Saturday, 21 April 2018

Method acting? Should be just a piece of cake

IT is mid-January, and I’m horrified. I’ve accepted a part in a play showing at the Kenton in March and

IT is mid-January, and I’m horrified. I’ve accepted a part in a play showing at the Kenton in March and I realise I should have read it first.

If I had, I probably would have declined politely, saying: “Sorry, too much on at the moment, good luck with it.” But, no, I accepted. At the first reading I learned that I must play first a decrepit man in his seventies — no problem. But then I find out I must also play his 30-year-old younger self — in underpants — chasing a pretty woman around the stage. Big problem.

Here’s why.

The play is Alan Ayckbourn’s Communicating Doors and my part is Reece. He’s 30-something and slim (for at least half the play) while I’m 62 and fat.

That is not my opinion, by the way. At that point in January, in my estimation, my body is mostly made up of muscle with a little Christmas cladding, however my GP practice nurse thinks differently.

She breaks the devastating news the week before the first Ayckbourn reading.

Normally, when she gives me a lecture about my weight and its effects on my cholesterol level, I smile, accept the theory and go and have a cheese sandwich to celebrate. This time I decide to put up a fight. It goes something like the following.

First, she attacks my “mostly-muscle” line — in fact she smashes it straight through extra cover.

“No it’s not, it’s hard fat. You are obese.”

I come back with the big-boned argument; same shot.

“But I exercise really hard,” I say.

“Very good,” she counters. “You’re still fat.”

Actually, she was more civil than that but it’s still three boundaries from three balls. At this rate I’ll soon be sent off.

Then she tells me I have a Body Mass Index of 31.

I try a bouncer: “So does Jonny Wilkinson.”

Get out of that, Nursey!

“Jonny Wilkinson is a solid rugby player with no spare flesh on him. You are not Jonny Wilkinson. You force me to be blunt. You are three stone overweight. You are clinically obese.”

Ouch!

I’m out of ideas. She’s won. But it’s still only theory, and while I want to lose the weight, there is a rack full of wine at home, some excellent cheeses in the fridge and the Christmas chocolates to be eaten.

A week later is the first cast get-together — and theory turns into hard, cold fact.

The reading is going well until I get to the point in the text where I find I’m expected to bounce around a hotel room in my smalls — and inadvertently blurt out: “Oh no!”

When I tell them about nursey, a fellow Henley Player starts to laugh. He thinks it’s hilarious.

“Ha ha, at least I don’t have to lose weight this time,” he says, smugly. Clearly he thinks that I do — rude man! He tells us of the time he lost three stone to play the lead in Summer Holiday. “Well done,” I want to say, “but you put it on again, though, didn’t you?”

He’s still laughing as we leave the director’s house after the read-through is finished. But I’m not.

A day later, I stumble across some old pictures of me in my early thirties. I look at them with a mixture of wonder and shame. What happened? How did that slim-hipped man become this shipping hazard?

I can listen to the practice nurse tell me I’m fat and promise to do something about it, then let it slip. But there is no motivator like vanity.

I resolve immediately to give up alcohol, cheese and sweets for as long as it takes, to step up my already busy exercise programme, and hope that somehow the next two months of that will claw back three decades.

It’s a big ask, but I’m damned if you’re going to be allowed to see 14 stones of semi-naked blubber wobbling around the stage in what’s supposed to be a sexy romp. I’m getting there. I’ve lost a few chins already and there’s only two left. Watch this space!

lThe Henley Players present Communicating Doors by Alan Ayckbourn at the Kenton Theatre, Henley from Tuesday, March 5 to Saturday, March 9. Box office: (01491) 575698 or visit www.kentontheatre.co.uk

MIKE ROWBOTTOM was looking forward to rehearsals for his role in an Alan Ayckbourn farce — until his GP practice nurse told him some unwelcome news about the girth of his waistline. He tells the story...

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