Written by Mike Casey
It’s a dark and foggy night at the beginning of December, and I have to find my way from Honley to Linthwaite Methodist Church Hall. The direct route through South Crosland is a series of narrow roads with some serious twists and turns. I’ll avoid that on a night like this, when you can hardly see the other side of the road! The long way round through Lockwood is just that, the long way round; so I opt to go through Meltham and Blackmoorfoot, via the Will’s O’Nats pub. I get lost.
I’m somewhat nervous. Why on earth have I agreed to be in this play, to test my ageing memory learning lines written by someone else. For the last ten years I have played it safe, working in a two- man theatre company, writing and performing our own material. But on the plus side Roundelay has been written by a leading playwright, and is directed by John Cotgrave, who is certainly steeped in the worlds created by Alan Ayckbourn – comic, poignant, occasionally dark, theatrically playful. All that is what had attracted me, and I had seen several Dick and Lottie (daft name) recent productions, so I knew that I would be in safe hands, working with an experienced cast.
Linthwaite Methodist Church, a beacon of light and a thriving community hub. Each weekday evening as I arrive for rehearsal I encounter something different. Music throbs from the Zumba class; Beavers bounce out of the room we use for rehearsal, full of small-boy energy. I think I’m enjoying this, after all.
I’m playing Tom, a retired judge desperately trying to retrieve his early memories of his late wife as his past fades away. Five short plays, all inter-linked, each resonating with the others in some way. I’m in two of them and each presents a different challenge, a different opportunity for Tom to re-live the past, to face up to his own life and what he has become. The process is engaging, but demanding. There is so much that can be explored in each of these short plays, and so little time to do so. And I still have to get on top of these lines, get into the thought-processes, get under his skin, like he’s getting under mine!
It’s a dark and icy night in January. Rehearsals for Roundelay are nearly over, one week to pull it all together before production week, and I’m glad I took the plunge. Once more I head to Linthwaite via Meltham. The road to Blackmoorfoot is a sheet of ice. A convoy of nervous drivers crawl along. Why am I doing this? I‘m not even called for rehearsal this evening. But it’s rewarding to watch the other actors, to see their inventiveness, and John’s patient direction, drawing performances from the actors, not imposing them. After rehearsal is over, I go back the long way round, via Lockwood. With a week to go, no need to tempt fate. I’m looking forward to putting the Judge on trial, as it were, in front of an audience at the LBT.