The problem with holding any audition is that no matter how big the room in which you are holding it (the audition, that is - now, now...no double entrendres until Pantomime Proper) there will NEVER be enough space to accommodate all the egos. We are in the State Ballroom which is massive and certainly spacious enough for the most flamboyant of high kicks. But suddenly, everyone's a star. It's all 'Me, me , me!' and major fracas over who gets top billing (very important in Hen World, is billing) and who gets the biggest dressing room/ limousine/jar of jelly beans (all purple ones removed). I have already made it perfectly clear there will be no limousines let alone big ones, and I shall NOT be pandering to any diva-like fussy food requests.
But still the noise continues so I end up standing on a chair and yelling a drama cliché as loud as I can through my megaphone.
'There are no small parts,' I yell. 'Only small actors!'
It doesn't do any good so instead I jump from the chair, slam the megaphone onto the table and stomp from the room to go and calm myself with a nice mug of cocoa and an Archers Omnibus, which is a new biscuit I have recently invented.
Two hours later and I return to orderly queues and studious calm. In one corner of the ballroom, next to the Liberace Grand Piano, scales are being sung. In another corner, scales are being scraped, because Mrs Miggins has decided it's fish cakes for supper and as she is producer/ director/ interval icecream seller she has brought supper prep with her and is multitasking like a good 'un using the camping table as a chopping board.
In the opposite corner there is much limbering up, with flashes of tutu and alpaca leg warmers. Throats are being cleared and intonations are being intoned. And I am confused.
'What happened?' I say, sidling up to Mrs Poo, who is standing in the middle of the ballroom performing some kind of elaborate Ninja-style mime, her wings akimbo, her legs askance and her eyebrows startled. She nods across the room to where the ballroom ends and the Orangery begins.
'Him,' she says. 'That's what happened.'
I follow her nod and my eyes come to rest on the most magnificent of creatures, the like of which I haven't seen since, oh...becoming a vegetarian at least.
'Who is he?' I say.
Mrs Poo snorts. 'Some Russian peasant made good,' she says. 'Apparently.'
'He's not a peasant,' says Mrs Pumphrey, wafting across the parquet in her pink chiffon. 'He's a pheasant. And I think he might be Egyptian. His name is Pfft-Olomy.'
'The pee is silent,' says Mrs Poo.
'Not when you get to my age it isn't,' remarks Tango Pete, because whenever Mrs P is in her pink chiffon, Tango Pete isn't far behind. 'I don't know who he thinks he is, coming in here with his fancy feathers and his weird phonics. Doesn't he know that I always get the male lead in these productions?'
Mrs Pumphrey is gazing dreamily across the ballroom floor. 'Tolomy and his Silent Pee,' she whispers. 'It sounds so enigmatic...so mysterious...'
'...so pretentious,' snaps Tangp Pete.
'That's the nature of the audition,' I say. 'The best actor for the part gets the part. There are no boundaries of fur or feather as far as theatre is concerned.'
'And there's those two over there,' continues Tango Pete, adjusting his mankini against unfortunate slippage. 'They turned up out of the blue. They want to audition for the comedy magic act. Call themselves 'Purrfectly Magic With Claude and Claudette. She's does the tricksy stuff and he wears the sparkly leotard.'
'Different,' I say. 'And oddly relevant given the anarchic nature of pantomime. And anyway,' I continue, turning my attention to Tango Pete,'what have you come as, dressed like that?'
'Beanstalk, of course,' says Tango Pete, like he is talking to an idiot child. 'Failing that, Murphy Richard, Genie of the Toaster.'
'It's a very static role, the beanstalk,' I say. 'Won't you get bored? I was thinking I might leave the beanstalk to the props department and their skills with a plank of wood and litre of green paint.'
Tango Pete shrugs. 'I don't want anything too energetic,' he says. 'My knee's not been right since I did that triathalon back in the summer and rode my bicycle into the river.'
'I did warn you,' says Mrs Pumphrey, managing to tear her eyes away from Ptolemy the Magnificent, who is now strutting his stuff to a bunch of squirrels who have their noses pressed against the Orangery windows. 'You're getting too old and stringy to be messing around with triathalon malarkeys.' She casts a critical eye up and down the mankinied cock. 'Hmmm,' she says. 'Just as I thought.'
'What?' says Tango Pete. 'What???'
'Nothing!' trills Mrs Pumphrey in what can only be described as a coquettish trill. And she sashays rapidly across the dance floor, pheasant bound.
Tango Pete looks crestfallenly after his beloved.
'Cheer up,' I say, patting his wing in a comforting manner. 'A smitten chicken never lasts long. She'll be back.'
Tango Pete shakes his head.
'Oh no she won't,' he says.