The Theatregoers

from The Cosmic Balancing Act

On completing a long and exhausting performance – one hot and sultry evening – a puppeteer paused to smoke behind his theatre. Though the audience had been large and appreciative, the puppeteer was far from elated: for he had to pack up the stage and journey through the night to his next engagement. As he was finishing his cigarette, he was surprised to be greeted by two theatregoers.

“Good evening, my man!” said the gentleman – in top hat and opera cape.

“A marvellous performance!” said the lady – in fur coat and diamonds.

“Thanks,” said the puppeteer, extinguishing his cigarette and turning his back on them. “Glad you enjoyed it.”

“An extravagant yet well-balanced fantasia – ” continued the gentleman – “encompassing both the earthy and the ethereal.”

“One was at once amused, enchanted, hypnotised, thrilled and enlightened,” twittered the wife.

“Well, as I said, glad you liked it,” coughed the puppeteer. “G’night.”

“Not so fast, my good fellow,” continued the gentleman – removing his hat and flourishing a silk handkerchief. “We have yet to speak of the author, composer, musicians and costumier – ”

“We thought the backcloths particularly well done,” simpered the lady – a Japanese fan wafting her words skyward.

“Really?” sneered the puppeteer.

“Might we see you again?” asked the gentleman, “at Salzburg or Bayreuth?”

“Or Glyndebourne?”

“Or at the Festival at Edinburgh?”

“All right then,” said the puppeteer. “That’s enough:

“This show, I shall have you know, is falling to pieces. The gear, the props, the electrics: totalled. You want to try playing outdoor venues for 30-odd years: setting up in the rain, taking it all down again, touring for weeks. It’s ruined!

“The script we use? Well, it’s been the same for years, and frankly I’m sick of it. I’ve told the promoters to get some new material but they don’t want to spend the money. There was a time – way back when – we had skillful, talented people – but it ‘cost too much’. The promoters couldn’t see the point! They wanted their money! So they cut and they cut and they cut! They only spend out on advertising, and that’s not much cop, is it?

“I do all the work now. I do the whole show. I do the driving, set up, show, get out, drive again. They take the money: they keep the money. I never see any of it. I’m sick of it. Don’t know why I bother . . .

“Musicians? Are you havin’ a laugh? They’ve been on tape for years – except the percussion, which I play with my feet. And the tape machine’s on the blink – you were lucky to hear it!

“Like I said, I’m glad you liked the show, but the audience doesn’t see what’s really happening backstage. It’s a filthy business. I detest it!”

The theatregoers were affronted. “Now listen here . . . ” said the gentleman, “I really will not stand for that kind of prattle.”

“Bilge,” said the lady.

“Tittle tattle,” added the gentleman. “Gossip. Rumour.”


“We came round here to offer our congratulations, not to be, not to be – ”

“Not to be subjected to a barrage of left-wing propaganda!” interrupted the lady, who had the wider vocabulary. “It’s a damn good production and you should respect your promoters instead of attempting to ferment some half-hearted and treacherous one-man rebellion against the inevitable realities of today’s cutting-edge business-driven economy with some insubordinate backchat concerning your employers,” she added, curtly.

“They keep you in work!” warned the gentleman.

“You should show gratitude,” whimpered the lady.

The puppeteer bit his tongue. “My apologies,” he muttered. “Was there anything else?”

The theatregoers paused.

“Well,” said the lady. “We were wondering if it would be possible to meet the members of the cast?”

Moral: Never discuss the performance with the audience, it’s terribly unprofessional.

© Adam Acidophilus 2019