Cecily, Reggie and Wifred, all famous opera singers in their day, are now spending their golden years in a comfortable retirement home for musicians.
Marmalade loving Reggie takes life very seriously. He is proud of the fact he is the only one who has paid for his lodgings. Cecily an ardent listener of music, totters through the French windows to spy on the gardener whenever he takes off his shirt. Wilfred is a roué with a one-track mind; more like a well fertilised dirt track. The three of them rub along pretty well, sharing their musical memories, until this comfortable existence is thrown into confusion by the arrival of Jean, another opera singer, once married to Reggie.… Read the rest

Chris’s Life Backstage


The big day has come. We’re all backstage in the dark, in full dress just waiting, waiting, waiting, quietly revising our lines, whilst our audience arrives to enjoy their pre-performance drinks. Oh – how we could do with one right now! And then the stage lights come on. All goes quiet. Our Director goes on to make his opening announcements. But, wait a wee minute, he’s reading them from a sheet of paper. The cheek of it! He’s been bullying us into learning our lines and acting our parts for the last three months and he’s actually reading his announcement from a sheet of paper!… Read the rest

Another weeks flies …


Another week flies by. Are we any better? Any more polished? Any slicker? Are our Mid-West accents any more believable?
Our dear Director doesn’t really think so but I, for one (maybe the only one), believe we are making progress against all odds.
So far we haven’t managed to get the entire cast in the same place at the same time for a single rehearsal and, you know what – it might never happen until the day of the performance. Covid, shingles, colds, hospital and dental appointments, breakdowns (not mental), dead motorbikes, work, holidays, you name it, have all conspired to have us forever acting our individual parts whilst at the same time reading-in for absent friends.… Read the rest

Life Backstage 3


What’s it like being a part time, useless, amateur actor then?
Are we all sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
It all kicks off at around 3am. You wake up to banish the Dad’s Army nightmares and the ghost of Denis Norden and then the seismometer needle gives a definite shake and tremble. So, at five past three, you start revising your lines. The trouble is that about half way through you fall asleep only to wake up with a jolt to start the whole process again. At around 4 o’clock you fall back asleep again, exhausted, but content in the knowledge that you’ve remembered your lines at the tenth attempt, only to be woken again at 7 o’clock by your dear wife requiring her morning cuppa and demanding to know what you were thrashing around in bed about half the night.… Read the rest

Life Backstage 2


It seems like a long time – a month. But that’s only 3 rehearsals away until we’re all thrown in at the deep end. Vague tremors of panic start to set in. The seismometer needle has just started to quiver and we cannot ignore it. The earthquake of performance day is just around the corner. The tsunami is building. My well rehearsed lines have escaped me to be replaced by well known quotes from “Dad’s Army” – Corporal Jones’s “Don’t panic, don’t panic” or worse, Private Frazer’s “We’re doomed! We’re all doomed”. Then Denis Norden makes an appearance with the reassuring words “It’ll be alright on the night”.… Read the rest

Life Backstage:


Life backstage really starts with no stage at all, just a few thin wooden battens taped to the floor of our rehearsal hall. We’re told that these represent the margins of the stage and the set. The gaps between the battens represent the entrances and exits. The batten along the front is supposed to be the edge of the stage and we mustn’t cross it. Hilarity strikes when we inevitably do just that, or inadvertently walk through an imaginary wall. It’s all a bit Harry Potterish in the initial stages of our rehearsals but we quickly get used to it.… Read the rest

Chris Sutton comments on ETC…


One day, back in the long distant past, before roll-on deodorants or hovercraft were invented and before Hemingway had written “The Old Man and the Sea”, I had the misfortune to be born in Bonny Soggy Scotland. That was the start of a life-changing series of adventures and misadventures that eventually led me to the South of France where, inevitably, I had to wear the kilt at special functions and to sing the odd Scottish song at Burns Nights organised by other British ex-pats. So far, so good.

But then, calamity! At one such informal gathering, my terrible singing was overheard by a lovely wee blond lady called Nancy.… Read the rest

On crafting The Long Christmas Dinner


Being new to this acting lark and still riding high on the joy of participating in Calendar Girls, I am disposed to like anything that comes my way.‘What is next, after the undoubted triumph of ‘Allo ‘Allo?’ my friends and I asked, excitement dancing in our eyes.

‘Mamma Mia?’
‘No, too dancey.’
‘0ooh, how about Hamilton?’
‘Too big’.

The new play is…ahem…The Long Christmas Dinner by Thornton Wilder!
Imagine this dropping in to a room full of chatter and then silence, preceded by that record scratching noise.

What? Who? Why?
Well, a quick glance on Wikipedia reveals Wilder to be a ‘pivotal figure in the literary history of the twentieth century’.… Read the rest



‘Quick, quick, out of the way, I have a fast change.’ I barraged my way through a group of my fellow actors backstage, already half out of my Edith dress as I spoke. Wriggling into my cabaret dress, I raced back to make my entrance just as the intro music began to play. No time to panic. Just follow the Director’s instructions and sing ‘more awful.’ That was the easy bit!

We were performing ‘Allo ‘Allo for the first time. After ten weeks of rehearsals we were ready. Or so we hoped. We had become a family, cast and crew alike.… Read the rest