I’ve just rediscovered an old script for Midsummer’s Night Dream in my bookcase. Yes, I’ve done a bit of acting in my time, but what a disaster that production was.
I played the part of Lysander, and I remember being onstage with Demetrius, Hermia and Helena when I completely screwed things up by repeating a line that I had previously delivered in the earlier part of our conversation.
The conversational sequence was Lys: Dem: Herm: Helena: - at which point I repeated my earlier line Lys.
The funny thing was that none of us noticed my mistake. The other three actors had all learned their lines by rote, and so Demetrius responded to my cue by repeating his earlier line, and then Hermia responded on that cue, as did Helena, after which I repeated my mistake. We were trapped in a closed conversational loop, in which everybody repeated their earlier lines.
It took us about five minutes of repeating ourselves before it gradually dawned on us that our conversation was going nowhere. I still shudder now when I remember the growing sense of bewilderment, confusion, and sheer panic that beset us. We were caught in a conversational time-warp, and none of us could figure out who was to blame (me) or how to break out of our predicament.
I think it took another 5 minutes of us repeating ourselves, and our audience dissolving into laughter, before our director had the good sense to temporarily lower the curtain.
At which point the audience started to cheer – and demand an encore….