“The role is a very brief cameo in one scene of the show; this involves walking onstage in a Spamalot-themed costume at which point the cast say ‘You're in the wrong play’, to which you respond by saying ‘sorry’, and walking straight off again. It's that simple!”
‘What could possibly go wrong?’ I think, and send an enthusiastic reply.
Arriving at stage door on the night in question (4 January), I’m greeted by the show’s PR Jemma, who is remarkably enthusiastic considering she’s working late on a Friday to ensure some idiot hack gets to the stage in time.
Ushered into the capable hands of the wardrobe team (Suzanne Partridge and 'wigs mistress' Dianne St James), I immediately feel every inch the star as my armour is fitted and false moustache glued in place. I enquire how often the role is played by a guest. “Usually about once a week, though we’ve got a lot at the moment,” Suzanne sighs, as I prance about in my costume like a kid at Christmas.
On stage, after some lunges and impressively harmonised voice exercises, the cast take me through the scene, which occurs about 20 minutes into Act One. I’m embarrassed to admit it takes me three run-throughs to master the precise combination of head turns (out to the audience, back to the cast, out again) and phraseology (“sorry”, said with voluble meekness).
This is not what I need to hear moments before going on stage. I look to the floor nervously, whereupon my beard gets glued to my breastplate. This does not bode well I reflect as I frantically yank it free. Fortunately, Dianne appears on cue to calm me down and provide a final touch up.
The big moment arrives and I hear my cue word – “aptly”. Or rather, I anticipate hearing my cue word and step out on stage a few beats too soon. It means that I have to hover awkwardly behind Sir Robin as I wait to deliver my big line. “Sorry!” I finally squeak, and hurry off.
“You were marvellous - definitely in the top three,” a fellow knight tells me afterwards (it’s quite hard to tell who’s who in the gloom of the wings). I feel mightily relieved that it’s over, and head straight for the dressing room to recover.
My Mum, watching from the stalls, provides a glowing interval review and tells me that, despite only having a single word, I resolutely stole the show. A thorough and wholly objective analysis if ever I heard one.
I have decided to quit the acting biz at the very top. But my respect for those who do it night in, night out, from those with a single line to those with a thousand, has increased no end. It really isn’t as easy as it looks.
All that remains for me to say is a huge thank you to all the company of Spamalot who made my five seconds of fame so fun, and to warn those following in my boots that it turns out Elton was right. Sorry really is the hardest word.