SOAP OPERA by David Barry

The familiar theme tune burst into life, pounding into twenty million homes. From the kitchen I heard Nadine groan loudly. She knew how much I hated the program, but often I watched it because he might be in it. And then I could rave and curse about how unfair life is.

The music ended. Mix from opening titles to an establishing shot of the saloon bar. Cut to a close-up. And there was that face again! The one I longed to beat to a pulp.

“It’s that idiot!” I yelled, leaning forward in my armchair, as if I might drag him from the TV screen. “He’s got the job as pub landlord. He’s now one of the leads.”

Tight-lipped, Nadine came in and stood in front of the television.

“Nadine…I can’t see.”

“Why?” she demanded. “Why do you do this? It’s not as if you like anything about the program. You only watch it to see if he’s in it. You do it to torture yourself.”

“I know. I’m a masochist.”

“Well, it’s me who has to suffer.”

Door slams as she exits to the kitchen, leaving me to endure the rest of the episode in relative peace. End of our twice-weekly double-act.

You are probably wondering why I hated this actor so much; I’ll tell you.

Fifteen years ago I was on tour in an Agatha Christie whodunit, playing a supporting role. Although the production was packing audiences in, the management was paying me a pittance, and I could only afford the crummiest of digs. We were due to play a week at the Theatre Royal in Bath, and I was dreading it. Not because I had anything against the city, but because I had found digs cheaper than anywhere else I’d been, and I dreaded the nylon-sheeted purgatory that awaited me. But I was due for a pleasant surprise. My bargain-price bed-and-breakfast turned out to be an imposing and well-cared-for Georgian house in the Royal Crescent, and was without doubt the best digs in which I have ever boarded.

Theatre landladies are a breed apart, often described in unworthy terms by actors who have had to endure their eccentricities. So I would be doing the owner of the house, Mrs. Brown, an injustice by describing her as a theatrical landlady. She was unpretentiously genteel and had the quiet dignity of an Elizabeth Gaskell heroine.

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David Barry has been an actor for more than 40 years having started as a child actor, performing in a film with Tyrone Power, and working on stage with Paul Scofield, Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. He played Frankie Abbott in the 70s sitcoms Please, Sir! and Fenn Street Gang, and his first broadcast TV script was for Fenn Street Gang. In the 80s he wrote for Keep It in the Family for Thames TV, and has appeared in countless theatre and TV productions, including episodes of The Bill and A Mind to Kill, and played in dozens of pantomimes, usually playing Dame.

His first novel, Each Man Kills, (Gomer Press) a police thriller, was published in 2002. His autobiography, Flashback (Authorsonline), was published in 2006, and includes his childhood memoirs of touring Europe in Titus Andronicus in 1957 with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh with the first British theatre company to perform behind the Iron Curtain. He continues to work as an actor and recently performed in his own play A Friend of Ronnie’s, about Ronnie Biggs and the Great Train Robbery.
His novel, Mr Micawber Down Under, published in hardback by Robert Hale Ltd is now available. CLICK HERE for more information. David’s two latest novels, Careless Talk and the sequel More Careless Talk, have just been released as e-books by Andrews UK.

He lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and has two grown children.

To contact David Barry: CLICK HERE.

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