Theatre of Hate
Sunday lunchtimes in the Duck household were spent in the bar of our local village hall.
Loddon Hall in Twyford was a purpose-built establishment thrown up at the arse end of the 1960s out of cardboard and pebble-dash and was intended to be the cultural hub of the village. Instead, it stood mostly empty, with a big flat roof that leaked whenever it rained, and was routinely torn to pieces during the Saturday morning kids’ cinema club, of which I was an enthusiastic member, Children’s Film Foundation movies a speciality. While parents spent their Sundays getting steadily sizzled in the company of friends, feeding all their loose change into the one-armed bandit, we kids had the run of the hall, which boasted a number of function rooms, a large kitchen and store room, and a stage.
And what a stage! The very same boards trodden by the Twyford and Ruscombe Amateur Dramatic Society for its annual Christmas pantomime, which would traditionally appear just in time for February. This always featured some girl from school dressed up as a cat, and the entire cast forgetting the words to the songs. The dramatic arts at their finest.
We put on plays, opening and shutting the curtains on their electric swoosh until they fell off their track. We lit the stage with every single spotlight we could until the little disc in the meter under the stairs was spinning off its axis, and found that stage-diving from about six feet up had the potential to be very, very painful.
We mostly pretended to be the Beatles and re-enacted “Help” most Sundays, very, very badly with countless arguments and without the benefit of catchy tunes. I always ended up as Ringo (“because you’ve got a big nose”), but we never let Teresa play, because her dad was mental and she was a prize bitch who stole the darts from the bar and threw them at us.
Under the stage was a massive store room filled to the gunwales with props, costumes, bits of scenery, a bingo machine used by the OAPs club on a Tuesday (where we hid the number 17 ball to teach the old farts a lesson about the futility of gambling), but , alas, no hidden stores of money, porn or sweets.
There was, however, the most gruesome of finds: a large chest filled with body parts. Unfortunately, none of them appeared to have been hacked off any actual person – living or dead – but appeared to have belonged, at some stage to a number of mannequins.
“Yes, Teresa, you can play with us this week. You can be Yoko. Yoko Ono.”
The game: Hide and Seek, and you’re counting to 500, Teresa …err… Yoko.
Under the stage we fled and waited. Oh, how we waited.
Minutes later, Teresa could be heard, blundering around in the dark looking for us. There was a crunch as she trod on the table-tennis balls out of the bingo machine, and a muffled shriek as head collided with a large part of Dick Whittington’s house. As she drew near to four hiding idiots barely suppressing a fit of giggles, we threw on the lights to reveal a sickening scene of dismembered limbs, heads, a torso and about three pints of stage blood.
She screamed. She staggered, fell backwards onto her backside, pulled herself back to her feet, and screamed again.
And after she’d finished screaming and falling over and screaming, she threw up a quite spectacular and worrying flood of panda pops, mixed, I think, with what appeared to be peanuts. Or it could have been her insides flooding out all over the bingo balls, with any luck.
She screamed again.
And fled, screaming and chundering, crushed and vomit-spattered bingo balls scattering in all directions.
There was, unfortunately, a certain amount of adult intervention at this point, and the police had to be cancelled en route.
Worse. We had to apologise. Teresa. Parents. The village hall committee – three stern faced old bastards wearing blazers. And after a week of painting numbers onto ping pong balls, the Grannies Smelling-Like-Wee Bingo Club.
Two weeks later, our grounding completely forgotten, we were under the stage again.
“Hey! John, Paul, George! Look what I’ve found here…. Somebody go get Yoko….”