NEILSON’S COLUMN (January 15, 2015): Personal experience shows that performers are not delicate divas

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Well, my time in Shrewsbury is drawing to an end.

In the final week of Peter Pan we only have seven shows to do.

It’s a big change from the eighteen shows we did in nine days in the run up to Christmas.

We’ve managed to pack sixty five shows into five and a half weeks, mostly performing twice a day. Of course, the cast were not immune from the bugs, coughs and colds, which were doing the rounds during December, but we carried on working through it all.

Performers are nothing like the delicate, Namby Pamby divas that we are often portrayed as being in the media. I have known actors who have continued to perform while extremely ill with food poisoning, sometimes with a bucket strategically placed in the wings. Only those behind the scenes would know why the actor is staying close to the edge of the stage!

I myself continued to perform in a show even though I had a reasonably bad injury. As I ran on stage during a musical a few years ago, I smashed my knee into a steel post. Obviously it hurt a bit, but as I was already on stage, it was a bit late to turn around and leave. I finished the show, including the dancing. I iced the knee, strapped it up and carried on like this for two weeks. Eventually I went to a local hospital where the x-ray confirmed a fracture of the left knee cap.

It was pointless taking time off the show by then, so I didn’t.

Last week, I travelled home to see Sleeping Beauty at The Hawth in Crawley. Hilary O’Neil was superbly evil as Carabosse and Stephen Mulhern was wonderfully entertaining as Jangles. Yet again, Crawley panto was extremely impressive. I’m already looking forward to next year’s offering, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Next week I’ll be back in Horsham to help at JN Theatre Group, the drama school I run with my wife Gael. I get as much enjoyment from coaching and directing young people as I do from performing.

New ideas about acting often spring to mind, or someone in the class will spark a thought and something exciting is created.

The rehearsal process can start without any of us knowing where it will lead. It’s a mutually shared pathway of exploration and that’s the very essence of creativity.

Visit www.jntheatregroup.com to find out more about the drama school.