Whispers from the Wings

The way of Danger Ball

November 28, 2013

This is my first professional theatre job. But it doesn't particularly feel like it at all. There's no inherent sense of inferiority, no animosity towards the less experienced, the less sure. And, aside from the occasional mention of my smooth and girlish countenance, nobody's looking at me like a young upstart and using words like 'whippersnapper'.

We're working hard, and we're all working hard together. And as the hours get longer, and the coffee-intake mounts, I should be writing something about what is currently making this show so interesting for me, what is getting me up in the morning embracing the Jubilee Line with a staggered excitement usually reserved for Disneyland-bound babies, and the progress we're making.

But I'm not going to write that. What gets me up in the morning are the games.

A whole new ball game
Particularly Danger Ball. A game we made up.

It sounds menial, and yes, some of our more experienced and eloquent blog-writers are canalling through the actual theatrical processes of the show rather than prattling on about some trivial ball games (Note: Danger Ball is in no way trivial but in fact very difficult and important and I am a stable and employed adult).

But I find the games, the cast tomfoolery, the heated cryptic crossword debates and deeply competitive soon-to-be-Olympic ball sports an integral part of my day. If only because, as we draw closer to our final week of rehearsals in London, my brain is about to stressplode.

We've got two long, emotionally grueling, mentally exhausting plays to get through. Every day we're discussing the historical and social contexts with more and more detail, exploring the characters with energy and fearlessness.

Danger Ball is a state of mind
It took me a long time to admit to myself that what we're doing is basically really hard. We've been running the two plays together in recent days as well. Leaving the stage and staring blankly at the person next to me, trying desperately to fathom what in the name of all that is holy is our next scene, is becoming a fairly frequent occurrence.

That's when Danger Ball becomes less a ball game, and more a state of mind. An ethos. A way of life.

I won't bore you with the details of its miraculous inception, nor of the simplicity of its rules or heart-pounding, high-octane physical fiddliness. Needless to say, the ball games, the little traditions (Nandos Mondays, I'm sad to say, is an actual thing now) and the lunchtime piano sessions are all things this whippersnapper is going to need in abundance in the coming months.

We're off to Stratford this weekend, we tech both plays, we preview them, we open, we have press nights, we have understudy runs. If we're not getting on, it's just not going to work. We're going to crash and burn. Like a poorly refereed game of danger-ball.

Give me theatrical integrity any day, of course. The show is coming together beautifully. But add some chair races, birthday cakes and debauched cast dinners, bring your banjo to rehearsals and start I based acapella groups over a pint, and suddenly the 8am Jubilee Line doesn't look so scary.

Batten the hatches Stratford-upon-Avon. Danger Ball is coming.

And it's really... really fiddly.

Image: Danger Ball - it's really fiddly.

by Joey Batey  |  No comments yet

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