I'm dashing to the prop cupboard, not to release Mrs Miggins but in search of an integral piece of the 'Mouse Trap' scene, without which the mouse trap will not work and thus the scene will remain instrinsically unfunny. I suspect Mrs Miggins has nobbled the aforesaid piece and is holding it hostage in order to secure her release. I am thinking how on earth I am going to outwit a chicken because, currently, they are beating me 57 to 3 in the outwitting stakes.
I knock on the cupboard door. 'Mrs Miggins!' I call. 'Have you got the widget for the mouse trap for the Mouse Trap scene in there? If so, I'm going to open the door just enough for you to pass it through but you are NOT to make any sudden bids for freedom. I am under STRICT instructions to make sure you stay put for the duration of the performance.'
There is a silence, then a bit of a scuffle.
'NO!' comes the reply. 'I do not have the widget. It is on the props table backstage and if it isn't then someone has probably moved it. Your precious 'Phantomime' no doubt.'' And I can actually hear her scribing sarcastic quotation marks in the air on the other side of the door. 'But actually,' she continues, 'there is something very important that I think you ought to know and I really think you should open the door.'
On stage I can hear Sarah the Cook's comedy cooking scene coming to an end. She will have constructed the massive custard pie by now and will be preparing to slap it into the the face of Idle Jack aka Mrs Poo whom, I suspect, will duck and it will end up in the face of King Rat aka Tango Pete who is sulking in the wings alongside 30 small children we have recruited from the local primary school to play the rats and mice. The combination is a heady mix of ne'er bode well and disaster.
'I am not opening the door,' I say, turning to run back to the stage.
'I really think you should,' shouts Miggins. 'It could save you a lot of hassle...'
'The only thing that needs saving is Camilla!' I shout back over my shoulder. I don't hear Mrs Miggins' response but I guess it is like meringue - unsavoury.
Luckily, I find the widget as predicted on the props table and manage to shove it into its place between the gizmo and the oojit just as the primary rodents whoosh part me to perform their mouse o'doble.
'Whew!' I say, to Flora Bijou Mybug who is performing warm up lunges and stretches in preparation for her massive entrance to do battle with the Rat King. 'That was close. Now, are you ready for your acting debut?'
'Ssshhh!' says Flora. 'I am communing with my inner Gielgud.'
'Right,' I say. 'Just remember - no nibbling, licking or swiping at the primary rodents. They are children pretending to be mice. They are NOT real mice.'
'So you say,' says Flora, licking her lips. And she takes a massive leap onto the stage, her purple sequin boots glittering in the spotlights.
'Here I am, Puss is my name!
Let me at 'em, coz ratting's my game!'
A very convincing scuffle ensues and, as per the story, Puss rids the Fitzwarren household from being overrun with squeakies. Minimum blood is drawn.
'I am so glad I used my last shilling to save you from the evil pet shop owner!' I hear Dick/ Richard/ Ptolemy cry in triumph.
'Boooooo!' I hear coming from the Phantomime's box. Followed by, 'Think you're so clever, don't you? 'Oooo...look at me...I saved a kitten....' Well, ha! You won't save Mrs Pumphrey from my charms, you witless pheasant!'
'Heckling's bad this evening,' remarks Mrs Poo, who is idling against the scenery as Idle Jack.
'It's the least of my concerns,' I say. 'Oh -oh. Watch out. It's the 'Dick Meets Alice For the First Time' scene.'
'The one where she is entranced by his cat?' says Mrs Poo.
'Yes,' says I. 'Like any woman is going to be won over by a man holding a cute cat. Ridiculous.'
'Indeed,' says Mrs Poo.
On stage, Dick and Alice are gazing into each other's eyes across a candlelit kitten. (They are solar powered candles - Health and Safety regulations prohibit the use of real candles on stage.) Mrs Pumphrey, as Alice, is in her best seductive element, because even though she is supposed to be playing the innocent young girl, all coy and romantic, she is coming across as a brazen hussy and is almost, but not quite, climbing into Ptolemy's lap. Across the stage in the other wing I can see Fairy Bow Bells clinging onto Tango Pete who has a murderous glint in his custard pied face.
'Don't you dare!' I mouth at him.
'*#!!** "@*^<!' he mouths back.
Honestly, I think. Whoever thought pantomime is suitable family entertainment is sorely misguided.
I glance at my watch. We are almost at interval time. Claude and Claudette are performing their magic routine during the twenty minute break and I am supposed to be selling icecreams but I think I need to stay on guard because, and call me suspicious, I think something of great significance is about to happen.
And I don't mean we're going to run out of strawberry mivvies.