Heathrow. Not a great start. The plane to Cyprus was delayed and check- in was interrupted by a security alert. I still haven't recovered from the ordeal of shutting up my digs in Stratford and moving back to London, and now I'm travelling through the night with a bag of props and an addled brain. Over the next three weeks I'll be visiting five countries and ten venues with my one-man show. Once airborne, I embark on a fitful line- run (I last performed the piece more than a month ago in Chichester); the stewardess casts a nervous glance in my direction as I jabber silently to myself. I arrive as dawn breaks over the Troodos Mountains, and am met by Wing Commander Malcolm Jones, my host for the next week.
Thursday 28th August
I'm performing at military bases in Cyprus, the first venue being RAF Akrotiri. Small stage, steeply-raked seating and new lighting rig - oh, and Malcolm tells me we're sold out. In other words, near-perfect conditions. It takes longer than usual for the audience - mainly officers and their wives - to start laughing. But they do seem to be listening hard (that terrible euphemism). In the second half the response picks up and I find I'm enjoying myself.
Friday 29th August
An open-air show hosted by the Commander of British Forces. Normally I'd be apprehensive about going alfresco, but with such warm weather and no breeze it seems quite a good idea. The lighting is very rudimentary though, and my sound cues are relayed over the family's domestic hi-fi. But I'm determined to rise above the problems - amongst which is a pillar centre stage. Wonderfully attentive black-tie audience led by the merrily laughing Air Vice-Marshal. Occasionally visited on stage by a bat but manage to keep my concentration. Had I spotted the gecko which was apparently darting around my feet it might have been a different story.
Monday 1st September
Everyone stunned by the news of Princess Diana's death. After some deliberation, the Air Vice-Marshal decides that the show must go on, so we head for Ayios Nikolaos, an army garrison to the east of the Island. We're outdoors again, but it's less picturesque this time - a makeshift stage in the corner of a huge car park, surrounded by enormous hangars. Desperately bleak by day, but by nightfall a surprisingly intimate acting area emerges. A smaller audience, perhaps because of the news. At the end I'm asked to dedicate the performance to the Princess and we all stand for the national anthem.
We must have made a pathetically touching sight in this desolate car park on a far-flung patch of British territory.
Tuesday 2nd September
Stayed last night in Officer's Mess accommodation and woke up to a lavish breakfast, followed by a lazy morning reading every newspaper in sight. Tore myself away at lunchtime and Malcolm drove us to another garrison - Dhekelia. Took a while to galvanise the technical team (a teacher, an accountant and Kevin - a schoolboy - on lights) to the extent that I actually went to sleep during the rehearsal - a first. An enthusiastic audience, who sobered up abruptly for another curtain speech and a woefully inadequate recording of the national anthem.
Thursday 4th September
Arrive in Delhi to find both my performances here have been cancelled - one at the British Council, the other at the High Commissioner's Residence. The whole British Community - and most of the Indians I meet - really are in mourning, and nobody's in the mood for a comic show. So despite feeling a bit of a fraud, I resign myself to a holiday in the opulent surroundings of the H C's des res.
Sunday 7th September
An amazing four days, in which life's been dominated by the Princess of Wales. At the Taj Mahal, the architecture's sadly upstaged by a new tourist attraction - the bench where she sat for that famous photograph. Went to sign the book of condolence at the Commission, and to my bewilderment was rushed to the front of the long queue. Apparently all guests of the High Commissioner are given this privilege. The clerk who led me to the table dismissed my protests, although couldn't help inquiring as I sat down "who actually are you?"
Tuesday 9th September
From one oasis of luxury to another - the splendours of the Intercontinental Hotel in Muscat, where I'm joined by my enterprising producer, David Donabie. The hotel staff work all day to turn a function room into a theatre, and we're rewarded with a terrific audience, led by the British Ambassador and his wife, who saw me a few weeks ago at Stratford and seem to be almost as well-informed about the London theatre scene as my agent. Well, better informed actually.
Wednesday 10th September
On to the Dubai Intercontinental, for two performances. Discover that I'm booked into Marbles Wine Bar, where the usual attraction is Madame Huda, a voluptuous belly dancer. The audience are understandably nonplussed by my act, and tomorrow night I'm promised a more suitable space in this vast hotel.
Thursday 11th September
A rave in the local press - did they really see that fiasco last night and conclude "One-Man Show Enthralls Dubai"? Move over Paul Taylor. But tonight the show - now in a smart upstairs room - does go down a treat, although I say so myself. We're stuck for a venue over the weekend (the theatre in Doha pulled out at the last minute), but the General Manager of the hotel in Abu Dhabi is in the audience and says he'll try and fix something up for us.
Tuesday 16th September
Have spent a glorious weekend lounging around at the Abu Dhabi Intercontinental and, true to his word, the Manager here has secured us a performance tonight at the British Ambassador's Residence. His Excellency seems only too happy to throw open his doors at such short notice, and has drummed up a splendid audience to pack out the elegant drawing room. He sits on the front row with his Danish wife Sophie and their three beautiful blond children, who laugh raucously at all the rude bits of the show.
Wednesday 17th September
The last night. Another "parlour performance", this time in Bahrain, where our hostess is Adrine, a glamorous Armenian who seems to combine running the city's international School with coordinating the local social scene.
We celebrate the end of the tour with a night on the town, but I soon begin to wilt, and am mindful of tomorrow's early start and the flight home. It'll be strange to feel the chill of the English autumn next week in Newcastle, but I'll appreciate company both on- and off-stage at the Theatre Royal. Intervals aren't much fun in a one-man show, nor is the moment of walking into the bar afterwards, when you suddenly feel strangely guilty for single-handedly hijacking everyone's evening. At least next week Shakespeare can take some of the blame too.
Christopher Luscombe is currently appearing with the RSC in `The Merry Wives of Windsor' and `Much ado about Nothing' at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle. Bookings 0191-232 2061Reuse content