DISASTER IN LONDON’S WEST END

Since I started performing on-stage versions of my books, I’ve been to many surprising places. With STORIES ABOUT STORYTELLERS I went from coast (Queen Charlotte City, Haida Gwaii) to coast (Woody Point, Newfoundland) to coast (Ungava Bay, on an Adventure Canada cruise ship, in July 2015). Over 100 Canadian performances, so far!

Outside Canada, I took the show to Mexico, and to China, with performances in Beijing and Shanghai.

Now, with the new show based on the fall 2015 book. ACROSS CANADA BY STORY: A Coast-to-Coast Literary Adventure, I’ve started to roam around Canada. So far, I’ve given about 20 shows, in every province west of New Brunswick. Many, many more to come. Watch this space….or invite me to your theatre, library, bookstore, or club!

But in April I opened up new territory, by giving the show in Scotland and in England. The Scottish show was in St. Andrews, my alma mater. I was there to celebrate my 50th anniversary of graduation. I gave the show in the Byre Theatre, to a small but appreciative audience that seemed interested to learn about our major Canadian authors.

A side note: the Byre Theatre played a role in my life, perhaps preparing me for the performing life. In 1964, I and five friends under Alan Strachan took over The Byre for a week, to put on an original satirical review, a little like “Beyond The Fringe”. A high point occurred in the middle of the show when I stepped out beyond the closed stage curtains. In an annoyingly mincing voice I posed as a theatre authority, saying:  “Trends in humour are ever-changing. Satire has come and gone. Now many experts in the field are predicting that the new popular trend could well be….Slapstick!” Whereupon a bare arm flew out between the stage curtains and smashed a large custard pie into my face.

Blackout.

And the bare-armed Stage Manager then led me, blinded and gasping, back to my dressing room, where towels awaited me. As I finished mopping my face, more than thirty seconds later, they were still laughing. Give the audience what they want… And seeing me getting a creamy pie smashed into my face certainly seemed to hit a new theatrical record for total audience delight, every night of the week. It was good training for a Publisher.

There were no custard pies in evidence when I gave the show on April 19 in Canada House, in Trafalgar Square. The High Commission people treated me very well, and Scott Proudfoot introduced me graciously to the 70 people assembled in the grand MacKenzie King room. The stage, about two feet high, was bare, to allow me to roam around, retreating where necessary to the screen at the back, to point out details of Anthony Jenkins’ caricatures, or of the maps as we moved across the country. It was all very fine, and Nelson was standing unconcerned on his column outside the window when BANG, I fell off the stage.

It wasn’t just a little trip off the back. It was a full swan-dive, so that I landed on my shoulder and head, legs in the air. The screen went blank, people screamed, and Jane and Scott stormed across the stage to pick me up, and dust me off, and restore the shattered slide-changer that had suffered in the fall.

Miraculously, I was not hurt, and was able to carry on, and even to enjoy the excellent dinner that the High Commission staged in my honour in the MacDonald room. But since Trafalgar Square is definitely in London’s West End, a theatrical Mecca, I hope that someone can come up with a selling line about this incident that I can use to promote my show.

Any ideas?

For an objective account of my fall please read the blog of Debra Martens, spouse of Scott Proudfoot.

https://canadianwritersabroad.com/2016/04/27/falling-for-love-of-books/

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2 comments on “DISASTER IN LONDON’S WEST END

  1. PeterNosalik says:

    Oh, Doug, you poor soul. I suppose a pie in the face and landing on your head will keep you grounded, but it seems like a high price to pay for fame and glory. Perhaps you and Jane should stay closer to home.

    • Douglas Gibson says:

      Peter, Amazingly, the prospect of a pie in the face was never dismaying…..but I don’t think I’d volunteer to fall off the stage every night.Jane and I will be more careful in future. Stay well! Doug

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