SOP. Sudden Onset Particapaphobia happens a lot at the Fringe (and beyond).
Experience One - many years ago - Simon Fanshawe, in an old church, on what is now the site of the Traverse. I think I was involved in a Dallas sketch, I might have been Sue Ellen. Most of the memory has been blocked out and no amount of regression therapy will unearth it.
Experience two - not the Fringe but the glittering West End of London. Spamalot.Aisle seat in the stalls. Clue to the whereabouts of the Holy Grail. Done. No not done or donne but D one.As in row D, seat one. On stage, Tim Curry and assembled cast sang to me, Applause. Sweatalot. The annoying thing was that I wasn't even in seat D one - it was D three but there happens to be no D One or D two at The Palace Theatre so up I was dragged though thankfully not dragged-up.
You'd think I would have learned the lesson by now. Do not sit in the front row, do not make eye contact when performer starts showing signs of inviting audience participation, do not make any sudden movement when the house lights go up.
Experience three.Caroline Rhea. Row three does not guarantee safety. I didn't realise she was looking at and talking to me. Now she and the rest of the audience think I am slow-witted. When I eventually reply, I adopt a neutral accent (so she doesn't take the piss) and she thinks I am American. Lulled into false sense of security that she has loosened her grip. She comes back in for the kill later. I am forced to walk up to the stage. She did give me a CD but that won't make up for the nightmares and flashbacks.
Perhaps looking ahead, legal action is the only option - that would stop them cajolling unsuspecting audience members into to becoming unpaid extras and unwilling stooges in their dirty little games. Or maybe the Fringe Society, when discussing their new constitution, could introduce courses, like the ones for scaredy-cat flyers, to help particapaphobics cope with the hell that attending a comedy gig on the Fringe can become.
- Keith Paterson