Friday 14 December 2018

Sheep Be Damned by Dianne Stadhams

“To be or not to be the Fifth Sheep?” I repeat aloud in panic.

My part is twenty lines in total. One line is repeated. As Fifth Sheep I get to say, “Oh no it’s a dwarf singing hi ho” once in act one, twice in act two. The remaining seventeen lines offer the same depth of characterisation and scope for interpretation and delivery. 

I’m told by the Director that the Fifth Sheep is essential to the success of this show.

Pull the other one, I want to say. It’s the village pantomime. The audience is one hundred adults and pumpkin-faced kids in nappies.

The Fifth Sheep has three more lines than the Sixth Sheep and three less than the Fourth. The script writer, another villager, enjoys a reputation for numeracy, fairness and accuracy. I’ve been doubly promoted this year – jumped from Seventh Sheep of last year. Sheep feature in every show whatever the theme. Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella ... ten sheep wow the crowd annually.
 The Tenth Sheep has a mere five lines and is struggling with those. Not the words themselves, just the order of delivery. But the cast and village understand. It’s wonderful that Maureen, she of tenth sheep fame, can still tread the boards with Alzheimer’s. 

Tonight is the dress rehearsal. I am not a happy mutton chop. My costume is a disaster.

“You can’t be serious,’ I complain, yet again, “I’ll be a laughing stock in this.”

I say this loudly to anyone in the communal dressing room who will listen. Nobody does listen. I can see that the cast are too busy preening their own costumes, lovingly stitched from abandoned curtains and old pillow cases, by Mrs Jackson and her fleet of biddies. The loyal seamstresses are from the retirement village. They chew on their false teeth as they sew a last minute, distressed hem or two. 

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