Anyone who’s ever had food poisoning knows it can hit you hard, fast, and unexpectedly. I was suddenly feeling dizzy, nauseous, and was shaking slightly. I wasn’t about to throw up right away, but it felt very much like a possibility in the near future.
I was also about to walk on stage in front of 480 people.
It was halfway through the four-month run at the Hansa Variety Theatre in Hamburg, and for the first time I wasn’t sure whether I’d actually be able to make it through the show. I considered my possibilities. We could abort my act, but that would throw the show out of balance, particularly at such short notice. I could walk on and power through, but that came with a non-zero risk of stage chunder.
Or we could hedge our bets.
I quietly beckoned over Hartmut, the stage manager: “Hey Hartmut. Um. So, there is a possibility that I might be about to throw up soon.”
Unsure as to whether the phrase “throw up” would translate, I mimed appropriately. All the crew speak thoroughly acceptable English, but idioms can be tricky. Whether it was the phrase or my mimed actions, Hartmut immediately grasped the core concept. He looked appropriately concerned.
Not wanting to worry anyone unduly, I continued “I think there’s a 99% chance we’ll be ok. But just in case, for that 1%, is it possible to get an empty bucket at side stage?”
Hartmut procured a bucket. I finished prepping for the show, and went on stage to try and entertain without needing to resort to the bucket option. Luckily the show went ok. Not wonderfully, as I was trembling feverishly and trying to suppress the increasing urge to throw up. But it worked, people applauded, and I managed to keep it together.
By this point the nausea and dizziness had increased significantly. As the other acts continued to do their thing, I spent the remainder of the show sitting on a chair next to a sink, surfing the narrow line between “oh god I’m going to throw up” and “no wait, I think it’s staying down.”
In the end it did stay down, and by the end of the show I was feeling functional enough to get through the finale with no problems.
Showbiz. Sometimes it’s glitz and glamour. Other times it’s sitting at a backstage sink for 45 minutes wondering whether your lunch will reappear for curtain call.