communication with the director in Production Control.

‘Sod Scott! You can’t start till I’m in there to do the count-down.’

‘Scott says we’re pushed for time.’

‘And if we are, whose bloody fault is that? What do you expect with directors who don’t know what they’re doing? Scott Newton — huh. He couldn’t direct piss into a pot.’

This colourful invective impressed the studio into silence. The cast stopped muttering in the audience seats. The cameramen disengaged themselves from their cameras. The sound-boom operators hung expectant from their mobile platforms. The assembled throng of scene-shifters, painters, carpenters and men whose only function seemed to be to wear lumberjack checked shirts, suspended their discussion of racing and overtime rates. The dressers stopped bitching and the make-up girls arrested their powder-puffs.

Only one man seemed unaware of the atmosphere. Rod Tisdale, author of many television comedy gems, including What’ll the Neighbours Say? and The Strutters, stepped out of the shadows towards Sadie. He was a man totally without distinguishing features, so ordinary as to be indescribable. The only thing that distinguished him from the archetypal man in the street was the huge amount of money he made from his well-tried writing formula. But since he never spent any of it, even the money was hardly distinctive.

‘Sadie,’ he said in his toneless voice, ‘while there’s a lull. I wonder if you could just give a note to Scott. In the Estate Agent’s Office scene, I think it’d be better if the Colonel said, “Not in these trousers”, rather than “Not in this suit”.’

‘What?’ demanded Sadie scaldingly.

‘Should have thought of it before,’ Rod Tisdale continued, impervious and without inflection. ‘Old rule of comedy — suits aren’t funny, trousers are. See what Scott thinks.’

‘Suits, trousers — what does it matter?’

‘Oh, it matters a lot, Sadie. One’s a joke, one isn’t.’

‘Well, don’t bother me with it. Tell your “joke” to little Jane. Maybe she’ll write it down in her immaculate shorthand — there must be something she can do.’ Sadie turned to leave, but thought of one more parting shot. ‘Maybe sometime, Rod, you’ll point out the other jokes in this script to me — I was damned if I could see any!’

And she stalked off majestically to the Production Control. The atmosphere relaxed. Charles Paris suddenly was again aware of how much he wanted to do a pee.

But too late. Robin Laughton leapt forward on a cue from his earpiece and cried, ‘Okay, we are in a Dress Run situation. We’ll take the opening titles as read to save time, and go straight to the Sitting Room scene. Strutters and Removal Men — Okay? And it’s only a short scene, so stand by in the Golf Club Bar.’

Oh damn, thought Charles, have to use a bit of self-control.

George Birkitt and Aurelia Howarth took up their opening positions outside the Sitting Room door. On the set the two Removal Men, played by a couple of those character actors who are never out of work, prepared to deliver Rod Tisdale’s computerised jokes.

‘Okay, bit of hush,’ bellowed Robin Laughton. ‘This is a Dress Run situation. Good luck, boys and girls. Imagine titles, music, dum-de-dum-de-dum — and cue!’

‘Hey, Fred,’ said the First Removal Man looking at a cut-glass decanter with a gummed label on it, ‘What does F-R-A-G-I–L-E mean?’

But before the Second Removal Man could say, ‘I don’t know. Chuck it over here and I’ll have a look’, a new figure bounced on to the studio floor, and, with a cheery cry, ensured that they had to start again.

It was Peter Lipscombe, the show’s boyish producer. ‘Hello, everyone.’ he said. ‘Everything okay?’

In spite of their earlier anxiety, they completed the Dress Run in good time. One of the reasons why Rod Tisdale made so much money out of his scripts was that they were always very simple technically. Scott Newton, as a new young director with aspirations, had planned all kinds of clever shots over shoulders, through flower vases and looking down from cranes, but as rehearsals progressed, it had become clear that there was only one way to shoot a Rod Tisdale script, and that was to follow the predictability of the jokes. So the camera script had become a sequence of three linked shots — MCU (Mid-Close-Up) of Character A setting up joke, MCU of Character B delivering pay-off, CU (Close-Up) of reaction from Character A to milk audience laughter. Very little else was needed.

