The Royal proves laughter is the best medicine
They talk about art imitating life. But sometimes life finds itself imitating art too.
So perhaps actress Lindzi Germain shouldn’t have been too surprised when a week after finishing the inaugural run of hit comedy The Royal last summer, she found herself in a hospital bed there.
“I went on holiday for a week,” she reveals, “and then came back and ended up in the Royal for a week with a body migraine. They thought I’d had a stroke, the whole left side went.
“I couldn’t do things you’re supposed to do, like touch your nose with your finger.”
Luckily she could see the funny side of it, not least because when cast mates Angela Simms and Lynn Francis came to visit, they joked the hospital staff who had seen the play – and that appears to be most of them – thought they were there doing more research.
Fighting fit, Lindzi, Angela, Lynn and the other original team behind the show, including director Cal McCrystal, are back in the rehearsal room preparing The Royal for a second stay at the Royal Court, opening next week.
Lindzi Germain and Angela Simms in rehearsals
Writers Lindzi and Angela admit they knew “quite early on” that the show was set to get a reprise after it struck a chord with audiences. Effusive reviews and word of mouth (narrowboat owners on the canal even told each other about it) helped it do brisk business. One woman reputedly came to see it eight times.
Set in ward 8X of the old Royal Liverpool Hospital on the day the shiny new site is due to be officially opened, the knockabout comedy-come-disaster tale was enjoyed by sell-out audiences.
The team guessed they were likely to have a hit on their hands when one of Angela’s friends came to the dress rehearsal.
Angela, who plays kind-hearted nurse Flo, laughs: “She said: ‘First of all I wet myself, and then I had an asthma attack.’!”
The jury’s still out on whether that should go on the poster, but if she HAD fallen ill at an actual performance, there would have been plenty of medics around to deal with it.
“It was full of staff every night,” Angela confirms.
Lindzi, who appears as tea lady Teresa and does a few minutes of audience participation stand-up before the show proper starts, agrees: “I think the whole physiotherapy department came.
“And it’s nice in the opening, when I ask are there any doctors and nurses in, to ask what hospitals they’re from, and to just say, you know, everybody thinks you’re doing a fantastic job, and the audience gives a round of applause.”
She adds: “We had a poor lady who really was poorly and we had to stop and have the paramedics in. The audience thought it was part of the show!”
Lindzi, Angela and Lynn – who stars as a sex-mad mortuary assistant, are joined on stage by Alan Stocks’ hapless patient, Danny O’Brien as an Irish builder, and Philip Heseltine as the mysteriously silent Mrs Llewellyn.
And while it’s currently set in Liverpool’s Royal, Lindzi and Angela have ambitions for the show which look out beyond the city boundaries.
Lindzi says: “It would be nice for The Royal to tour, or to go to a different city, and for us to rejig it around their hospital.”
“Every city has got a hospital,” Angela points out. “I think everybody can relate to the characters, and everyone knows somebody who has been in hospital. And what comes with that.
“So I think it could go anywhere, and I’d love it to. We wouldn’t even have to be in it!”
Lindzi adds: “We’ve spoken about that. If ever there was a time when someone said ‘we’ll have it but we don’t want you guys’, we’d cry inwardly, silently, but we’d let them just adapt it.”
For now though they are still firmly at the helm. Or rather at the bedside, as the show prepares for opening night.
The Royal is at Royal Court Liverpool from August 23 to September 23. Tickets from the website HERE