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The Stage Manager

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It was night time on the cold, colourful London streets

The bright buildings made the sights look like something from a 1960s painting

You had been wandering for a while and felt bored

Yes you did buy that one shirt just because it had ziggy stardust on the front

Television was dull anything that wasn’t a music-related or to do to with game shows you’d skip over


looking around the city of Soho when you came across the Raymond Revue bar


It looked dull at first when to the corner of your eye you could see people chuckling as they walked downstairs.


Overhearing the sound of an audience and strange sound effects you went upstairs and realised what the commotion was.


There were some comedians performing, Young comedians with new innovative material drawing inspiration from slapstick legends like laurel and hardy to “alternative comedy” jabs of political satire they were called The Comic Strip Presents.


You could hear two blokes who had a blues brothers type performance called the outer limits, a duo called French and Saunders and many others including Pamela Stevenson, Keith Allen and a communist satirist influenced by the Monty Python days called Alexei Sayle.


The night sounded enjoyable the last time you had ever heard good comedy was through the old porridge and Fawlty towers tapes.


Then another performer walked onstage he had pigtails, a red communist berret and a black jacket decorated with political badges.


“I don’t know if any of you are into poetry at all” he addressed the audience, scrunching up his nose smirking.


He then performed a monologue about theatre “Theatre! What are you? Theatre”


When I’m nearta the theatre “I ask myself this question I don’t know perhaps I should ask Vanessa Redgrave”


He shouted “But I don’t know Vanessa Redgrave” before he smirked again at the audience “And neither do you theatre”


When his monologue finished you were jaw dropped this bloke had so much charisma and energy in his performance his snarky attitude was funny and it looked like he was self-aware just having good fun with his audience.


Arriving home you couldn’t get his words and face out of your head even when looking at your old records of The Damned and Madness you’d just see his face in your mind.


With your knowledge of Performing Arts after a few years you decided to volunteer you asked Alexei Sayle if you could do some “behind the scenes work” he agreed.


The first day was something you rattled your teeth about on the way there but once you arrived the atmosphere was easy to adjust to, being an assistant stage manager was like being a bartender sometimes you’d just be fixing cables and preparing props other times you’d overhear the daily gossip but usually you’d only keep it to yourself or you’d joke with Keith Allen about it over a few drinks.


You once observed Pamela Stevenson being mocked about by the catty duo from before

Saying nothing because you left the drama in your secondary school years and you wanted to keep it that way.


However, when you’d see her in the staff room you’d try to chat.

She’d enjoy the conversations but you learned that she felt more left out when they did tours

She felt like the boys could impress the audience in ways she couldn’t and even on the female performer's side she felt like they were just competitive sometimes you’d also run into the duo that made fun of her but you’d just laugh along about it.


Sometimes while fixing cables or props you’d talk to a bloke called Ade he was another performer you’d talk about life with, you’d talk about punk music, your school years and he’d mention the one time there was a technical fault on a Dangerous Brothers skit where he was on fire and the producers didn’t notice.


Peter was one of those outer limits sometimes it would just be him other times Nigel would join usually you’d discuss a film with them or you’d help out with the technical side of their performances.


These were all interesting people who you would talk about many topics with….then there was him.


You’d see him on stage, you’d arrange technical effects for him and other times when everybody else was busy you’d talk to him


It was that day after a performance the others were having drinks and while he would sometimes be the person to be the social butterfly this time he was just there drinking while he frowned

You looked at him, he stared back soon a conversation was started once you agreed you’d talk with him in his dressing room.


He sat there frowning looking in the mirror and then glancing at photos he had of his heroes Little Richard, Ronnie Barker and Tommy Cooper.


“Hey!, (Y/N) as a performer you’ve  probably seen me when I played that poet character or Kevin Turvey those years ago Alexi had said you had seen us before.”


