Green rooms are intriguing places. Not least because no one knows why they’re called green rooms. Or at least, I don’t. I don’t know why they’re called green rooms.
A quick google might throw up some etymological gems as to why they are called Green Rooms. Perhaps they are named after Restoration actor Fortescue Green, who had a boil so big it commanded its own seat in the tavern, which was mercifully lanced in the half of a best-forgotten Congreve in 1823 by actor & gout martyr John Archibald to the great relief of Fortescue but to the ruination of the theatre’s soft furnishings. In Windermere or somewhere. Perhaps no one ever went in that pungent room again. “Venture ye not forth into ‘the Green Room’. The stubborn malodorous pus make of it a treacherous place.” Perhaps it’s that or something. I imagine it is. I’ll google it later.
Anyway. They’re funny places, Green Rooms. Anywhere where humans hang out and wait are a bit odd. Railway platforms. Doctor’s surgeries. Supermarket queues. There’s just no avoiding the humans on display. It’s like compulsory theatre. You have to be there, getting the train, buying your beans, having a jab, whatever, but so do other people. There you all are, existing in the same place together, watching each other be alive. Weird.
Anyway. Green rooms are waiting rooms for actors usually. A chill-out area. A graveyard for stale old sofas, where wire coathangers flock like angular crows. The term has widened over time for anyone about to go on to some sort of stage at some sort of event. At best, a green room can be a salon of wonder, a mellow precursor to a happening – at worst it can be a holding area for big-headed flatulent fatuous charlatans with halitosis and elevated visions of their own worth to society.
Pre-event Green Rooms have to have chairs or people get cross, & they usually have drinks and snacks because hydration is important, booze stops the alcoholics bitching and getting the shakes, & pretzels – or in hedonistic circles the occasional mini-cheddar – give you something to do with your hands. People fill their boots, sitting and drinking and eating while self-doubt churns over inside like psyche cement. Sometimes Green Rooms are nice places and make you feel special & like you’re doing a nice thing. And sometimes they make you feel penned in like a pig at market, nervously rubbing your bacon up against other idiots who would rather be at home too.
Anyway. I spent quite a lot of my time this weekend hanging out in a green room at the end of the pier. We had a weekend of music talks programmed to close Estuary Festival.
Most people were utterly charming. Erudite modest gems, happy to be there, humbled by appearing alongside other interesting people. Most either ranked themselves lower in the echelons of excellence or had the decency to pretend. I loved watching them all mingling and chatting, conversation flowing naturally like water over pebbles in a stream. I was privy to beautiful fragments, snatches of conversation about art and the state of the world as artists and writers and musicians and cultural commentators sparked quietly off each other as they waited to go on stage & do more of the same in front of their audience. I have never felt so happy to be stupid. Listening is great. Some people should shut up and listen more. I had a lovely time.
And then an artist got drunk and ventured his hand into a part of my body better acquainted with the more robust of bike seats. (I don’t cycle, but I feel this is a good highlighter for the anatomical crux of this particular anecdote.)
A few of us had gone to the boozer after the event, and there I was, getting something out of my bag, and there this chap was, sizing me up for a tandem. And I thought to myself “There’s always one. Always one self-professed genius who ruins a nice day by trying to turn you into a hand puppet.”
I wondered if something had gone wrong in the Green Room. Perhaps my being interested in what people had to say had, my lighting up at the people and the topics and the fleeting togetherness of us all, via a series of booze-bevelled sociological extractions, led to my arse getting used as a plug socket. Perhaps I deserved it, having those holes in the first place. Perhaps I shouldn’t make a fuss. That’s what it can feel like sometimes, being a woman. Play hostess; free game. Even writing this bit at the end of my own column feels rude. To him. That’s worrying, right?
Other than that everyone was a dream and it was a great Green room as green rooms go.
No one ate the mini cheddars though. Very claggy.