Hours before opening at Shrewsbury Castle, the director of Twelfth Night received a text from his Malvolio, who was flying to Hollywood to judge on Know the Shake of Thee and Thou. The director mumbled something about being on the case to his loyal troupe, and walked into town. Behind the mask he wondered how cold the Severn would be when he threw himself into it.
Wham! He crashed into a figure, apologising mechanically as he walked on. From the shadows behind him a deep voice bellowed: 'Fool, as thou art!'
The director glanced back. Down a nearby alley a grizzled wreck of a man lay, bottle paper-bagged in hand, surrounded by a large puddle.
'You have culture, sir, for a t…'.
The tramp dragged himself up to his full height: ''Tis but fortune, sir; all is fortune.' The director seized the Twelfth Night reference like a lifeline: 'Thou art made, if thou desirest to be so.'
Ten minutes to 'Curtain Up' a large whiskey was being contemplated by a nervous ex-tramp. Toby Belch was tormenting Malvolio in his head. Then the call came and he shuddered onto stage.
A metamorphosis. A lover without boundaries, he flirted with convincing flamboyance: 'Yellow stockings. Cross gartered!' The audience chortled with glee.
A husband whispered to his wife, 'Didn't I give him 20p on the street?'
'Don't be ridiculous, Hubert. He's a professional actor.'
When the Hollywood Malvolio returned a week later begging for his job back, the director was only too pleased to tell him that there was a vacancy down a nearby alley.