There’s a saying in showbiz that ‘the show must go on’ regardless! And so it proved during The Deco Theatre’s run of its Christmas Panto ‘Cinderella’, when the show’s boss became an emergency understudy after one of the cast was taken seriously ill.
Actor Clive Fletcher – The Deco’s popular pre-show ‘meeter and greeter’, who was playing ‘Baron Hardup’ in the Panto – was rushed to hospital with a week of the Panto still to run. It quickly became clear he would be too unwell to return.
Indeed, Mr Fletcher was diagnosed with sepsis, kept in Northampton General Hospital for over a week, and is now on his way to a full recovery. And with the urgency to find an immediate replacement, the show’s popular executive producer Kevin Roach stepped up to the mark with hours to spare, even though his theatre career has always been behind the scenes, rather than on stage.
“Despite feeling really unwell, Clive – the true professional as he is – wanted to carry on, but it became clear that we had no alternative but to send him home” said Mr Roach. “As it turned out he was more than just unwell, but seriously poorly, and obviously his well-being was our immediate priority.
“But we had two shows to do that day, so I had to make an extremely quick decision: do I bring someone in who didn’t know the show, and throw them in at the deep end, having not previously been involved, or do I jump in myself.
“I knew the show, so I decided I was probably the best option, at the time not knowing that Clive would be unable to return; that said, I quickly realised that knowing the show and knowing the script were two different things, but I got through those two shows, and then grew into it.
“The cast were brilliant, and incredibly supportive, and the audiences were fantastic too – and also extremely generous in their kind comments on social media!” said Mr Roach, who is also the managing director of the Northampton based stage and theatre production company Stage Right Productions. “In the end, I can honestly say I almost enjoyed it, though I would like to go on record and say that my career will not now be taking a new turn – I’m more than happy doing what I do!”
The good news is that Clive Fletcher is now on the mend. He said: “I absolutely love Panto at The Deco, and I always said it would be something extremely serious to stop me performing, and sepsis was that – I felt so poorly, but I was shocked when the doctors at Northampton General told me what I had.
“The medical team there were fantastic, and so too were the cast and all the team from The Deco, who were extremely supportive and concerned, and I cannot thank them enough; including, of course, Kevin Roach for stepping out of his comfort zone and standing in for me – I’m delighted, but not surprised that he proved such a big success, because he’s such a great character!”