23. Britain's Got Talent 2.
It’s Sunday 2nd February 2014. The day I audition for Britain’s Got Talent.
We are supposed to arrive at the Birmingham International Convention Centre by 1pm for the evening show, which starts at 8pm. The informational email (which only arrived on Thursday) says that once we are in, we won’t be allowed out, so Lion and I are armed with sandwiches and drinks for the day.
Of course it turns out that we can potter outside whenever we like as long as we let the crew know when and where we are going.
It all seems very haphazared. About 15 acts and their families are herded into a big conference room to start with. The judges are late so we can’t go into the holding room yet, for some reason. And we are not allowed to see the judges at all – so we can’t be kept in the booking-in area.
Once Simon Cowell, David Walliams, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden have arrived (an hour and a half late!) we are moved to the holding room where there are other acts who are performing for the afternoon show. There is a small performance area with big mirrors so that the acts can watch themselves perform, some dressing-room mirrors propped up on silver equipment boxes for us to use to make-up and, around the edges, TV-lit areas where the acts can be interviewed both for Britain’s Got Talent and Britain’s Got More Talent.
Lion and I seem to gravitate naturally towards a comedian in a crimson suit who looks like Elvis and a Robbie Williams impersonator who truly looks the part. We are all told to be dressed in our performance outfits from the very start so we can be interviewed in them. Scott, the Robbie Williams guy is in full tuxedo all day. I’m just in jeans, sweater and boots.
The two men are taken off to be filmed outside the ICC and to talk to Ant and Dec but nothing like that happens to me. I wonder a bit whether that’s significant but I’m not going to push anything. I’m quite happy waiting. To be honest, nowadays I’m always quite happy waiting because every time I can think ‘at least I’m not waiting at the hospital.’ Oh the relief of not waiting at the hospital. Every time I went there, my heart would sink.
I know, I know, those of you who are holistic would say ‘put up protection; affirm; visualize.’ Oh I did all that. I blessed the angel of the hospital; I blessed everyone; I used protection – but it was still the last place on earth that I wanted to be. Here, waiting to perform, is just fine compared with that.
The room is very crowded. Water is provided but if you haven’t got your own food you can buy sandwiches or go outside. Lion finds out that the group sitting next to us is actually ‘extras’ so that it can look really crowded for the cameras!
We read our books; I rehearse again and again. It’s just 2 ½ minutes so it’s got to be tight. I don’t think I’ll forget it but oh, calamity if I did! Mind you, I am amazingly calm. I'm here because God wants me here; I've got some purpose that I don't know about. Yes, of course I want to go through to the semi finals; I'd love that. But none of it (apart from doing my best) is, in any way, in my hands.
But then one of the researchers comes up to me and tells me that the producers really, really want me to start my act with the equivalent of the start of my YouTube video. This is not the same as the beginning of my audition tape, which is what I have been rehearsing to do. This is a bit strange because the YouTube video has got ‘fuck’ in it. They say can I do that bit but with a substitute word? This involves changing the whole of the first minute of my act.
Do I do that? Or do I stick with what I’ve got? I decide to follow their direction so I have to start re-rehearsing. Perhaps it was the wrong thing to do, I’ll probably never know, but I have always been a good presenter because I am directable; I can change course when it’s needed. So I do.
Towards the end of the afternoon, my interview time arrives. It’s with a very dynamic-haired young man called Pete who asks formulaic questions to get me to say things like ‘I’m Maggy Whitehouse from Dartmoor in Devon. I’m 57 and I’m a stand-up comedian.’
But we can’t get far because one of the ‘certainties’ (you can spot them quite easily) is a man with Tourette’s Syndrome. I goes the equivalent of ‘YIKES’ every few seconds. If he’s in the room, no one else can be interviewed ... and he’s being interviewed next door to me.
So the interview is aborted. ‘Interesting’ thinks I. I suppose I should be outraged or worried but I’m not. It will be what it will be. Anyway, I don’t have to do a thing; I’ve got Lion.
He is doing all the necessary checking and querying for me. Every hour or so he gets up and talks to one of the researchers/crew about what’s going on or not. Years ago he used to a steward for race meetings (and a drag racer himself) so this is one of his lines of expertise. He’s very good at it.
Time passes ... and then they come to take Lion away to place him in the audience where he can watch me. There is one hour to go and then it is showtime.