Friday night's performance was virtually faultless. But as well as representing the peak of the cast and crew's hard work, the show also brought our little H&M adventure to an end.
Whilst TLPA and I were running around beforehand as usual, magician Max Butler was entertaining the capacity audience in the theatre bar. The rounds of applause and gasps of amazement could be heard throughout the theatre so we're grateful to Max for giving up his time and helping make the last night special.
The performance got off to a scary start for those of us in the know. In a case of life imitating art, the fresh bouquet hadn't arrived by the time the show opened. Previously, TLPA and I had picked up the fresh flowers from Lili Floral Art each day, but with Alison and David in tonight's audience, they offered to bring them along for us. However, as Bellowhead kicked in for the show's opening sequence, our guests had yet to arrive.
The scene progressed swiftly and TLPA reassured me that the alternative arrangements would be fine - but then as Becky (Caroline) was about to make her entrance, we spotted Alison take her seat. Thankfully, Becky proceeded to come on with her bouquet - just as intended (indeed, this was an extra-special arrangement, with the greens of previous nights replaced by black and thus complementing the colour scheme totally). Team H&M Associate Member Andrew deserves our thanks for running through the theatre and getting the flowers to our Bride - with literally three seconds to spare...
As the show progressed, it began to dawn upon me that these would be the last times I would see these scenes and hear these words. TLPA watched in respectful silence for the most part and I allowed myself many moments of private pride throughout - not for me, but for the wonderful cast and the characters they had given birth to so magnificently.
Another big finish, another evening of emotion, excitement and entertainment - and then we were done. Well, not quite...
There was plenty of furniture to move ahead of Apollo and Lunch coming back on the Saturday to book-end the FourPlay season, and the petals and tiny pieces of glitter we had sprinkled the floor with proved very stubborn in refusing to be picked up(!)
We then headed to the bar for some food which the cast had generously laid on, some very kind words and gifts for TLPA and I, and then a bit of a dance. Thankfully the stereo didn't explode...
Everything was said on Friday night (or rather, Saturday morning) and it's a funny feeling now - a sad but good one. The oldest file in my PC's H&M folder is dated 20/11/2005. Over 18 months later, "I" turned into "we", and we have come from nothing to write lines, re-write lines, learn lines, sort costumes, approach potential supporters, stick up lights, sell tickets (the list goes on)...
...to deliver a sell-out run that has in turn brought forth laughs, tears, spontaneous applause, and a whole lot of fun.
Off-stage, new friendships have emerged, and even a little bit of romance for several Team H&M members(!) We never really had a crisis, and a superb team spirit meant that any problems which did arise were dealt with quickly and in good humour - smiles were never far away.
It's the nature of theatre that creativity becomes a collaboration, and I have been so fortunate to have had the very best people to help bring all aspects of my creativity to life. Everyone involved knows they've been part of something special.
So what next? Is this really the end?
That's going to be up to other people. It will seem sensible to revisit the script, iron out a few (very) minor problems which have only come to light with the play being performed, and then see if there is any interest from publishers or literary agents. I'd have been less inclined to have done this, and accepted the run at The Crescent as being the end of it all, but the popular reaction has proved it's a cracking night out. And the commercial success (did I mention we sold out the entire run?) should hopefully attract an iota of interest.
There's Edinburgh too. Maybe...
I'm not sure if I'll direct anything else. I'm a virtual outsider - I only know about a dozen plays, have never been taught anything about directing and am admittedly ignorant about what constitutes real theatre. Nothing was particularly ambitious - I just got through H&M by having a vision and caring.
I need to sum up now - but it's impossible to reduce everything into a trite sentence-or-two. If you're reading this, you'll have been part of the journey. I thank you and hope to see you again soon.
Please, be proud - very proud - and keep your memories of Hearts & Minds safe...