A WEEK later the Jolly Good Company had moved on to the Gaiety Theatre, Leicester. Kate had grown in confidence. Her movements on stage were becoming more relaxed and graceful. The mentalist part of the act had had only one difficult moment when a lady unexpectedly produced a police whistle out of her handbag.
Between them Kate and Nesbo managed to come up with a silver trinket, but Kate eased the slight disappointment of the occasion by blowing the whistle and calling for police protection. The audience erupted in laughter and afterwards Nesbo complimented her.
“I wasn’t wrong. I knew you had your wits about you.”
Now, on the Sunday evening of their arrival in Leicester, he sought her out at her digs.
“Tomorrow morning, Kate, I want you to do the band call. It’s straightforward enough. Tommy Martin’s the director of music here. He knows what I want. Just walk through the main parts of the act. Give him some idea of the timing. Here’s the music.” He gave Kate a folder of sheet music.
“Well, if you think I can do it,” Kate said a little doubtfully.
“Of course you can, girl. And if there’s any problem, Delia can help you.”
“You won’t be here, then?”
Nesbo shook his head.
“I’m seeing the agent of an American illusionist. If I can get the right price I’m buying an illusion that’s never been attempted in this country. But that’s between me and you.”
So on the Monday morning Kate sat with Delia at band call for the Jolly Good Company. During the week, if any member of the company wanted to rehearse privately they could, and if music was required Enid Broom accompanied them on the piano. But each Monday morning at each new venue the entire company went through a rehearsal with the theatre’s orchestra and musical director.
Some of the company needed a minimum of musical support, like Johnny West, for example. He strolled on to the stage.
“Good morning, Mr Martin.”
“Good morning, Mr West. Salty Sam not with you this morning?”
“Sleeping like a log.”
“Just the usual, is it, Mr West? Entrance and exit?”
“Please. Eight bars of ‘All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor’.”
“Excellent. Good morning, Mr West.”
“Good morning, Mr Martin.” Johnny strolled off the stage.
Since their supper at the Glass Slipper, he’d been just as friendly and attentive to Kate. Did that attempted kiss mean little or nothing to him, or was he just being patient? Delia leaned towards her.
“He’s a nice boy,” she said with a smile.
“Yes, he is. A nice boy.”
The orchestra suddenly launched into “The Entrance Of The Gladiators” as an attractive young couple ran on to the stage, the man juggling four knives, the woman pulling a wooden screen. They were dressed as a romanticised, colourful version of Mediterranean gypsies. The young woman halted about 20 feet or so from the man, the knives still being tossed high, flashing as they twirled in the air. She stood against the screen, her arms spread away from her body, smiling brightly.
As each knife came down the man hurled it at the screen, each producing a clash of cymbals, and each knife quivered between the arm and the body of the smiling gypsy girl.
Kate had seen their act a few times, but still winced as each knife flew towards its target. Fabio and Rosa were husband and wife, a handsome, friendly Italian couple whose dramatic, fast-moving act of juggling, fire-eating and knife throwing usually ended the first part of the bill.
As their act came to a close, Tommy Martin shouted, “Bravo! Bravo, signor and signora.”
“Grazie,” Fabio said. Rosa gave a little curtsey and she and Fabio tripped off stage hand in hand as the orchestra began to play “Cherry Ripe”, Sally Swift’s opening number.
For the rehearsal Sally wasn’t in costume. When she was, she began her act in bonnet and crinoline, and as her first sweet song ended she slipped behind a garden wall and emerged seconds later in a short, straight tunic dress and long beaded necklace “the Flapper” for “The Charleston” followed by “The Black Bottom”.
She was bright, beautiful, sang well and danced well, but not today. She had barely completed eight bars when she stopped. The music died. She stalked to the front of the stage, hands on hips.
“Mr Martin, this may only be a rehearsal, but I expect a backing that has a little life in it, a little enthusiasm. The tempo was too slow.”
There was some muttering from the orchestra pit.
“I can assure you, Miss Swift, that the tempo was correct,” Mr Martin said quietly, “but if you require something a little quicker ”
“I expect swing time, not the Hokey-Cokey,” Sally retorted tartly.
Delia was shaking her head.
“Oh, Sally,” she said softly. She turned to Kate. “She heard from her agent this morning. He hadn’t been able to get her an audition for a new musical revue opening in Manchester. She’s really upset.”
“And obviously in a foul mood,” Kate decided.
“I’m afraid so. Sometimes she’s her own worst enemy.”