You nodded


“Well I’m happy that we were able to amaze you so much that it made you want to be a part of *The Experience* he said, excitedly making mime-like gestures with his hands”


You noticed he had that same aura about him that David Bowie had when he’d talk in interviews about Ziggy Stardust and how there was a big difference between chill laid back bowie and the loud flamboyant Ziggy you could see in his tired eyes that he was stressed


You asked “I might be happy but I’m not sure you are, is there anything going on that is stressing you? being a star carries a lot of hard to fulfil expectations if you don’t want to say that’s ok but I can see you're still trying to project your stage self instead of your real self.”


He blinked a bit surprised of how perspective you were “What nonsense, I’m happy I’m Rik Mayall I make people happy and when I perform I am happy” his smile became a frown, “Well I try to be”


You stared folding your hands as he then started to explain,

“I admit times have been crap recently, the new show I did for Ben Elton wasn’t successful enough so we’ll have to cancel it, while I love my new wife years ago I did make the mistake of being with her at the same time of being with my girlfriend Lise who co-wrote The Young Ones with me and it just feels empty on stage I have something I have my characters I have my jokes but to be honest I feel boring there are some good days and other times where I rip myself apart if I mess up my lines.”


You nodded as you processed his rant


“I feel like all the people and critics will think of me now because of that show is “oh look there’s that bloke who isn’t funny anymore” I’ll be nothing, I don’t work with Ben much anymore..I-I’ve been thinking of being a drama teacher”


You blinked you couldn’t believe that he would think of such a suggestion

putting your hand on his shoulder.


“Look you had an unsuccessful show, there are many bad shows out there but filthy,rich and catflap isn’t the worst, and that won’t be the main thing you’ll be associated with your an actor,you're a singer in that BAD NEWS band and your the most talented comedian I’ve ever seen, critics will be critics unfortunately, but your Rik Mayall you’ll find your spark again you’ll find another show or film you be in that will have the same memorable characters,settings and stories that your other successful works have”


he nodded still frowning looking away 

“Yeah your right sometimes the spark goes out and other times the energy arrives back, thank you for the advice..still what show can I do that isn’t a flop I have the qualification I’d be a great drama teacher”


You smirked at him “a drama teacher who makes telling knob jokes and ranting about politics part of the lesson”


He cringed a little before he chuckled  “I wouldn’t do that in front of children (Y/N)! politics though is in everything theatre, history, television you can’t escape it, I’d let them make their own decisions knowledge and freedom is what they need but half the time it’s swayed by the opinions of their parents, the fascist pigs or of their teachers”


You were puzzled “Who are they?”


He then got up from his seat and smiled making more hand gestures before he rambled cheerfully


“Children, they are influenced by what they see and what they hear with all the political rubbish there needs to be some sunshine in the storm, children are smart but too many people including people in the television business take advantage of them, bastards! Children  have thoughts and wide imaginations, they should be respected they should be able to see the good in the world and the media should be providing that.”


You clicked your fingers as you got an idea “Hey Children's Programming you should do that! You were excellent at jackanory when you appeared on there you should do that again your great at narrating stories maybe you could create your own storytelling kids to show what stories would you read?”


He liked the idea “Fairy tales it’s the tales they are most familiar with because of Disney, funny because the original Grimm tales were very dark”


You said “Well how about you make this series about the Brothers Grimm fairy tales but it doesn’t have to be the glamorised Disney versions or the gritty originals it could be a sort of modern but original take on the stories and maybe you could add animation in there so each story would be different and it would give a chance for different animation companies to show their skills to a wider audience so not only would you be entertaining them but also teaching them about these timeless tales”


He agreed “The show will be called Grimm tales, I’m working with ITV at the moment so I could ask them about the idea thank you (Y/N) this is brilliant when I was little I loved seeing my heroes like Ronnie Barker read out stories and now I’m doing just that”


You smiled but still felt unsure about his other problem….the relationship problem


“Uh, Rik what about your relationship?”


He had a thought for a while and then said “I’ll try to repair relations between me and Lise if I want to move on from my mistakes I should take responsibility for them”


He grinned as he packed his belongings and headed home