Roger’s increasing hearing loss and periodic bouts of confusion had for some years been a source of both concern and unkind merriment with his fellow members at the Ecclesbrook Dramatic Arts Society and had been the cause of several unfortunate incidents. There was, for example, that embarrassingly acrimonious and frankly unpleasant argument with the newly appointed Chair of the Society. A rather forceful and, in Roger’s view, opinionated local councillor called Desmond Willey. They had clashed at a planning meeting when Roger had insisted that Oscar Wilde had never, to his certain knowledge, written a play called “The Impotence of Brian and Ernest”. Then there was that business when Roger had volunteered, after a short telephone conversation with Mr. Willey, to take charge of publicity and, at great expense to the Society, had commissioned a dozen large posters and a thousand flyers advertising a forthcoming musical production that Roger claimed he was told was called “The King said Hi!”
After that incident Roger felt increasingly side-lined and, in his frustration, wrote a complaining letter to the committee. In an apparent spirit of conciliation and at the behest of other committee members, the Chairman took Roger to one side and recommended a visit to a local independent audiologist that he knew well and also suggested that Roger might like to make an appointment with his GP about his general health. A suggestion Roger rejected indignantly. Despite paying a considerable amount of money for the hearing aids that he felt he was cajoled into buying Roger wasn’t at all convinced that they made that much difference and felt further aggrieved towards Mr. Willey.
Still despite his annoyance Roger continued to support the Society in whatever ways he could even though he seemed to be offered far fewer roles, either on or off stage, than in previous years. So, he was very pleased to receive a call informing him that he was invited to try for a part in a new play that had been specially written for the Society by the Chairman’s son. An ambitious young man who had just returned from drama college and was apparently keen to start a career as a playwright and director.
To be honest Roger was not entirely sure that the proposed project was in keeping with the Society’s hard- won reputation as a family friendly theatre company. He remembered that many years ago somebody had suggested that they put on a production of a musical called “Hair” that apparently contained nudity but thankfully, and to the general relief of the local theatre going public, common sense and common decency had prevailed. But times, as Roger reluctantly conceded, had changed and a production by a promising young writer could be just the thing to bring some much- needed new blood into the Society. Roger was thrilled to be asked to be involved and keen to get on with it despite his reservations.
He decided that to make an impact he would provide his own costume for the audition. So, he braved the internet and purchased an old vintage Burberry Trench Coat on E-Bay for just £6.99 plus postage and packaging. Inevitably at that price it did show distinct signs of wear and tear. For example, it had two stains at the front top left-hand side and a rather unpleasant odour It was though exactly what Roger wanted and would fit the bill admirably. To add to the desired effect, he put an old trilby that he had found lurking at the back of an Age Concern charity shop on his head. The overall effect was spot on and with renewed enthusiasm he set off in his car to the theatre wearing his costume. After all the sooner he got used to it and got over his inhibitions and embraced the new creative culture that had come to Ecclesbrook Dramatic Arts Society the better.
Entering the Palladium Royal Ecclesbrook, a rather grand name for a rather shabby edifice, Roger was pleased to see so many young people in summer garb standing on the stage holding their scripts and listening intently to a young man who was obviously the director. On seeing Roger in his overcoat and trilby Dominic Willey and his father looked totally bemused. Roger who, in his excitement to get to the theatre, had forgotten, as he sometimes did, that at the height of summer the badly ventilated old auditorium was not the best place to wear winter clothing , was starting to sweat profusely and feel distinctly uncomfortable.
“Oh dear, done it again have we Roger.?” Said Willey senior, with a shake of the head, exhaling with what to Roger seemed like exaggerated exasperation. “Do you think you’re really up to all this anymore? I mean look around you.” Roger followed Desmond Willey’s extended arm as it made a sweep of the stage where some members of the company were starting to snigger behind their copies of the script. “Well, I`m here for your son’s play, as requested” replied Roger who was starting to get extremely annoyed with the attitude of the young Director’s papa.
“And what play would that be? asked Desmond Willey as he handed Roger a copy of his son’s handiwork. Roger took the script and looked disdainfully at Willey who he considered unctuous and unappealing in every way. He looked at the script and with growing horror read the title “Fresher’s Hall. A new play by Dominic Willey”
“Oh, So, that’s what it’s called” said a shocked and rather embarrassed Roger who, as the auditorium started to come alive with the sounds of laughter, suddenly felt mocked and brutally ridiculed.
He put the script down on an empty seat and walked towards the youthful cast, climbed the steps and made his way centre stage. He turned and faced the two Willeys standing together in the dimly lit auditorium and slowly and deliberately unbuttoned his vintage Burberry Trench Coat to reveal his naked torso with a large gold star covering his testicles. He stood for a moment to absorb the shocked silence and then with as much dignity as he could muster he did up his coat and walked out of the theatre and out, forever, from the Ecclesbrook Dramatic Arts Society.
Dominic Willey picked up the script that Roger had cast aside and turned to his father. “Well Dad, I think Flasher’s Ball, would make a much better play than this dross I`ve written”