I was part of a very small community theatre company, touring a variety of productions around the area to village halls, schools, care homes, long stay NHS hospitals (that dates it!), and community arts venues.
It seemed to me that, at that time, most of the village halls were 'run' by retired Colonels. Certainly, when we arrived at each hall in turn at the agreed time, it was usually a retired Colonel who met us, let us in, showed us what was where and - if we were lucky - unlocked the kitchen and made us a cup of tea. So far, so kind.
I was then in my mid 20s, very small, very slim - but even though it was me driving the van that carried the set, actors, costumes, and all the necessary other bits and pieces, when we arrived the Colonels would always make a beeline for the oldest, tallest male actor, only to be told they needed to talk to me.
They were far too polite to 'harrumph' loudly, but were clearly not used to the idea of a woman being in charge. Yet, at the end of every show - without fail - these very polite older gentlemen would come up to me and say, in extremely clipped tones:
"Might be a girl - but jolly good."
It made me laugh a bit - quite kindly, and privately - and think I'd at least made some small inroads for womankind. And it taught a lesson about not making judgements based on prejudice but that - if you do - you should openly give credit when you find you are mistaken.
But that's not the main lesson here, although it's a good one.
On this one occasion, the village hall in which we were to perform was being extended and (for various reasons) the only way we could fit everything in was if we put the set up at one end, against the building works. In effect, the backstage area was a building site.
It was a Christmas show for children so (like all good community theatre) it involved a 'chase' sequence, in which one actor cannot see that a second actor is following him/her, appeals to the audience for help, and watches as numerous 5 year olds go purple in the face screaming and urgently pointing, "He's behind you."
Ah, the old traditions. :-)
We'd just reached this point of frenzy and - likely - noise levels that would be prohibited in law in any other place of work, when the lights went out. All of them. All at once. None of our lighting and sound equipment worked. Of course, this was rural Hampshire so there were no streetlamps or any external lighting. It was pitch black, indoors and out. Fortunately I had a torch (being a well organised stage manager), but even so I was stumbling around this building site trying to work out which bit of our equipment had caused the power to trip, and how I could get round to the front of the building to switch on the hall's lights.
Luckily, the two actors then 'on stage' had the presence of mind to stand still, and the one being chased to call out, "Where is he? I can't see anything", to much laughter.
Then our lights and sound suddenly came back on, and the show carried on as normal.
At the end, as the audience was leaving, I went up to the retired Colonel in charge of this particular venue to say I was so sorry about the blackout, and hoped our equipment hadn't caused a problem. I was worried we'd somehow damaged the new electricals in the unfinished extension.
"No," he said, quite matter-of-factly. "I'd not put enough money in the electricity meter. So I had to put in another 50 pence."
And the lesson from this? (It's a simple one.)
When something goes wrong, it may well be for the most mundane of reasons.
(And, to answer the traditional music hall joke used as a title for this post* - when the lights went out, Moses was in the dark.)