So they finished at five to six, having played their show to the sycophantic laughter of the Producer, the Casting Director (a dramatic ex-actress called Tilly Lake) and the warm-up man, a minor comedian called Charlie Hook, whom Charles Paris remembered, though with little warmth, from a previous pilot he had made for West End Television, The New Barber and Pole Show.

Scott Newton bustled out of the Production Control at five to six, with Sadie Wainwright in tow, and Jane Lewis punctiliously following her. ‘Right, a few notes,’ he said rather feebly.

He didn’t look well. The day was proving a strain and he patently wasn’t getting the moral support a director can usually count on from his PA. He had only been freelance for about six months, having left a cosy niche in BBC Schools Department for the higher earning potential of the commercial world. Like many others of his age in television, he had recently been divorced, and was finding that the demands of maintenance payments inhibited the glamorous life-style he thought appropriate to a young television director.

The Strutters was his first big show, and he didn’t appear to be enjoying it. ‘A few notes,’ he repeated with even less conviction.

‘Okay, boys and girls,’ Robin Laughton bellowed, as if testing a famous, but distant, echo. ‘We are in a note- giving situation. Could all artists assemble in the Sitting Room set.’

Damn. Charles Paris had been half way out of the studio door on his way to the Gents. Reluctantly, he came back. The pressure on his bladder was almost intolerable.

The cast assembled with indifferent grace in the Sitting Room set. ‘Right now, notes,’ said Scott Newton slowly.

‘Come on, hurry up,’ urged Sadie. ‘I’ve got a lot to do. And we’ll have to get out of the studio when they start the Line-up at six.’

‘Okay, okay, sure. Now, notes. George and Aurelia, in that first scene — ’

Peter Lipscombe bounced up again, Tigger-like. ‘Hello, everything okay?’

‘Yes, yes, fine, thank you, Peter. Just giving a few notes. Er, George and Aurelia, in that — ’

‘Sorry, love,’ interrupted Robin Laughton. ‘Can we release cameras and sound? Sound Supervisor just asked me. They’ve got this union meeting.’

‘Yes, sure. Um, George and Aurelia, could you. .’

‘Oh, I can’t wait while you dither around,’ snapped Sadie. ‘I’ve got to go and give Telecine all the revised cues. Here are the notes.’ She thrust a clipboard at Scott and marched off.

Charles saw his opportunity. What had been an urgent need was now an absolute necessity. ‘Just got to nip to the Gents. Be back in a — ’

‘I’m not surprised, the amount you drink,’ Sadie tossed savagely over her shoulder, as she barged out of the studio.

‘Okay, Charles,’ said Scott Newton, though there was no chance of the actor waiting for permission. ‘We’ll continue notes in the Control box if we have to move out of here.’

Charles Paris moved swiftly across the studio, trying not to break into the indignity of a run. As he went, he heard Scott continue, ‘Now, George and Aurelia — ’

‘Scott darling,’ fluted Aurelia Howarth’s cultured elderly voice, ‘I am a little worried about Cocky. The poor darling’s in the Quick Change Room. I wonder if. .’

‘Yes, just a — ’

‘Okay, boys and girls,’ bellowed Robin Laughton. ‘Six o’clock. We are in a Line-up situation. Clear the studio.’

After the blessed relief of the Gents, Charles splashed water from the basin over his face. Sober up a bit before the next onslaught. It was a long break, an hour and three-quarters, before they were due to start recording. And that would inevitably mean one or two more drinks.

He looked at himself in the mirror. Dressed in the golf club blazer selected by Wardrobe, he looked more respectable than usual. Not in bad nick really for a man of fifty-two. And in work. In work! With the strong possibility of more work. Life felt good.

He walked out of the Gents and started instinctively towards the bar. Sadie Wainwright, in a rare moment of

Вы читаете Situation Tragedy
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату