Noisy Owls and Dead Nuns

Compiled by David Ward
The Green Shed Press for Theatre by the Lake

Noisy Owls and Dead Nuns

Former Guardian journalist David Ward, who is literary consultant for Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, has put together a very short compilation of excerpts from stage managers' reports from the theatre's last summer season into an amusing little gift booklet.

The theatre's summer season always features a resident company of actors who each take part in three of the six productions that are performed in repertory in its two performance spaces between May and November. The stage manager, of course, compiles a report at the end of each performance that records the timings of the show together with anything that didn't go according to plan.

Ward saw these reports for last season, and it seems that the formal style in which they are written—the actors are always referred to as "Mr ..." or "Miss ..."—combined with the often bizarre nature of the incidents they record struck him as something that even non-theatre people would find entertaining. So we get reports such as "One of Miss Saunders's bust-enhancing chicken fillets sprung a leak", and "Mr Ingles was suffering from uncontrollable flatulence during Act I Scene i".

Just to emphasise the humour, similar types of incidents, which may have happened weeks apart in reality, are grouped together, so we have a whole two-page section on "trousers, skirts, shoes, pants and knickers" with a couple of pant-splitting incidents from "Mr Ingles" in different plays and several incidents of "Mr Macqueen" forgetting to put his boxers on (Mr Macqueen comes across in the book as a whole as rather mischievous, it has to be said).

But the underwear section is only the second longest after "audience dramas"; it seems that spectators can be almost as troublesome as Mr Macqueen, with a cough that sounds like a seal, snogging on the front row, snoring, a "loud trump", a faulty hearing aid throwing out the theatre's communications system and items dropped onto the stage. One classic entry is simply, "one woman gave a standing ovation at the curtain call."

All this adds up to a lovely little gift book for anyone interested in theatre and what goes on backstage. The whole thing can be read in twenty minutes, but I've passed my copy to a few people who've responded with plenty of chuckles as they flick through it.

Noisy Owls and Dead Nuns is available for £2.50 plus 70p postage and packing from Theatre by the Lake / Noisy Owls, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5DJ or by 'phone on 01768 774411. Or, better still, you can pop along to this year's summer season and pick up a copy in person.

Reviewer: David Chadderton

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