Six weeks to go and we still had no idea who was going to be playing the role of our leading man, let alone the five other members of the cast and a stage manager to look after the show. Advertise in a theatre magazine, and you’ll be inundated, we were advised.
The highlight of that foolish endeavor was a delightful 83-year-old lady with impaired hearing, who was convinced that she could play the part of our hero’s 50-year-old better half. Then there was a guitar playing country and western singer, who thought he was auditioning for the male lead in a musical. We were getting nowhere fast!
Fortunately, Ray knew a casting agency from his time in television, which meant armed with a script, a visit to a fourth floor walk -up, in the middle of theatre land.
A few days later and another expense I hadn’t budgeted for, the agency doing their best to appear enthusiastic, provided us with a short list of actors they felt suitable for the two day reading. They obviously knew their stuff because by the first morning we had found our Larry and his long-suffering wife Helen.
What I didn’t know was that I was the one who was having to pay their wages! ‘Don’t worry’, I was told. ‘You’ll recoup your costs from the ticket receipts’. That’s all right, I thought, except not being a mathematical genius, it didn’t even take me long to work out that at twenty pounds a ticket, we would need a 60% occupancy rate for all our 42 performances, just to break even. ‘We’ll just have to double the price for the seats’, I insisted. That was a non-starter. I was informed that you could see a show in the West End for that money!
To say I was beginning to panic is an understatement. Theatre hire! Actors! Stage design! Whatever next! Things couldn’t possibly get any worse? Could they?