Most Cambridge University drama centres round the ADC Theatre, a small but charming establishment which perfectly suits its use for student productions. Recent renovation has brought the building kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but backstage remains cramped and not a little squalid. With casts of thirty changing in a single rather small room, it is cosy and not without a certain rustic appeal, but could never be described as luxurious. It possesses a Green Room, but nobody seems to remember its original purpose as a place for actors to sit and relax when not required on stage. It is normally found full of set, props, lights, wiring and stressed techies. It is also painted floor to ceiling in a light-swallowing shade of black.
The Cambridge Arts Theatre also has a Green Room, which scores over the ADC version in a number ways, not least that it is extremely green. It has a TV, a fridge, a kettle and most importantly, a large (green) sofa. It is seated here that Fyse may be found, slouched comfortably with his feet up on the coffee table. He arrived more than an hour ago to enjoy a leisurely shower in his dressing room, and now has a large mug of coffee, a packet of chocolate biscuits and a cryptic crossword. He is a happy man.
An hour later another cast member arrives to find Fyse snoozing peacefully, the TV muttering quietly to itself in the corner. The mug and biscuit packet are empty, as is the crossword grid. She prods him to one side, clearing space for herself, and he mumbles in sleepy complaint. She produces a fresh packet of biscuits as if from nowhere, and he is happy once more.
As 18.30 approaches and the rest of the company arrive, Fyse finds himself on the route of an eclectic parade, spanning cello-toting band members and mildly-flouncing thespians. Black-clad noise boys flit about, attaching radio mics to anyone within striking distance. Fyse’s carefully structured pre-show preparation requires another half hour of slobbing in front of the TV, before getting changed at a slightly frantic pace when he realises time is running short. He decides against applying make-up, not because he thinks it is too feminine but because he can’t be bothered to remove it afterwards. Nobody has told him he looks too pale on stage so perhaps he has a naturally ruddy complexion. He would like to think this is a good thing, but fears it is not.
With fifteen minutes to go the full cast assemble for assorted infantile warm-up games. They pull silly faces, make stupid noises, jump about a bit and then finish with the peak of sophisticated, cerebral game play that is ‘Big Booty’. Final checks are made of costumes, props and microphones before beginners are called and the cast file from the green room, up towards the stage.
Fyse stands in the wings, shifting from foot to foot with nervous energy. The orchestra are tuning up, the techies perform final checks, the actors run things through once more in their mind. From the auditorium drifts a hum of excitement, the final few people find their seats. Suddenly the house lights begin to dim, and an expectant hush falls. Fyse flattens his hair, straightens his tie, and checks one last time that his trousers are safely zipped. He is ready…