Short story: A Play’s The Thing

Lorna’s heart began to speed up. Only that wasn’t quite an accurate description. Plenty of clichéd phrases came to mind; adrenalin racing, heart pulsing, but none of them quite right. It was hard to pin down the sensation into words, and was there any real point in doing so? If anyone asked her, she could always say something hackneyed like, ‘Well, If you didn’t have any nerves, you wouldn’t do a good job, nerves show you care enough about a performance to worry if you’ll make a balls of it or not.’ Not that that was untrue, but it hardly described the rivulets of terror ripping through her body right now as she huddled backstage. Trying to find a moment of inner stillness. To slow time down and distil it into one moment of solid concentration. A productive moment when the words just flowed out in a coherent structure that resonated through the curtain of normality. The arrival at pure description – that rare achievement of being metaphysically allowed to trace your thoughts back to the moment of their conception and re-feel them in all their hoary glory; down on paper in the split-second before they were snatched away.

She remembered Niall McCann saying how he and Hamza used to take beta-blockers before they went on. No wonder your man burst into the spotlight like a flamingo on day release from a petting zoo. No, this wasn’t just any old stage fright or luvvie inner revolution. But then again, this wasn’t just any old play. Lorna had poured hours into writing it, honing the characters to make them believable. A trait she soon discovered was a lot more difficult than it seems. As Hamlet once said: ‘A play is the thing/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king’. That was all well and good for Shakespearian royalty. But could a play catch the conscience of a 31-year-old narcissistic man-child from Tallaght who didn’t even have the cop on to realise just what a poser he really was? And more to the point, would he even be there? She tried to peer out through a crack in the curtain but it was no good.

(c) Gillian Hamill

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