When I was a boy of about 30, I did pantomime with an actor who must have been at least 50. Can you imagine that? 50 and still dressing up for a living? I believe I was giving my Twanky at the time, darling.
Every night for six weeks or so, when we were waiting to go on, he would stand next to me and say, “Right lads, over the top. Let’s go and face the enemy”. Now, I loved the custard pies and the singing with the audience and the heckling. I revelled in it. So I steered well clear of this guy. If we’re going to do this thing twice a day, let’s enjoy it. Let’s go for it. I didn’t want to be dragged down by a miserable git who thought he ought to be doing Ibsen at the National Theatre.
I met him in a pub a couple of years later. He still wasn’t at the National. But to be fair to him, he wasn’t working behind the bar either. I reminded him of how much he hated the six weeks we’d spent together. He was astonished. “What do you mean? I love pantomime.”
“But the battle cry at the beginning of the night? The facing the enemy in their seven-year old ranks?”
“Oh, I just wanted us to find some energy. Give it all we’ve got.”
Several libations later, I realised that this man I’d quietly avoided for a whole Christmas was, in fact, a really nice bloke. The powerful metaphor he’d hit me with on a nightly basis had painted a very false impression (another metaphor I’m afraid). Like escaping genies, metaphors are very powerful. They say a lot about you. And once they’re out there, it’s difficult to get them back in the bottle.