Tis the season for amateurish pranks on stage. And lo, yesterday I and several other innocents were gathered together at Kings Place concert hall in North London to massacre, sorry, perform, a collection of short pieces by Tchaikovsky. Before a paying audience. On a Steinway grand piano. After group hugs and lots of rousing talk we walked out, one by one, to meet our fate. The cast included Alistair McGowan, Niamh Cusack and Jim Naughtie. “I am very nervous” I whispered to the sanguine McGowan. “Try doing stand up,” he countered. In the end, the experience was indeed as dreadful as I had feared. No matter how much practise I had done (a lot), the sheer lonesome panic of being up there meant that all bets were off. Nearing the end of my piece, I found myself unable to locate it, either on the Steinway or in my brain, and so had to start again from the middle. The generous audience didn’t seem to mind, mercifully. Well, I have nothing to lose. Yet Ed Balls, who took part in this entertaining spectacle last year, probably does. “His PR people wouldn’t let him take part this year,” said concert pianist Lucy Parham, who had invited us all. Fair enough.
Following this we all went home and I lay down on the sofa while the boys decorated the tree. Much less stressful.