Checking her watch in the dim light of the community theatre, Louise approximated the ending of the performance and gauged she would miss seeing her favourite band. At best, she could catch the last couple of songs of the set. Looking back down to her notepad with the programme folded inside the back cover, she skimmed over her notes.
In the shadows of the stage, a solitary actor moved towards a cardboard boulder. Sitting down, the stage lights focused on him and Louise watched his thick tongue protrude slightly from his mouth and move from side to side as he scrunched his eyes. His face took on a look of concentration, trying to recall information. He looked at his hands and then off stage, the pause lengthening causing the audience to shuffle in their seats, as he failed to remember the final lines.
A quiet prompt whispered from the side of the stage caused a wide smile to appear. Short hands and stubby fingers repositioned the ivy wreath crowning his broad and listing forehead and began.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
Louise stopped scrawling notes for The Hopetoun Chronicle’s entertainment blog. She had come along to the opening night at the invitation of the director, in order to spruik the performance. Shuffling back in her seat, Louise replayed the earlier mental conversation with herself. Work was work and some things needed to be done to move up the journalistic ladder. Amateur theatre was a rung above school theatre and musicals. She had scorned the black skivvy and beret brigade at college, concluding that it would be ironic to not use a silencer should you need to kill a mime.
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
Titania was a vision, entering the stage in a wheelchair, festooned like a Mardi Gras float. She pushed by a retinue of fairies and elves with the disjointed gait of legs like insects, or a pudgy waddle or felt their way across the stage with the aid of a long white cane. There was a party in the carriage of the Fairy Queen accented by costume and streaks of glitter reflecting the stage lights.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
She scanned the list of actors’ profiles and found the actor playing Puck. Andrew Davison. His first performance, the program stated. The glossy black and white photo showed a rounded, slightly pudgy face characterised with an expansive smile that creased the corners of his eyes and somehow captured the essence of life and innocence.
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
Scanning back through the list of actors Louise noted the different abilities: Downs Syndrome, cerebral palsy, deaf, blind, spina bifida. Puck continued his delivery with the slightly slurred and mumbled delivery of a person with Downs Syndrome. Yet the cadence and metre of the Bard’s words shaped itself to the timbre of Puck’s delivery like water rolling over stones on the creek bed creating its own music.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Louise scanned the audience and saw the attentive faces of fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters. She saw in their faces a distinct pride, a connection with the actor on stage that Louise did not share. The faces in the program had family in the audience, all who had come to watch a play. They did not see physical impediment or intellectual disability.
Else the Puck a liar call;
It pricked at Louise. Here in the forest, they were kings and queens and mischievous sprites. This was a world in which she had no connection.
So, good night unto you all.
When the lights would be turned up and costumes packed away, Louise surmised the actors would return to this world, existing as the forgotten ones; the shadows around the periphery of community, held at arm’s length as lower castes.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
The audience erupted in applause as Puck walked to the front of the stage and bowed stiffly from the waist, his right arm across his stomach and his left behind his back. Here was life and love and acceptance.
Louise realised her hands had retreated, firmly pushed into metaphorical pockets. Even the openness of the simple act of a handshake refused. She found herself applauding, not as Puck requested, but in the words she scrawled into her notebook.
Author’s Note: Last week I wrote a post, Speaking for the Voiceless, in which I outlined a little of my thinking regarding the focus of my writing. It reminded me of a story I wrote about 2 years ago for the now defunct [fiction]Friday. I dragged it out and gave it a little polish to present here. Still not perfect, but it captures the essence of last week’s post.