'And I wish he wouldn't,' says Mrs Miggins. 'This is the fourth one this week, and it's only Monday.' And she slaps another letter on the table, edged with the signature black of the Phantomime.
Mrs Miggins walks to the barré and takes up first position. Today, she is choreographing the cast in the finale dance number and has popped into the ballroom to warm up her new leggings and break in her new sports bra. I am at the table in the corner, sewing rat costumes: that is, costumes of rats for actors, not costumes for rats because that would be stupid and little weird.
'He's not giving up easily, is he?' I say, picking up the envelope. 'What does he say this time?'
Mrs Miggins moves from first position to second. Something gives a twang. 'Read it,' she says. 'And can I just say again that this Phantomime malarkey is just someone having an enormous, and might I say very unfunny, joke. And when I find out who it is then they'd better watch out. I am almost a chicken on the edge.'
I open the envelope and pull out the sheet of crisp paper. A scent of prawn cocktail wafts through the air. (Crisp paper! Get it??) 'Has he actually carried out any of his threats?' I say, scanning the writing before me.
Mrs Miggins shifts to third position - her bosom shifts to fourth. 'Of course he hasn't,' she scoffs. 'Because he DOESN'T EXIST!!'
'It says here,' I say, 'that if you still refuse to replace Camilla with Mrs Pumphrey in the role of Alice Fitzwarren by the dress rehearsal on Wednesday, then there will be consequences of a dire and serious nature.'
'And is he specific as to the nature of these dire and serious consequences?' says Mrs Miggins, pausing for a moment and adjusting her arabesque.
I shake my head. 'Not specific, exactly,' I say. 'But he has included this.' And I hold up what looks like the shrivelled ear of a pixie.
Mrs Miggins performs a series of plié de frappé towards me, and squints at the shrivelled pixie ear. 'Eewww,' she says. 'What IS that?'
'Well, I have to say it smells a bit appley,' I say. 'And the more I look at it, the more I think it could be a slice of dehydrated apple.'
'You see!' says Miggins. 'Absolute madness! What kind of ghostly being sends a slice of dried apple as a threat? Ridiculous!'
And she spins off around the room in a series of pirhouettes that would put Dame Nelly Peach Melba to shame. Or is she an opera singer? I don't know. It's been a long day, what with all these rats' tails and whiskers.
Meanwhile, in the Phantomime's box in the Trompe L'Oeil Theatre, Lady Hamlet is decking the halls. She catches sight of herself in one of the mirrored balls she is hanging on the Christmas tree. 'I really must have a shave,' she says, rubbing her chin. (See Andy's publicity photo of Dame Hamlet on the MMM Facebook page if you are confused by this theatrical allusion. No honestly...take a look...)
The Phantomime bursts through the door into the box. 'What on earth are you doing, Mother!' he says, staring agog at the tree, the tinsel, the paperchains and the fake snow that has been sprayed along the balcony. He picks up a jaunty fake robin, gives it a scathing glare and flings it into the auditorium.
'I am adding some festive cheer to the place,' says Dame Hamlet calmly, 'and really, Kenneth, there is no need to behave like a spoiled child.'
'If I behave like a spoiled child then it is you who have made me thus!' shouts the Phantomime.
'Kenneth, please do not shout,' sighs Dame Hamlet. 'And really, if there is to be a pantomime performance here then the place needs to look pantomimey. What will the audience say if they arrive at a theatre that looks like a Victorian funeral parlour? Answer me that, my boy?'
'At least leave me the dignity of my box,' says the Phantomime. 'I mean, what is this?' And he grabs at the novelty reindeer with the flashing nose.
'It's Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer,' says Dame Hamlet.
'I was being ironic,' says the Phantomime. 'Good grief, can't I even be ironic?'
'You're in a bad mood, aren't you?' says Dame Hamlet, removing the reindeer from the Phantomime's clutches and replacing it pride of place in the middle of the Nativity scene along with the lobster, the Ford Fiesta and the Kylie Minogue figurine. 'Still no luck with the empty threats?'
The Phantomime explodes...well, not literally, but you know what I mean. 'She is one stubborn chicken, that Mrs Miggins!' he yells, stomping around the box, which is no mean feat given it is now looking like a Santa's grotto on a psychedelic trip. 'I even sent an apple today, you know, like the poisoned apple the wicked witchy stepmother gives to Snow White, but did she get the hint? No she did NOT!'
'You sent a poisoned apple through the post?' says Dame Hamlet. 'That's very impressive.'
The Phantomime looks slightly embarrassed. 'Actually,' he says, 'it was more a slice of poisoned apple because I couldn't find an envelope for a whole one...'
'It's pronounced 'envelope,' dear,' says Dame Hamlet.
'...envelope, envelope...who cares?' says the Phantomime. 'And I put the slice through the dehydrator so it'd keep its shape in the post and not end up in a smushy mess. And it wasn't poisoned because of some stupid Royal Mail regulations about sending noxious substances through the post and...'
'So basically you threatened a hen with a piece of dried fruit?' says Dame Hamlet. And she tries not to laugh because when all evil is said and done the Phantomime is still her son, her inept son, but her son nonetheless. 'What will it be next, Kenneth? A handful of raisins? Three apricots? Some honey dipped banana chips??'
'Shut up!' shouts the Phantomime. 'Shut up, shut up, shut up! They will listen to me! I will have my way...'
'Shall have my way, dear,' says Dame Hamlet.
'...and the Pantomime WILL dance to my tune!' finishes the Phantomime.
'And what is that tune?' says Dame Hamlet.
The Phantomime looks at his mother. 'What do you think?' he says, his voice dropping to a sinister whisper. 'What other tune can the Phantomime sing other than...country and western...'