Sally was a bustling sort of person, the sort that made you rather nervous, but you weren’t sure why. You always had that sort of ’have-I-left-the-gas-on’ feeling when you were driving down the A303 to your holiday home in some unknown village whose name ended in ‘quidden’ near Praze-an-Beeble, deep in the Cornubian wilderness of Kernow, when you were in her orbit. She was a kindly person really, the type that would bustle off to make you an unwanted cup of tea if you let on that you had just received some bad news such as the death of a well-loved thrush in your garden. The result of this was, of course, that everyone kept schtum about any domestic mishaps they may have suffered while they were in her hearing.
It was an unfortunate, if not inevitable, fact that Sally was known to all as ‘Silly Sally’. The alliteration, coupled with her continual bustling made the name irresistible. Sally gave no sign that she was aware of it as all were deviously respectful to her face – partly because she was so good at her job. She was the undisputed master of casting at the village Am-Dram society and it wasn’t even thought about that one day she would be replaced. She had ambitions of moving on from amateur theatre to the West End where her talents could be allowed to prosper and perhaps come fully into bloom. It was thus doubly unfortunate that she was married to an Albert Smith – could anyone envisage a Sally Smith being made a Dame for services to the theatre? It just added to the alliteration of her nickname, who could resist the delicious sound of ‘Silly Sally Smith’? It was therefore her loss but the village’s gain that she was destined to never realise her ambitions in the capital, although she was probably capable of working there with the best.
Meanwhile, in the village hall that was built in 1937 for the Worker’s Educational Institute, the casting for the new play was just getting off the ground. Everyone had scarves and leg warmers in true theatrical style. The hall was notoriously cold and damp so there was an excuse to ham it up – just a little. The play was the one by Ezekial Hamingway, you know it of course, the one that has that notorious scene in the library where the Police Inspector…well, you know the rest.
Sally had a lot to do, there were so many characters that she would probably be forced to have the same actor playing several parts. This would involve quite a bit of rewriting by Arthur St. John Stevenson, their writer-in-residence – as he liked to describe himself. He was, of course, known by all as ‘Arfur’ as he sold ‘previously owned’ cars for a living – he used the plot near the river bridge, the one with the garden shed as an office. He played up to his character as he took to wearing a long overcoat with a velvet trim and sporting a trilby that he wore at a jaunty angle. He was lucky in that he lived mainly on a large bequest from a rich uncle, as he did not sell many cars. His uncle had made his money from whiskey and then invested most of it in Invermoory Castle, near Elgin. This had been before the property boom had increased its value by a factor of at least four so, when the old boy died and Arfur inherited, he ended up with a sizeable sum to support his car business when he quickly sold the castle.
Sally had been busy over the last few weeks, casting the play in her head, so she had a good idea of who she wanted for each part but she felt that she had to go through the motions of an audition, to be seen to be fair – everyone wanted to play the lead so there were bound to be many disappointments not to mention the inevitable back biting that always went on when a clutch of would-be luvvies got together. Most of them had played Lear of course, or claimed to have, most at the Globe theatre even though Sam hadn’t gotten around to building it when they claimed to have treaded – never trod – its boards.
She asked for quiet and the first auditionee. First up was Tristram Huntley-Gazpatcho. He was the one that Sally wanted. She handed an extract from the scrip to Tristram and asked him to read it out in front of the assembled Company. He did it very well even though it was in the role of George Brown, the gardener. He would rather have been Lord Grayson but it was the rule in their group that you did what the Casting Director asked of you. There was no one else that had the earthy presence that harked back to Oliver Mellors so he was confirmed to play that role.
Next was an actor to play Lady Grayson. First to try for it was Mrs Lewis, but it turned out that she had the remains of a Welsh accent that didn’t really fit the role, even when Rhonda put on her best voice. You can take the women out of Merthyr Tydfil but you can’t … as the old Liverpool saying goes. The next to try for the role was Letitia Fforbes – Betterton. She had just the right mix of poshness and patronisation, so she got the role.
The next character was very difficult to cast, even for someone with Sally’s skills. It was the Police Inspector – Henry Ford. He had to have the right combination of authority mixed with a certain likability that allowed people to want to open up and share their secrets with him. Who better than the slightly suspect psychiatrist who lived at the end of Cowly Lane? Dr Mystewski Dutko, he was called, from Swindon. He tried for the part and he was ideal, he had an air of mystery and menace which helped – not to mention the mandatory Freudian beard.
The other, minor, roles were filled quickly although there was a bit of muttering from the members who didn’t get a speaking part. Sally gave herself a small role as the maid – she didn’t even have to change her name for that.
© Richard Kefford Eorðdraca
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