A funny afternoon for Fryern Ladies’ Probus

Tony Harris and the Committee of Fryern Ladies' Probus SUS-140812-124804001
Tony Harris and the Committee of Fryern Ladies' Probus SUS-140812-124804001

The warmth and cosiness of The Roundabout Hotel, on a bitterly, cold, wintery day, is like no other and the ladies welcomed the open fire and appreciated the colour and generosity of superb Christmas decorations.

The setting was complete for their 11th lunch and soon the clinking of many glasses and the sound of animated conversations filled the air; in expectation of a pleasant hour (or three) spent with like-minded friends.

The lone and indeed brave male to attend the lunch was a gentleman called Tony Harris. Tony, the invited Speaker of the day, was already well known in W.I. circles for his hilarious, but down to earth and historically factual, portrayals of Henry VIII and Sherlock Holmes.

Today’s talk was on An Actor’s Life and, whilst none of us was entirely sure about the exact content, we knew that we were in for an interesting and humorous afternoon.

Tony did in fact reduce us all ‘to stitches’ in a very short time, and kept us there all afternoon. He recounted that after years in journalism he had changed direction, after redundancy, and had pursued ’The Stage’ – as opposed to ‘Exiting pursued by a bear’ as in one memorable play!

We heard about the diverse meanings behind well used theatrical terminology such as: 1)The Scottish Play

2)Never Whistle on Stage and 3) Break a Leg.

These sayings are in fact all well - meaning and in the professional, superstitious world of acting taken most seriously. Taken in order these translate to mean:

1) Macbeth, being a popular money making production, was frequently staged when The Company was short of funds so if you actually used the word Macbeth it would mean that you were short of money and actors probably wouldn’t be paid.

2) Areas above the stage were used to hang/support heavy scenery/props etc. Whistling carried better than shouting so technicians and back stage staff etc. would use a whistle/mime language to communicate. So if you whistled on stage it could be interpreted wrongly and something heavy might fall onto you and result in injury.

3) The stage is usually dressed with side or wing curtains sometimes called ‘legs’. Breaking a leg, when you entered from the wings, and maybe slightly brushing the curtain to one side, as you made an excellent entrance, was considered lucky - so it means good luck and make a successful entrance.

After one entertaining hour we could have happily doubled the time. Tony was warmly thanked by Wendy Cliffe and we all wished each other Happy Christmas.

Our next meeting will be on the 15th January and our Speaker will be Audrey Gray who will speak to us on ‘Travels and Troubles with Audrey’.

Report by Russ Fry. Picture by Simon Green.