ACT ONE: AUDITION
That’s only…what, nine hundred seconds – right?
Nine hundred seconds late feels so much better than quarter of an hour late. Doesn’t it?
Okay, so no. I’m fifteen minutes late.
And what that makes me is screwed.
My umbrella turns itself inside out thanks to the March mini-hurricane blowing round the corner of the building. Funnelled between the long, low warehouses of the industrial estate, the gusts are even stronger here than they were on the main road. At least back there the rain just fell downwards; now it’s going every possible kind of sideways…and I swear some of it’s actually coming back up at me. I ditch the umbrella. It’s blatantly not helping.
Unit thirty-two, unit thirty-two…
Come on, come on, come on…
And a dead end.
You have got to be kidding me.
I turn around and swim back up the road to the sign that lists all the businesses and companies on the estate with their unit numbers, looking for anything that even remotely resembles Earl’s Theatre Rehearsal Room. Or Theatre. Or even Room.
Basically, at this point I’ll take anything that’s legible.
Five minutes later, I shove open a battered metal door in a red, two-storey unit – the mythical unit thirty-two, which turned out to be on a completely different road and in between unit number forty-one and unit number ninety-three (although perhaps that’s only on Thursdays – maybe on Wednesdays and alternate Sundays it’s next to unit thirty-three, just for fun). I peel off my soaked coat. Inside is…not quite what I was expecting. The front section of the unit has been divided off to make an entrance space; there’s an empty clothes rack nailed to the side wall, so I hang my coat on one of the pegs, where it drips gently. The reception area is deserted, and the only furniture is a sagging, slightly grubby sofa and a little glass table next to it, piled with crumpled back-issues of The Stage and an old dog-eared copy of the Spotlight Contacts book.
This is not even close to how I imagined the entrance to the rehearsal room of a theatre like the Earl’s would look. I think I’d pictured…I don’t know, maybe something a little cleaner? A plush velvet sofa, maybe. Gleaming floor-to-ceiling windows with natural light streaming in and a waxed wooden floor.
Wrong on all counts.
My voice bounces off the dingy grey walls, coming straight back to me. This is how horror films start, says a small voice that belongs to a bit of me I almost certainly don’t want to listen to. It really is.
Beyond the sofa is another door – a blue one this time, with a small, neatly-printed card taped to it.
(Knock & enter.)
I wonder whether whoever typed it meant to make it as passive-aggressive as they have by adding the full stops. Who adds punctuation to a sign like that?
I squeeze as much rainwater out of my hair as I can, and I knock. Full stops or not.
The room on the other side is much, much larger – it’s actually kind of like my school’s gym hall. It even has the same floor tiles, but with dozens of little black-and-yellow taped crosses and Ls stuck to them. The main difference, though, is the back wall – the whole thing here is taken up by a huge pinboard, where hundreds of sketches, colour printouts and pages of notes flutter in a draught. And in front of it all, smack in the middle of the hall, is a table where three men and one woman are sitting – looking incredibly bored and not a little annoyed.
“Uh, hi?” I raise a hand, hoping they didn’t spot the water that just dripped off my elbow. “Hope Parker. I’m here for the internship interview? I’m really sorry, I got…”
“Drowned?” says one of the line-up, barely glancing up from the book he’s reading. He smirks at his own joke, then arches an eyebrow at me and drops the paperback – the novel about magicians that everyone seems to be reading lately, dog-eared and thick with Post-it notes poking out – on the floor with a bang. I recognize him almost immediately and want to curl myself into a ball in the middle of the floor and never speak or move or do anything again. Because it’s Rick Hillier. I finally get to meet Rick Hillier, my favourite actor, my favourite director, my favourite everything…and I’m late and approximately ninety-seven per cent rain. Excellent.
Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she's determined to make it without the help of her famous costume-designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope's focus, she's soon struggling to keep her cool...and her secret.
Maggie Harcourt was born and raised in Wales, where she grew up telling stories. She now lives just outside Bath, and spends most of her time trying to convince her family that she knows what she's doing - but she's still telling stories.
Visit maggiehaha.tumblr.com/ to find out more.
“This book is so friggin' cute you guys, I can't even. I'm well out of the target age range for young adult novels but I swooned hard over protagonist's Hope's crush Luke, let me tell you that. And Hope herself was such a great main character...If you're already a very stagey person you'll also love the insight you'll get into the inner workings of putting on a play. And if not, you'll be converted to a theatre geek by the end of it.”
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“This pacey novel romps through the highs and lows of essential-but-shadowy back stage support and front of stage theatrics and personality dramas. The story arc moves well and different plot strands peak and trough with a pleasing narrative pace and resolution.”
Morag Charlwood, Armadillo