When things go very wrong
Thursday 17th November 2011
Most mistakes on stage are quickly smoothed over by the actors improvising, or patching things up. The show then goes on. Sometimes, however, things go so very wrong that the performance grinds to a halt. This is exactly what happened at the press night, yesterday, of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock (the first co-production ever between the national theatres of the UK and Ireland). Midway through Act Two, at the point when Mrs Boyle opens the door to allow Mrs Tancred, who is coming down the stairs outside in order to bury her dead son, to come in, the unexpected occurred: the door stuck. As the cast gathered around it, each giving it a tug, some kicking it, a slow sensation spread through the audience, a collective holding of breath. But the door remained stubbornly tight shut. And without it, poor Mrs Tancred couldn’t come in, and the rest of the cast couldn’t leave. So a stage manager came on and told us to wait until it was fixed. The curtain came down. A few wags said that this stuck door was a metaphor of the history of Anglo-Irish relations. Then, about five minutes later, all was well and, to a round of applause, the show continued. And what an excellent production it is: warmly recommended.