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Thursday, 10 October 2013

Performing at The Leicester & Rutland AGM of the Women's Institute, Oct 2013


Fifteen minutes of entertainment at the Leicestershire and Rutland Annual Women's Institute Group Meeting, hosted by Lutterworth WI and held at, The Lutterworth Cricket Club, on October 4th 2013.
                                                          
Madalyn Morgan in dinner suit



It was a fantastic evening.  Lutterworth WI President Frances welcomed everyone, and then we stood up and sang, Jerusalem, which got the evening off to a great start.  

 
    Toastmaster, Geoffrey Harris
When we arrived both Geoffrey Harris and I were dressed in black. Then Geoffrey changed into his red Toastmasters tails and I changed in to... Well, you'll see what I changed into lower down the page.

Geoffrey had been a school teacher, and then a professional clown. Ten years ago he trained as a Toastmaster and is now a Fellow of the National Association of Toastmasters, working in some of the grandest hotels and houses in the country.

"A Toastmaster's Tale" is a light amusing talk about his work, which Geoff has performed in a wide variety of venues all over the UK.
N.B. And, Geoff knew every word of Jerusalem. What a star!

I was asked to judge "A Diamond Celebration" with the WI Federation Representative. So difficult.  The half a dozen amazingly clever table top designs were made of white and silver, fabrics and crystals. They were, Diamond Jubilee arrangements. I know everyone says it, but they really were brilliant. They were all winners, but there could only be a first, second, and third. Thankfully we both agreed on the placing. There was a lovely home made buffet with wine. I was given a large glass of very nice red wine, which I put on a side table for after I'd finished my stand-up performance. In more than thirty years as a professional actress, I have never had alcohol before going on stage - and I wasn't about to start then. So after putting my wine on a side table, alongside a glass of water, which I might or might not need between sketches, I set out my costume. I needed to put it in order, so I could slip in and out of it easily, unobtrusively, while introducing the next sketch. I'd rehearsed it until it was slick.

First, on the table behind me, I put a black chiffon and sequinned stole and a string of pearls for Mrs Fanshaw in "Stately As A Galleon." Next to that a polka-dot headscarf, already tied in a bow at the top, wave grippers, nappies and clothes pegs. I draped a 1950s bibbed-pinafore on the back of a chair, so I could easily and quickly slip my arms into it while introducing the second sketch as a cockney girl, "Rainbow Corner." Finally, I set a simple brown cardigan and a beige woollen scarf for the nursery school sketch where I play the nursery school teacher in "Story Telling".
Frances introduced me and I joined her in the middle of the room in front of the table.  I smiled broadly, but I had never been so nervous in my life. 
Mrs Fanshaw in "Stately As A Galleon"

I thanked Frances for inviting me, said what a lovely evening I was having - and how good the Toastmaster was - and began chatting about Joyce Grenfell's life and career while I took off my jacket and put on pearls and stole to play, Mrs Fanshaw in, Stately As A Galleon.

The audience laughed in all the right places (not difficult to achieve when you're saying Joyce Grenfell's amazingly funny lines). And, after being more nervous than I had ever been, I was enjoying myself. At the end of the first sketch, still talking, I went for the second costume, the pinafore on the back of the chair. And it had gone. I got myself ready all but the pinafore, and then said, 'Who's nicked my pinny?' The audience laughed. They looked around. I think they thought it was part of the show. Then I said, 'It was on a chair just here.' The super lady who had adjudicated with me said, 'I took the chair.' I pulled her leg accusing her of trying to steal the show and there was more laughter. She had been sitting on it. It was great fun.

Cockney friend of Gladys and May
in "Rainbow Nights"
This sketch is set in a kitchen some years after WWII where London girls look back to when they were young; when they used to go, up West (the West End) to a US canteen called, Rainbow Corner.  I play, Me, Gladys, May, and four yanks - Joe, Hank, Red and Slim.  Yep! No kiddin.  I don't think I could have written a better bit of audience participation script, if I'd tried.  At the end of the first paragraph I look to the left and say, 'Me and Gladys had some fun.  We did, didn't we Glad?'  And before I could say the last line as Glad,  'We did.' The lady on the table where I was looking said, 'We did.'  It was perfect.  

A photograph of London girls dancing with American servicemen at Rainbow Corner, 1944

A Getty image, borrowed x ? x

The last sketch, Story Time, was written in 1944 and is one of Joyce Grenfell's Six Nursery School Sketches.  It has the famous line, 'George...  Don't do that!'
                                   Nursery school teacher in "Story Time"

                 Preparing to play the girls in "Rainbow Nights"


  
  'George...  Don't do that!'

9 comments:

  1. Madalyn, what a fab post and a truly entertaining one. Your audience must have been delighted to have you there entertaining them. I would love to have been there. xxx

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    1. Thank you, Pauline. It was the generosity of the fab ladies of the WI that made the night so special. It was a lovely evening, which I really enjoyed. Talk soon x

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  2. What a great post and a great blog! I look forward to reading more! Like Pauline I would have loved to have been there too x

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  3. Thanks Nikki. It had been a while since I'd been on stage and I was quite nervous, but the audience were brilliant. In no time they were laughing, I'd forgotten my nerves, and we were all enjoying ourselves. Joyce Grenfell was such a brilliant writer and comedienne that it's impossible not to laugh at her lines. Her work is a gift to do. x

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  4. Looks like it was a fun evening. I wish I lived closer because I would have loved to be there.

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    1. It would have been lovely to see you. The evening certainly was fun. The toastmaster was very good. The food was lovely, the wine too. Of course I didn't have any until after I'd done my performance. Afterwards I could have done it all over again, but before I was very nervous. For two weeks, monologues ran around my mind as I tried to sleep. Ha, ha, ha... Now it's the written words of Applause that keep me awake. You can't win can you? x

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  7. Thank you for your comments, Susan. Glad you enjoy the articles. Good luck and best wishes. x

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