art by Joey Feldman
TAXI TO THE SUBURBS … NO ROOM AT THE INN … A SAVAGE ENCOUNTER ON A STAIRWAY IN THE DARK… TERROR HITCHES A LIFT ON THE BATTERSEA PARK ROAD…
I must’ve been early getting to the Latchmere Theatre that Monday. The theatre was situated above a recently renovated pub along Battersea’s conveyor-belt main street. I was wearing my Allen Ginsberg skull-mask with glasses to avoid unwanted confrontations. I found the back entrance up a newly erected iron fire escape and went inside.
Immediately on my left, there was a door. It was open. It looked like a toilet. Inside, a dark figure hunched over the pan. My god, I thought, I hadn’t expected such realism, not so soon anyway. I’ve been out in the country for two years, so I’m out of touch with theatre. I didn’t like to ask if he was okay. Actors get funny at rehearsals, though I didn’t remember a bag of plumber’s tools lying there in the actual book. So I moved on.
Stumbling down a dark corridor, over pipes and dangerously loose wires I made my way toward sounds of banging and out-of-tune whistles.
“Ah Hullo!” I grabbed the hand of a tall, slender character emerging from a door with light beyond. He was wearing shades. I shook his hand warmly.
“My God, you look just like him,” I said. He looked at me and he looked at the mask I was wearing. “Oh, sorry, don’t worry,” I said as I removed it. “It’s me, Ralpho Steadman. You must be playing Hunter S. Thompson. It’s amazing! You could be him.”
“What!?” he looked at me strangely.
“Hunter.” I continued, “You’ve got him off to a tee, the way you move, the nervous twitch. The weird, deep voice ….. Amazing.”
“Er…” He looked a little nonplussed.
“Oh sorry,” I said. “Relax, it’s okay. I’m not spying. Just looking in. You know. You’re great – keep it up. Ah…don’t I know your face. From telly perhaps? Great stuff.”
“Don’t think so,” he said shuffling uneasily.
“Oh sorry. It’s theatre, right?” I replied, looking for openers. “Real acting! None of those crappy re-takes. Straight off first time. Know your lines. Tradition. That sort of thing. What’s your name? I ought to know you.”
“It’s Arnold,” he said. “I’m the electrician.”
“Ah…yes – just the man I want to see. Look – er, my wife’s thinking of opening a nursery school in our outbuilding. Nothing grand. About 30 kids. Proper thing. Not just child-minding. The place needs electrifying of course. You ever work out of town? Never mind. I’m looking for Lou Stein. Is he here?”
“Try up those stairs. Take a left, along the corridor, then right down the end. They’ll know.”
“Thanks. And don’t forget – day in the country – do you good.” I scribbled out my number and turned to leap upstairs.
“Oopsaaaieeeeeeee!!” A sharp pain, like thirteen cattle prods all at once, took my breath away as I drove my shin bone into the bonnet of a huge, red fibreglass Chevy convertible being carried across my path.
“Ouch and Hell!” I screamed, as I tried to hold in the agony and sorrows I’d long forgotten. “Sorry, my fault! Is that it? The red convertible? Oh no! Arrrgh! No!”
“Are you alright?” The voice came from a tiny girl in a cream-white fluffy V-neck sweater who had been carrying the Chevy with another figure in the shadows.
“Blood!” I screamed. “I’m bleeding! Oh God, all over my pants. Get me a doctor quick! A real doctor. Nothing Gonzo – I don’t want to die ….!”
“Relax man. It’s only red paint. We just sprayed the Chevy.” Continue reading