancer, underwent treatment and beat it, all within a nine week job. And an actress, who, on waking up in the wings after passing out cold on stage mid speech, demanded to go straight back on. (I didn’t let her.)

On smaller shows there’s just not the money to have covers ready to take over at the drop of a hat. There’s a certain amount you can do – for instance maybe that person doesn’t have to fall off the wardrobe tonight if they’re feeling faint. And maybe we’ll alter the blocking a bit so we don’t throw you up in the air in act two if there’s a possibility you might be sick on everyone.

 I’m lucky on this occasion to have a brilliant ASM who can step into call the show tonight and someone who can cover her track. It might all sound a bit crazy. And when you have a three show day ahead and you feel like death you can ask yourself why you gave up your comfortable reasonably well paid desk job. But I can’t really imagine doing anything else now. And I’ll be dragging this aching swollen face up the M3 tomorrow to get back at it.

I mean how many other jobs are there out there where you can shout sentences like I WANT YOU TO FUCK ME UP THE ARSE HARD! THANK YOU! whilst maintaining complete professionalism, and without anyone batting an eyelid?

 (Well a few probably. And I expect they pay quite a lot more than mine. But I still choose this one.)

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