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Yesterday I became a joint holder of a World Record. It was one of the most extraordinary and yet most wonderful days of my life. Despite my neurological and cognitive disability the Rubber Chicken Theatre agreed that I could take part in their attempt to break the world record for the Fastest Ever Theatrical Production. At 0730hrs yesterday morning, as the 200 members of the cast and crew aged from age 8 to 70 gathered around the stage to watch the brilliant director of the day and founder of Rubber Chicken Theatre, Pamela Mackie, to break open the security seals to the secret box which contained the scripts to the show we were to produce. I was hoping for one we all knew like The Sound of Music, Oliver, The Wizard of Oz, Mary Poppins.

My Security Pass For The Day
My Security Pass For The Day

The list of family favourites perfect for such a broad cast was endless. But the script we got was for the wedding singer. Although it was a good film, it wasn’t a family favourite, it was etched in none of our memories. I had never seen or heard the stage production and as I looked around me at the reactions of the crew I could see them thinking similarly. We were starting from ground zero on this and if we were to achieve the record we only had 12 hours to put it all together from casting to learning the lines to the words and the songs and then choreography to costumes and make up, to stage setting, lights and sound to feeding and watering all 200 of us, to programmes et al. Pamela was a woman of much experience and knew how to manage such a diverse cast. There were many things that I could of done from helping with the stage, with feeding, with being a general dogsbody and knowing how much I was going to have to try to cram into my damaged brain in so little time I would have been happy to have been practical help but I was cast in the chorus along with the wonderful group of talented children too. The team set about it and the experienced hands in the chorus set about drilling the words, the tunes and the dance moves into our collective heads while the handpicked chaperones and teachers for the children set about teaching the children the same while the principle characters tucked themselves away into wee rooms to brow beat the words, tunes and actions into each other. Wee were locked into the building with only those responsible for the administration of the show able to set about corralling the resources they required. A trip to the loo would see you walk through the MacRobert Arts Centre. passing room after room alive with music and words and movement.

There was a buzz like the collective in a hive of bees hard at work to achieve a mission. Every couple of hours we were brought together for choreography and rehearsal under Pamela’s excellent and robust directorship. Even in the short but regular breaks to feed and water work didn’t stop. Tunes were being hummed and words recited. Costumes being tried and musical or staging ideas being discussed with decisions being made. The Principles encouraged and assisted with the mammoth task of learning the lines and songs, and the human character could be seen at its most generous and vigorous. Principles and children first in the feeding queues. I was witness never to anger, panic, frustration or despair. The only raised voice was that of Pamela bringing the assembled excited throng to order to hear her instructions. The curtain was going up at 1930hrs this very day if we were to beat the record and with that target in sight this eclectic team buzzed with an electricity of determined achievement. The collective eyes were focused on the prize.

I was most concerned that I wouldn’t be able to sustain myself for such an intense period of cognitive effort coupled with the additional draw on cognitive energy created by the need to engage and converse with so many people that I had never met before within the constant buzz and noise of such a busy environment and without the ability to step outside and get some air or to take a 15 minute brain rebooting nap in a chair somewhere, without having to explain away my disfunction as things started to unravel, my sight go, my speech go, then my hearing, my balance and my motor function. My children, Heather and James, were also concerned and although cast in different choruses kept an eye on me as much as they could. I took comfort in the fact that as a member of the chorus, the attempt would not falter if I became overwhelmed but was determined to somehow keep going and somehow I did. I was expecting at least to have an aura that I could work through after a few moments of being off line or much worse, a SMART attack that would have rendered me off line for hours and seen me probably having to pull out. But nothing came. As the hours passed, the lines were sinking in and the dance moves becoming engraved on the brain and the show started to come together. The first few rehearsals the pressure on the principles was really starting to show. They had to get their parts right for without a good show from them we would fail in our attempt. We couldn’t just grind through the show with scripts of tricks for hiding lines fluttering around the stage. It had to be a high quality performance suitable for a paying audience. By the dress rehearsal the show had really come together but still there needed to be improvement and before we knew it, the curtain went up the audience in the sell out auditorium went wild and we were performing the final number. We took the bows to the standing ovation and then returned to the stage to wait for the adjudicator from the Guinness World Records to announce her decision. In the hushed anticipation we learned that Stage Right in Greensburg Pennsylvania, USA had set the record on the 09th March 2019 as 14.5 hours. Then we learned that we put on a winning performance in 11hrs and 59 minutes. We did it.

We had beaten the World Record.

Rubber Chicken Theatre were the New World Record Holders having shaved 2.5 hours off the previous. The entire auditorium was once more on its feet and as the ticker tape rained down on the cast, crying and hugging and dancing and jumping and whooping with joy my immediate thought was to my children. I had to wade through the cast in a sort of dance of hugs and kisses from all those that I passed linking arms with some a little like a rather surreal Scottish reel of celebration to find the children at the other end of the stage. Heather who had earlier danced, yes, actually danced with her Daddy in the dress rehearsal of a particular scene (18) and James (16) dancing and hugging with some of their fellow chorus. My heart leapt with joy to see these two, who had been for so many years in their childhood been either best of friends or worst of enemies, celebrating their win together in perfect harmony. I swept them up in my arms to hear my 16 year old son, who had long thought that I couldn’t act or sing and was, like most Dads an eternal source of embarrassment on the dance floor, whisper in my ear, Dad I’m quite impressed, your singing’s quite good now and you can actually act. This compliment from my son was probably the greatest compliment given to me beyond that given to me by Generals or acting coaches. My son believed in me and that made me happier than even being able to sustain myself for 12 hours in intense cognitive activity. I believe in myself more now than I ever did thanks to Heathers ever watchful and supportive care and encouragement, despite the fact that I still dance like a Daddy and James’ belief in me. Maybe I can make the impossible possible. Certainly Pamela, the extraordinarily talented principle actors and the 200 members of the cast and amazing crew did so today.

Heather James And I Heading Home After An Exhausting But Exhilerating Day
Heather James And I Heading Home After An Exhausting But Exhilerating Day

Tomorrow I am in Glasgow filming a maritime training film for a maritime training company as the lea character having crammed 15 A4 pages of script shared between just two of us into my head in just 11 days. And just 4 days later I travel to Ross-on-Wye to film a Student feature film as one of the lead characters, the General. Hard work but enormous fun and rewarding. I am getting stronger day by day, week by week, month by month helped enormously by the challenges of learning to act.

Whilst James compliments touched my heart and I can indeed sing the occasional good note I am really keen to get some singing lessons to learn how to sing properly and discover what my voice, once described as being like velvet, can actually do. Sadly my email address linked to my website had crashed just before my last post and has only just come back online. If you sent me a response to my last call for help with learning to sing then please send again as you email was lost to the ether. If you might be able to help me to learn to sing please do get in touch archie@beatthebeastchallenge.co.uk

If you do not yet challenge me to prevent my brain tumour from returning as predicted and to beat my beast of neurological dysfunction so that I might one day work again then please do so. All the details on my challenge and how to sponsor me can be found on my website at www.beatthebeastchallenge.co.uk

Thank you
Yours aye
Archie.