That's me dying the first time - on stage.
My great disappearing act took place at the height of my professional theatrical fame. For the princely sum of £5 and a bottle of Fanta (a night? or was the £5 for a week?) I trod the same boards the feet of Liam Neeson, Ciarán Hinds and Adrian Dunbar had before me. I played the eldest of Macduff’s sons in Shakespeare’s Scottish play at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.
My main role was to die defending my Mum against the king’s hired killers – a bit of dramatic struggling and swooning after being stabbed. But it wasn’t all action. Oh no – I had lines too. A couple of Yeses and then that immortal exclamation.
Thou liest, thou shag-hair’d villain!
That’s what everyone remembers from that play, isn’t it? Never mind all that hubble bubble toil and trouble or being steeped so far in blood. Oh yes.
On the final night of the run, the usual murder happened. (Obviously I could have beaten the killers if I’d wanted, but I had to let them get away with it for the sake of the play. Just wanted to make that clear.) The murderers fled, leaving the bodies of me and my mother and brother strewn across the stage. Then the lights went down completely, leaving the stage in complete darkness to allow us to drag our carcasses off stage.
As usual, I quickly nipped through the side drapes, but Continue reading
Every year the normally sober sensible law-abiding Swiss go a bit crazy. They risk life and property by dragging huge flaming pyres through narrow streets. That’s for starters.
Then they converge on the city of Basel (or Basle in French) for a 0400 kick off. Yes, that’s four in the morning. It’s called the Morgestraich. At that moment all lights, including streetlights, are shut off. Then band after band of bizarre, grotesque, odd and even cute creatures begin three days of Continue reading
It was nearly the end of the night in my local. Two young women worked their way to the bar in time to get a drink before time was called. They were also in time to enter the landlord’s question.
One question. Free to enter. If there’s a single winner, he or she wins the prize money. If more than one person gets it right, it goes to a second question.
So I encouraged them to have a go – two scraps of paper, a pen, go on, have a guess.
The landlord’s question was this: In the last election Saddam Hussein contested in Iraq, what percentage of the vote did he get?
What? (they said) How are we supposed to know that?
It doesn’t matter. (said I) It’s free. You could win some money. Just have a guess. Write anything.
Oh come on! (they said) Give us a clue. Did he win?
That question took me by surprise. Has Saddam Hussein become such ancient history that young people of voting age in one of the countries that overthrew Saddam, and whose troops have just recently pulled back from Iraq, that their grasp of events is so slight?
Then again, I’m sure there are vast gaps in my own knowledge. And to be fair to the young women in my local, nobody in the pub got the right answer.
I’ll leave you dangling in suspense for the answer. C’mon – it’s just a number.