Liam Rudden: Backstage, that’s where all the real action is found

Brendan O'Carroll as Mrs Brown
Brendan O'Carroll as Mrs Brown
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“HAS anyone seen me da’s t*ts?”

A line from Brendan O’Carroll during our first meeting, that still cracks me up.

O’Carroll famous for his portrayal of everyone’s favourite Dublin mammy - okay, maybe not everyone’s - was regaling me with the tale of the time a vital part of his costume went AWOL shortly before a performance of the Mrs Brown stage show.

His son, then still a kid, now a star of the show, was dispatched to find the offending article, hence the hollered backstage appeal.

Backstage, for those who have only ever watched the action unfold from the auditorium is a strange and alien world.

Dark and unforgiving, life there is lived against the constant ticking of a clock.

Whether counting down to curtain up, to the next cue, a quick change, an entrance or a special effect, everyone constantly appears to be on a deadline.

In theory, none can ever be missed without throwing the whole performance into jeopardy.

No pressure then.

It’s a ruthless environment that, despite being familiar with, never ceases to fascinate me.

Recently, I’ve found myself in that backstage world after accepting an invitation to pop up in Spamalot as Sir Not Appearing.

He’s aptly named, the character is not actually in the show, he’s simply a one second gag, a cameo if you will, appearing not so much in a scene as, well, a moment, and with not so much a line as, well, a word. The word? “Sorry”.

Honestly, blink and you‘d miss me.

Beforehand, however, a rehearsal was called for after which I had the best part of an hour to kill before joining the #Spamfam.

I decided to immerse myself in the backstage atmosphere while I waited.

With half an hour to go until curtain up, and not an actor in sight, backstage was plunged into darkness as the house opened and the audience arrived.

Despite the cavernous gloom, lit only by lamps shaded with blue gel, the place remained a hive of activity.

Wardrobe assistants sought out costumes that had walked and stage crew completed running repairs on props, all nimbly navigating the obstacles in the dimness of their working environment.

When the actors did appear, with five minutes to spare, the sheer level of their focus struck me.

As I counted down mentally to my ‘big’ moment, they effortlessly bounced from scene to scene and costume to consume with scarcely a care - or so they made it appear.

Everything is, of course, well rehearsed both on stage and off and if ever you do get a chance to watch from the wings, find a corner and stay there, out of the way... although even then, at some point, someone is sure to move you aside as they reach for a prop you hadn’t even noticed.

Needless to say, it was with a sense of relief that I did my bit, removed my costume and disappeared through the stage door.

To think, I once wanted be an actor. Must have been mad.