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The Itch - a true story by Phil Foster

It started just before I died. The itch that is. The one in the embarrassing spot. The one you can only scratch in private. It was excruciating. To scratch or not to scratch that was the question. Was it nobler in the mind to try and ignore the intolerable annoyance or not? It was driving me insane.

Wham!! I was stabbed viscously in my back. The impact shot me forward, first on to my knees and to a final resting place face down with my arms splayed out in front of me. A few seconds after my impact with the floor my brain asked “How could it be? The itch was still there, more intense than ever”. The knife in my back was nothing in comparison to the itch. If this was Hell I was there with the itch that could not be scratched. I could feel heat on my back. Maybe I was down there. I could not see flames – just the heat.

“Where are you? Man in a red suit. Hades, Devil. I will do anything if you let me scratch this unbearable itch.”

I couldn’t move my arms. Even if I could it would be unseemly to scratch ones private parts in front of a crowd. I had died a very public death with at least a hundred witnesses.

I was dead. I shouldn’t have itched when I was dead. Argh! I was going to be dead for a long time.

I could hear music. Maybe I was in the other place. Heaven or hell the itch persisted.



A long time passed without relief. I became aware of a change of light and chatter. I felt very alone – abandoned. I was expecting to meet passed friends and relations but all I had was this itch. As I suspected this afterlife thing was just a ruse by the wealthy rulers to tell the peasants that if they had an awful life on earth they would have a much better life when they died. Not true at all. No one hundred vestal virgins, no bright lights and angels – just an itch.

More light. More chatter. Silence. Music. I had a sense of company. Maybe it was my long gone Grandma Ethel or my great Aunt Mary come for a chat. No these were younger voices and younger footsteps. Another long wait and then the strangest sensation – the knife was being removed from my back and a voice urging me to wake up. How could I possibly have slept with that dammed itch?

“Father,” I heard some distant voice utter. “Father. I don’t want to be king anymore. The responsibility is too great. People keep trying to kill me. You can have your job back, Dad. I just want to live an ordinary life in the country with my wife and kids, raise pigs and goats. Please dad. I am truly sorry that I stabbed you in the back. It was a mistake.”

I rose slowly realizing that my legs did work but still having a great urge to scratch.

“Not that simple son,” I found myself saying,” Dead is dead. I can’t say that I missed the job. It is yours now son. Go be King Pippin.” At which point I left the stage and once out of sight I had a most glorious private scratch.

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This is a remembrance from a performance of the musical “Pippin” at the Studio in

October 1980


Pippin

By Roger O Hirson


Cast

Leading Player Jim Cameron

Pippin Bob Kary

Charlemagne his father Philip Foster

Lewis his half brother Murray Knipfel

Fastrada, Lewis’ mother Sue Leonard

Berthe, Pippins’’s grandmother Miggs Sawchuk

Catherine, a widow Maggie Foster

Theo, her son Sean Carley


Chorus members Maggie Muir, Liela Cooper, Karl McKusick

Love Dance Julie Roberts, Garry Anderson


Director: David Stock

Music Director Patricia Stock

Choral Director Karen McDonald

Choreography Julie Roberts

Costume Design and construction Maureen Quinn, Jeanette Cameron

Margaret Stacey


This was a huge production and was a big hit –sold out for the whole run. This was the first and only show that Maggie and I were in the same cast. I was killed off in the first act and Maggie did not appear until the second act so it worked up until the final rehearsals. Our girls, Sally and Katie were six and four at the time. I was stabbed in the back and Sally told me just recently (she is now 47) she was traumatized for years thinking that her daddy had been stabbed. I did rise from the dead in the second act but she did not fully understand pretend. In retrospect this show was the culmination of all the hard work that went into the previous six years. David Stock and I had drawn a large number of people into the CCT because of the high standards that were set and people wanted to be part of a hit show. Having lived in Victoria for the past thirty years and attended lots of theatre, there has never been a production of this show in Victoria. CCT were pushing the boundaries in 1980 and the audience loved it.