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Michael Crawford on his return to the stage
Tuesday 18 January 2011
Actor Michael Crawford has written an article in the UK's Daily Mail about his return to the stage after being diagnosed with ME/CFS:
'Singing in a fat suit left me so ill I could hardly walk... now I'm back in the West End': Michael Crawford on his return to the stage
When the curtain rises on the first night of Andrew Lloyd Webber's new production The Wizard Of Oz, there will be no one more bewitched and beguiled by the magic of theatre and of finding themselves on stage once more than the actor playing the Wizard himself. That's yours truly, of course.
Six years ago, even a magic wand and a book of spells would not have been enough to get me back on my feet and appearing once more at the London Palladium, a theatre that holds so many wonderful memories for me.
At that time, I had just left another of Andrew's productions, The Woman In White, due to ill health. For four months I had played the obese Count Fosco in a fat suit: a costume that had been my own clever idea. Unfortunately.
Night after night on stage, the suit meant that I'd sweat profusely, to the point where I was losing all the essential minerals and nutrients from my body. In January 2005, I went into a kind of physical meltdown. I collapsed with what I thought was flu, but it turned out to be something much more difficult to diagnose.
Teams of doctors were called in to try to find out why I was so completely exhausted, depleted and unable to return to work. I had brain and body scans, and virtually every test known to man before eventually discovering that I was suffering from the post-viral condition myalgic encephalopathy (ME).
I remember Michael Winner, who'd had his own battle with serious ill health, calling me with words of encouragement. 'Oh, you'll get it back again, my dear!' he said, in his own inimitable way. And he was right, but it was a very slow road. Slower and longer than I could ever have imagined.
In fact, for two years I was transformed by this baffling condition. I went from someone who had spent their entire career relishing the physical challenges of acting to someone who could hardly face climbing the stairs.
As Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, I'd done all my own stunts: bouncing downstairs inside a wardrobe; rollerskating at top speed under a moving lorry; hanging on to the bumper of a car halfway over a cliff, covered in manure.
For a decade before my illness struck, I'd performed eight times a week in the theatre - in Billy for two years, in Barnum for four years and in Phantom Of The Opera for four years.
I would turn up at the theatre three hours before the show just to get in the mood, do the show itself, grab some sleep and then be back for the matinee the next day. I loved every minute and had no regrets. But when the ME struck, I was reduced to feeling OK for just a few hours a day. By 4pm, I felt useless and totally depleted. It was the most alien feeling in the world to me.
As part of my recovery, I decided to take myself off to New Zealand. I thought the warmth and the peace and quiet would help me.
The full article, with comments, can be found here.
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