Gabriel Quigley reads Roddy Doyle's story about four generations of Irish women.
Junior Just A Minute Contestant Zrey Sholapurkar Shares his Experience of Being on the Show
Lights, camera, action! If all was darkness before, the world was suddenly filled with light and colour as the table and microphones were illuminated with an artificial glow. There were butterflies in my stomach and I had to swallow past my suddenly dry throat. This was the day that it all happened. Days of auditions and painstaking waiting had come to this. This was when I was going to play Junior Just a Minute.
"Welcome to Junior Just a Minute!" The well-known presenter of the adult game, Nicholas Parsons, exclaimed the famous words into the microphone with such enthusiasm, that it sounded like the first time he was saying it, and not at all like he had been expertly running the game for over forty years. The audience broke into huge applause as I walked onto the stage, ready to play. This experience was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. I have always loved walking out on stage to face an audience and this one was a sea of encouraging faces, applauding enthusiastically.
However, all this did not just happen spontaneously, it all started when someone I had met at a workshop once, sent my mother an email about auditions for Junior Just a Minute. I had always been a big fan of the adult version, we played the game on long car journeys, during lunch on weekends, or just if there was nothing better to do and so it was absolutely unbelievable, that I was being given a chance of doing the same thing on radio with some of my favourite presenters!
The preliminary interview on the phone was a bit of a disaster as I was on my way to my cousin’s birthday party on the beach and the call kept cutting out but somehow we managed. After a week of nerve-shredding waiting, I was ecstatic when I found out that I was in the next round. So, here I was now, in my own house, talking face to face with my interviewers, who were many miles away. Yes, my second and final interview was over Skype! This time, the interview was much shorter, all they wanted to do was see what I looked like and have me play a few rounds of Just a Minute. I talked about ‘School Dinners’ and ‘Summer Holidays’ for the forty seconds they gave me, and they seemed pretty pleased by the results. As for me, I think I managed that without any hesitation, repetition or deviation!
When the BBC first told me that I was going to take part in Junior Just a Minute, I actually couldn’t believe it. Finally, it sunk in, and I was bouncing off the walls, saying, "I’m going to be in Junior Just a Minute!" over and over again. Slowly as the days went by, the realization of how hard the game was going to be, and the fact that the whole thing was going to be played on radio sunk in. But at the moment, I had no worries, the show was weeks away, and I could practice all I liked.
The night before the show soon came around and I hadn’t practiced once. I did a few rounds of Just a Minute over dinner with my family, but that was really all the practice I was going to get.
23rd September, 2013. The morning of the recording. I felt a lot more confident, I was going to go on the panel, play the game, and everything was going to be all right. But the closer I got to the RADA studios in Central London, the more nervous I got. Suppose I wasn’t funny, or I messed up, or I didn’t get a chance to speak? All these questions were playing in my mind as I walked up to the big green door that any other day I would have said looked beautiful, but now seemed to loom imposingly before me. Opening it, I walked inside.
I should have mentioned that I was with my whole family except for my brother, who was in school – grandmother, grandfather, mother and father. But now only my mother came with me as I walked into the green room, two floors below the entrance. I think it was then that my uneasiness reached a new height. I could almost feel myself sweating under my shirt. The green room reminded me of a Hollywood-style refreshments room, with mirrors covering every wall and food and drink in the corner. A fan turned slowly in the shadows. The heat was really getting to me now, and this time I really was sweating. I kept thinking of what the actual game would be like, how it was set up, and what would happen when I came out to face the crowd of about a hundred people?
Then Jenny Éclair and Josie Lawrence came into the room, which was now beginning to get packed as more and more competitors streamed in, and they immediately eased the tension with their easy manner and jokes. Finally, the presenter of the game, Nicholas Parsons came in himself, and talked to all of us. Everyone involved with the whole process of the show was very kind, from the two people that organized the whole thing, the presenters and participants, to the ushers who helped us find our way to the green room and back.
It was finally time to start. At first I was told that there would be a few practice rounds of the game, but there was nothing. Before the show we tried out the buttons, and spoke into the microphone, but that was it. All too quickly, we were told to go behind the curtains, waiting to make our ‘grand entrance’, as Nicholas Parsons put it. I was the first on. A bead of sweat was forming on my brow and I hastily wiped it away, not wanting to show that I was nervous.
"And now welcome to the stage, Zrey Sholapurkar and his wonderful partner, Jenny Éclair!" The audience clapped wildly as I put a smile on my face and went onto the stage, to the sound of the minute waltz.
For the first few rounds of the game, I must admit that I didn’t do too well, getting buzzed for various reasons when I started speaking, and missing out on chances to buzz and interrupt the opposite team’s rounds. But, in my defence, I was very nervous and too tense to speak naturally. I was surprised by this, because usually I am not nervous on stage, at least not to the point where it actually starts affecting my performance in a negative way. But, after the first few rounds, I began to get a bit more confident, as everyone, even the crowd, was very supportive. I spoke for a good 20 or so seconds on ‘Going to the beach’, and another 17 seconds on ‘Birthday parties’. But my two favourite rounds were when I spoke, for half a second (!), on ‘Making your bed’, and all I managed to get in was, ‘Get your mum!’ My other favourite round was when I copied all of Josie Lawrence’s material on hiccups, every word of it! This shocked the crowd, but it wasn’t against the rules of the game and amused Josie, Jenny and Nicholas Parsons so much that I got a cheeky bonus point for it along with hoots of laughter and a massive round of applause from the audience!
A few days after the recording of the Junior Just a Minute, I got a call from the BBC. This time, they wanted me to go on Saturday Live, which, funnily enough, was to take place the following Saturday, and was going to be aired live on radio. This was a whole new ball game. With a pre-recorded programme, if something went horribly wrong, then the editors could take it out. But live radio was exact to the second. If I messed up, or said something wrong, there would not be a second chance.
We were taken by taxi to the BBC recording studio and this time my, very excited younger brother, could join us as it was a Saturday and he wasn’t at school. We got to sit in a recording studio and watch the entire show until I was called in for the last 15 minutes or so. The presenters, Rev. Richard Coles and Anita Anand were very nice and I met Nicholas Parsons once again, along with the first ever ‘Urban Explorer’ called Bradley Garrrett. I answered a few questions and got to play a round of Just a Minute and then it was all over. My mother later confessed that she was holding her breath the whole time I was on the show as she was so worried about it being live! The whole experience was one I will never forget.
The Junior Just a Minute show was finally broadcast at 4pm on 11th November, 2013 and I was on the first ever show recorded of this programme. My mother came to fetch me from school so that we could listen to it live on the radio while my father stayed at home and recorded it. I was on the radio! I could hear myself talking on the radio and it was funny and a bit embarrassing and a tingly fabulous feeling all rolled into one.
Two days later, would you believe it, I got yet another call from the BBC! This final time, they wanted me to go on a show called Feedback. They sent Freddie, one of their recording wizards, with his fantastic recording machine to my house and I was linked up to the BBC studio so that I could answer a few questions. More excitement as I was on the radio again that Friday.
It is indescribably exciting to turn on the radio and hear yourself on it, and I had been lucky enough to have done just that twice! It has been an amazing journey, which I enjoyed immensely and I think I have the radio bug now - can’t wait to do something like this again and again…