Kage Baker loved the last weekend of Dickens. Partly because it was ending – one gets awfully tired, doing Extreme Christmas – but mostly because she felt it was usually the best one.
All the parts have settled in and melded together. (In wet years, they have melted together.) Most everything that can break has, and been mended, and can now be expected to last for two more days. You finally find all your jewelry and costume bits, and they fit! It can take 4 weeks for your corset to unshrink from the last dry cleaning and actually lace up properly …
So there is an ease to the performance, a wonderful flying sensation of eternity: we’ve done this forever! It will never end! I can live on beer and gingerbread and fried oysters and ribbon candy until the heat death of the Universe!
On the other hand, it is the last weekend. I think this is hardest on the younger folks, and the ones who have just (almost) survived their first Fair. They don’t have the ground-in conviction we old codgers and codgereux have, that this miracle can and will happen again. We old ones know in our bones that Extreme Christmas is immortal – hell, deeper than our bones; our DNA has been permanently altered by the Cherenkov radiation coming blue through the tinsel and faerie wings.
It’s hard. It’s a little sad. Luckily, it’s also busily insane, which is mightily distracting to the sort of pensive self-involved weeping best done behind stage as your last show comes off. (Aaaargh, howls the Mad Hatter as he falls over you and off the end of the stage; could your universe please come to an end somewhere NOT in a traffic lane?) But for most of us, no sooner have the lights come up Sunday night than they have to also come down – the sets must be stripped, the props packed, the apports that have accumulated behind the Bar and on top of the Welsh dresser must be identified and returned to whoever lost them.
So there is also, this Last Weekend, a fevered determination to have MORE FUN before the work starts. Another beer or champagne or hot chocolate; another meat pie, another waltz, another kiss. Wear your ribboned bloomers to the Can Can and see if you can finally split them. Become Mr. Hyde (protip: dry Alka-Selzter tablets work fine, but Fizzies come in colours). Yes, yes, yes – be professional. The audience deserves the same show on the Last Day as they got on Opening – but let’s face it, brave hearts, they’re not gonna get it.
It’s impossible. The show has evolved, matured, and is about to transcend to a brand new state of existence. Have your fun. Make it good, make it period, make it professional – leave home the plastic and the modern jokes; entertain the audience honestly. But have fun. Be a little mad. Insanity is a necessary spice to creativity – and you’re all going to go crazy this weekend anyway, so by Jove! Create something while you do it!
I’ll be haunting the wings and the lanes of London, incorporeal, hand in hand with Kage Baker, watching you. Make it good, make it beautiful. Make it Art.
Tomorrow: Variations on a theme of weather and angels, suggested by Luisa.