Friday, October 27, 2006

Thom Dibdin's History

As inelegant as this opening is, I will simply continue from where I left off yesterday. The critics gave off every sign of low-key hostility as I approached, but once I introduced myself as a fellow critic, they lowered their guard. I told them that I was a newcomer to the fold and that I greatly admired their work. This endeared me to them at once. Thom Dibdin, a merry, porcelain-hued pixie of a man, skipped forward and introduced himself.

In a gesture of friendship, he lifted a shirt sleeve and showed off a chunky plastic wristwatch, the face of which he flipped open to reveal some brightly-coloured candy beads.

"Help yerself to a Skittle," he said, winking surreptiously. "I keep 'em hidden in this watch to preserve 'em from decay! Works a charm!"

I helped myself to an orange Skittle. At Dibdin's insistence, I took another, plumping this time for a red one. Both were delicious.

"Now meet the rest of the gang!" he chirruped, leading me by the hand over to the other critics. "The tall sourpusses at the back are Joy Watters of the Dundee Courier and Robert Dawson Scott of The Times. They'll give ya a hard time at first, but try not to take it personally - it's just their way! The moustachioed butterball is Neil Cooper of The Herald - he's been shot no fewer than fifteen times this year and has had his hip replaced thrice! Ain't that so Neil?"

The hirsute gentleman paused from quaffing a tankard of frothy sweet stout to nod and mutter agreement.

"And this little lady on the end is Joyce McMillan of The Scotsman, bless her cotton socks!" he said, pointing to a tiny, aimiably vacant woman enrobed in towelling. She sat atop a bar stool, nursing a sherry, with her tiny legs dangling three feet from the floor.

"Now Horton, we shall tell you our histories," said Thom Dibdin, hopping from foot to foot in his excitement. "Me first! Me first!"

Dibdin fortified himself with a wristwatch Skittle and began his autobiography:

"Throughout my childhood I worked in the famous Ribena blackcurrant processing plant in Lowestoft. Being nimble and slight, I was perfectly built for scurrying into the blackcurrant husker machine and dislodging blockages whenever they occured...and believe me, Horton, they were all too common!

"One Christmas Eve, the factory gaffer, Mr. Wizbit, treated all his boys to a trip to the local Pantomime, an amateur production of Puss in Boots. It was the first time any of us had set foot in a theatre! We were so excited! Well, of course all the other fellas loved it! But I found some of the performances stilted and forced, and the set to be as creaky and unoriginal as the gags. It was then that I realised I was born to be a critic! I handed in my notice to Mr. Wizbit the very next day and headed off to Edinburgh.

"Because I never 'ad no formal schooling, I could find no position with any of the newspapers as a critic, so I took to the streets and criticised Edinburgh's many street performers. I'd stand beside jugglers, magicians, and those people who pretend to be statues, and criticise their performances. One day, I was spotted by Cameron Colley, a journalist for The Caledonian, who gave my name to his editor. Before I knew it, I was Theatre Correspondent for that venerable paper. After one season of criticising the Fringe, I was headhunted by The Stage and have remained there ever since!"

Here he danced a sort of jig, popped a few more Skittles, then invited Robert Dawson Scott to relate his history. The looming figure by the bar visibly winced at Dibdin's showy display of enthusiasm, but nevertheless stepped forward to begin his tale. Here I will break off my narrative so as not to tire your eyes. Fear not, you may read Robert Dawson Scott's history tomorrow.

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