When was the last time you went to the theatre? The last time I went was the year 2003 on Halloween night. Yeah I know very cliche. I am an actor in training and I had realized I hadn't been to a theatre to see a proper play. The only ones I had ever been to are the ones which I had to see in my college or if I was in them. The play was called Don't Watch and was about a retired puppeteer but that's all I really remember about the story to be honest. It was a Halloween special so I figured it would be horror genre.
My friends and I got there early to grab the best seats as I was overly excited about my first theatre experience as an audience member, and of course I wanted one of the good seats. We took our seats in the front row, but there was a blank piece of paper on my seat, but I just took it off and sat there. We waited a good fifteen minutes until the rest of the guests had started to arrive. A slow piano tune started to play as the audience took their seats.
As everyone was seated a loud scuffling sound came out of the speakers as if someone was messing around with a microphone. The announcer started to speak with a creepy tone to his voice. It kind of sent chills down my spine.
"Make sure all mobile devices are turned off and please, no camera or recordings allowed during the performance for copyright purposes and may put off the actor. Sit back and enjoy the show."
I noticed something which he had said in his announcement. "May put off the actor," he said, suggesting this would be a one-man show. It was looking that way. The piano music stopped playing and the curtain lifted. There stood a pale man wearing a brown suit with a faded blue and white striped loose tie.
Circus music began to play and he lifted up a doll-like puppet and started playing with it. I looked at my friends seated on either side of me to confirm they were just as perplexed as I was, and found they were all staring at the man in awe. He began to pace backwards and forward from left to right of the stage whilst still playing with the puppet. The man began to cry and weep. I felt a bit uneasy watching it, but I was very intrigued.
The man stopped in the middle of the stage after five minutes of repeating the pacing and weeping. He dropped the puppet on the floor and walked backstage. He returned immediately with a tall floor mirror and placed it in the middle of the stage, leaning against the backdrop. It was tilted up towards the back of the room. As I squinted to see the mirror something was strange. I couldn't see the reflection of the back wall, I could just see a stage, as if the image in the mirror is what the audience could see. I was quite impressed. They really made the effects look convincing.
At least, I hoped they were effects. The man picked up his puppet and began to play with it again, but this time he stood in front of the mirror and started to weep more loudly. The music changed suddenly back to the original piano tune which had played for a short while before the show began. I shuddered as a wave of uneasiness washed over me. I scanned the audience and saw that the actor had captivated everyone in the room apart from myself. My attention was on my surroundings. I was actually afraid that someone was going to jump out from behind because of the fact this man was drawing people's attention to the front of the stage.
The man stood in front of the mirror and wept whilst playing with his puppet for a good ten minutes and I started to wonder if this was the whole play. But nobody else seemed to be responding to it. I was getting a little bit bored but definitely frightened.
I whispered to my friends, "I think I want to just leave," but nobody was paying attention. I got a little bit frustrated and impatient so I stood up and was about to get ready to leave. But as I stood up, every audience member turned their heads and stared at me. Even the man on the stage turned his head, not his body, but only his head and looked at me.
I felt more uneasy and was unable to stand so I slowly took my seat again and all heads turned back to the attention of the actor. The man on the stage turned back to the mirror and started his repetitive movements. I looked behind me to find the exit so I could quickly leave without a fuss. I had my route ready but as I turned back to look at the stage, the actor had gone. So had the backdrop. Which was weird because the mirror was still there on the stage, standing on its own. But this time it was tilting down. Funny enough it was facing me and I could see my reflection.
I was so scared at this point that I was unable to move. I wanted to run to the exit so badly but my body just didn't seem to want to budge. I stared into the mirror and something weird happened. I saw the actor in the reflection. Then he disappeared. I scrunched up my eyes and opened them wide again, to see myself staring towards the audience, as if I was standing on the stage. I looked behind me and it was pitch black.
I looked ahead of me again and it was like I was looking into the mirror that was on the stage... but I was in it. I was in the mirror looking out to the audience. I was terrified. As I stared towards them I saw myself sitting in the audience just looking up at the stage in awe, just like I saw everyone else when I was sitting in the audience. Then a shadow started to appear, and it was him. The actor. He stood in front of the mirror and started playing with his puppet and weeping again. Just like before. He looked straight into my eyes and I fainted.
I would hate to end a story on 'it was all just a dream' but, I did wake up in my bed. I looked at the calendar and it read, "31, October 2003" and I just froze. There was something written on the date; an event. I thought, that has to be the play I had seen called Don't Watch. Of course it did say that. But something wasn't right. I checked my diary and the day before had said 'dress rehearsal'. Nothing seemed to make sense.
I hadn't had any plays recently, it was the Holidays. I started to get texts saying break a leg, good luck and cannot wait to see the show. I felt sick. I drove to the theatre and walked into the room where the play was. The stage was exactly as I last saw it. No backdrop and the mirror standing on its own. I walked down to the front row and there, was the blank piece of paper on my seat. Although it wasn't blank. I turned it over and it said "Reserved for the Actor".