Sunderland Echo reporter’s night in the Spamalot limelight

Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be... Kevin Clark.
Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be... Kevin Clark.
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Vacancy - one haybaler. For one night only...

Everyone who knows me will be familiar with my on-going battle to overcome crippling shyness – and how better than taking to the stage as part of the cast of Spamalot?

I’m loving it. What a glorious theatre this is.

Joe Pasquale

I roll up at the Empire at 6.15pm and make my way to the stage door to meet up with company manager Phil Sykes.

Phil is an old Empire hand and we chat about his memories of the theatre as he leads me up seemingly endless flights of stairs (the lift is out of order) to the dressing rooms on the top floor.

Wardrobe master Iwan Harries helps me into my robes and leads me backstage, where director Simon explains my role in its entirety – walk out on cue to a mark on the floor holding a bale of hay, face the audience, wait for the laugh, and off.

We walk it through – and Simon has a surprising number of notes.

I’m not fast enough, in the wrong place and don’t need to milk it by raising my haybale to the audience - otherwise, I’m an Olivier award in waiting.

Phil advises me to forget about hitting my mark and just make sure I’m lined up with a TV monitor hanging from the dress circle.

I stand in the wings as the first act unfolds, doing my best not to get under anyone’s feet.

It’s amazing how busy it is backstage, as walkie-talkie sporting crew members dodge past actors frantically changing between scenes.

But everyone’s lovely, making me feel welcome rather than in the way.

Joes Pasquale and Tracini both have words of encouragement and other members of the company make a point of coming over to chat.

I tell Joe Snr he’s obviously having a ball, despite having been on the road for months.

“I’m loving it,” he says. “What a glorious theatre this is.”

Then I’m on. I spot the monitor, get the laugh – and that’s it.

Iwan whisks me back upstairs to disrobe and I’m safely ensconced in the dress circle in time for ‘Fetchez la vache.’

My acting career is over.

Always leave them wanting more.

Kevin Clark.