Mad Madge: Lost, presumed missing: Zen and the art of getting a cast to a venue

You would have thought that with a cast of only five (maximum) it would be impossible to lose your cast when travelling less than one hundred miles from the Smoke. How wrong can you be. Put a performer in a car and it’s a recipe for high blood pressure, not for them but for those waiting at the far end, whose vivid imaginations already have their Rodolfo in a road rage attack or their Dulcamara in a ditch.  I’ve waited and worried enough for a Wolfgang wigful of grey hairs.

Not that the instructions to a venue from those who live within walking distance of the place often help. One of my key requests is for a map “So we can find your venue, even in the dark…”  Directions like “Turn right at the duck pond” mean nothing if it’s pitch black and the ducks have gone home for the night.  Or “It’s halfway through the village”; how do you know you’re halfway through until you’ve gone through, tried to turn round in a quagmire and come back much muddier than you went?

Then the mobile rings, if you’re lucky and you’ve got reception, of course. Churches are built like Faraday cages, designed to keep all nasty immoral radio waves firmly outside, so the mobile is of course by the main door (only signal from the outside world) and you are rehearsing at the far end. By the time you’ve sprinted the entire length of a Norman nave, the answer phone has clicked in. Ring back and the driving performer is in a blackout zone, so you leave a message.

Finally you discover they are stuck in a queue on the Mxx (insert you favourite motorway number here). They are late and can’t find the venue anywhere. There is only one final failsafe instruction, which is for them to drive up and down the main drag whilst I run outside and wave frantically in the pouring rain. As an advert for our show, a mad mezzo flagging down cars full of strange men on a dark and stormy night does not rank highly. Frankly, your best plan is to get them to stop at the village pub and go and fetch them yourself…

This is the point where satellite navigation is supposed to click in and save us all hassle. Which is fine, until your pianist heads for the Derbyshire hills, comes to a crucial junction and her electronic wünderbox loses its way, exactly halfway round a roundabout. Twenty minutes later and several circuits of said roundabout, now somewhat hot and bothered pianist is forced to ask direction to the nearest garage so she can buy a map. Emerging, atlas in hand, the now oh so smug system promptly tells her where she is. Marvellous.

Some of my performing brethren rightly spurn the life of the open road in favour of rail, and it is amazing how far into the depths of the GB countryside you can get. Only snag is, you’re stuck there; like Royston Vesey, it’s hard to leave, and certainly not after 8.23pm, when the last train wheezes its way back towards civilisation and 24 hour supermarkets. So, they get a lift home with a driving performer, which rather defeats the object…

One tenor arrived via rail and sensibly caught a taxi to the city venue, high on a hill. Unfortunately he chose the only taxi driver in Bristol who did not know where its most prestigious concert venue was. After twenty minutes driving up hill and down back alley, he leapt out and begged help from a passing pedestrian, who dismissed the taxi and walked our hero to the venue – 200 yards away…