Putting on a talent show towards the end of a holiday is a guaranteed way to pull in a large crowd, meaning the managers are always very keen to include them in the programme, even if what comes on stage isn’t worth the effort. There are a number of steps to the process.
Step One – Registration
A notice would be displayed asking people wanting to take part to meet at a given time. This is important to measure the level of interest and also filter out those who are unsuitable for a family show (generally, men of a certain age who don’t understand why their jokes are offensive “you can’t say anything these days”) or those who are not ready. “I would like to play the violin” “great, do you have a violin?” “not with me”
Step Two – Rehearsal
This is by far, the worst part of the process. The people who turn up are usually completely different to the people who registered in the first place and at least half will have changed their act to something entirely different. A group of singing kids who now want to make gingerbread instead, that kind of thing. Another problem that raises its head at this stage, is that many of the people who registered don’t actually have an act and want me to teach them a dance routine or how to juggle by tomorrow.
Between the rehearsal and the show, it is inevitable I will receive a series of emails, letters and phone calls regarding the people who have signed up. About a third will have changed their minds (often the best ones) but have found somebody to take their place. I have learned, it is worth checking if this other person actually knows they are being volunteered.
Then come the requests. I now always bring the lyrics of the songs as it is probable many people won’t know most of the words to their tune of choice. People suddenly decide it is vital they are provided with a long list of items they can’t possibly perform without. Often it is costumes “do you have a white and orange stripy jumpsuit I can borrow in a size 12” or “is there a leather jacket you don’t need that I can paint slogans onto?”. Other things I have been ask to locate with little warning have included a hay bale, three tins of yellow paint, a grand piano together with somebody to play it, a live dog and a mini cooper that can be driven through a fire door onto the stage.
Step Three – The Show
No matter how early I arrive, there will be a line of people wanting to talk to me. People who were up late drinking have mysteriously fallen ill and can’t perform, people who have suddenly realised they don’t have the music they need, people who have written their own introductions for me to read out (often at least three pages long) and almost nobody will want to do what they did at the rehearsal yesterday. I will have to change the running order at least half a dozen times before we begin.
The majority of the time, the shows are fine, if a little underwhelming. They are usually very fast, many people are done in less than 60 seconds and I have to stretch the time to make it worthwhile. There will always be a child who forgets what they are doing and starts crying. Also, somebody who announces that I wouldn’t let them do what they wanted. How unfair, they tell the audience, I didn’t provide them with a kangaroo costume that their family only requested two minutes after the show started. In amongst the people doing star jumps, blowing up balloons with their nose and telling slightly off-colour poems rather than the sonnet agreed, we struck gold.
- Some children playing flutes while simultaneously doing ballet
- A couple who both took the opportunity to propose marriage to the other
- A young woman who played 80s rock songs on the vacuum cleaner
In 2018, I made the best decision of my life, not marriage or children but to never run another talent show. I have never been happier.