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Songs of Bliss


Ted readjusts. The great British public's appetite for sexual innuendo and smut is
being irrevocably embarrassed into a state of silent nausea. There's something about a sixty
year old, down at heel chain smoker that kills the comic effect. Ted decides that it's time for
something more highbrow.
"What if there were no hypothetical questions?"
From the wings, hissed, "What if there were no shit comics?"
Ted's left hand is behind his back, casually formal in a minor royal sort of way. He
mops his brow with a bright red handkerchief and as he does so his free hand, the one
behind his back, twists and he raises his index finger towards the shadows stage right.
Billy Whitlow, known to his devoted audience as Billy Nero, the 'Don of Doo Wap',
sniggers as he prepares to wow the girls with his star spangled, Bennettesque delivery of
classic era crooning. Like Ted, he is a regular at Snuggle's.
The wings are cramped and hot, although wings as a term is ambitious, there being
only the one. The acts have to squeeze past each other during change overs. Props,
instruments and the assorted paraphernalia of the lounge-bar spectacular come on and off
stage the same way. Standing next to Billy is the lovely Leona, seventeen, and in her
second year of theatre studies at North Devon College. Leona is the stage manager, which
means she spends most of her evenings hissing into an old, ice-cream cone microphone,
desperately trying to get the acts cued up for their moment of glory. The vibrating
membrane in the speaker in the communal dressing room at the back of the club is badly
frayed and the acts rarely understand a word Leona says. The running order, on the odd
occasions that it gets typed up, rarely runs with anything approaching method or
organisation.
Leona prods Billy with her pencil, giving him one of her well practiced 'God' looks.
Billy puts a finger up to his lips and nods.
The stage is set simply, Snuggle's having no pretensions towards the theatrical. The
stage has no proscenium arch nor does it boast complicated rigging, fancy lighting systems
or tabs. The stage is open and semi-circular, running along the back wall of the cabaret
room. The backdrop consists of four ancient and torn blacklegs held together with gaffer
tape, over which hang an indeterminate number of metallic silver drapes. The silver fabric
is split, like a fly curtain, and now hangs twisted and bent after years of shimmering behind
acts of appalling mediocrity, reflecting the worn out spotlights in a thousand different
directions.
Ted coughs in between jokes, partly because of his eighty a day habit, but mostly to
fill the gaps where the laughter should be.
"Ever wonder about those people who spend two pounds on those little bottles of
Evian water? Try spelling Evian backward."
This one gets a few tired chuckles.
At the far end of the room, sitting on a stool by the bar, Maggie Heard, the
eponymous Snuggle, switches on a red shaded table lamp and drags a manicured, dusty
pink fingernail across her throat. Ted knows the sign. Time's up.
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