For all those mentioned in the programme. If you remember, get in touch!
Looking through some stuff the other day I came across this newspaper cutting, lovingly preserved by my father, and the memories of one of my most embarrassing moments came flooding back. As you may have realised, acting is not one of my talents, but showing off appeals, so when I was fourteen, I had the opportunity to meet some boys! The only way I could do this with everyone’s approval (which was important to me) was to try and be in St Benedict’s School (source of the male sex) play, which was opening its doors to the budding actresses ( and social life starved little girls) of St Disgustings. Accordingly I and several of my classmates applied, and somehow or other I got a part. A very small part, thank goodness, so not too many words to learn (I have real difficulties there,) but I was pleased that the play more or less opened with me on stage – on a bed. Not burlesque,it must be said, though inadvertently I made it so.
I was very disappointed when the opening night came that I was not to wear any stage makeup. All my friends were slathered with the stuff to make them look older. I with my round baby face and messy hair (what’s changed?) was playing a very young and hysterical girl. The curtain went up, the atmosphere was expectant, the people behind the scenes were palpably tense, I was internally hysterical – no acting required there, and then I dramatically rose from my bed of anguish and delivered my lines as best as I could. I was already visualising the post-production acclaim, the autograph hunters, the pictures in the paper, the offers of film work etc etc ( did I ever mention I had (have) an overactive imagination?)
No sooner had I arisen, then I heard the biggest wave of laughter imaginable. This was not part of the programme. I had not been warned that I was part of a comedy turn. I heard a gasp from behind the scenes. I looked down.
I was standing up on the bed. My skirt was still lying on it.
Oh, the mortification. The first night. The opening scene. Totally ruined.
I looked down. Luckily I was decently covered up in my new yellow slip which I was very proud of. But what to do? Seconds were flying past. I wanted to cry. In fact I did cry, accomplished actress that I am.
Luckily, Candy Cave, who was playing Abigail, managed to get a safety pin and pin me back together again whilst prompting my lines. Total disaster was averted, the audience was sympathetic’
I got myself off the stage shaking like the proverbial leaf, to be thankfully comforted by the director, who probably saw his career going up in smoke, but he did not take it out on me.
Somehow I was persuaded to come back for the last two performances, but it was quite an ordeal. Not to be willingly repeated for a while.
After the show, to which I had invited my primary school teacher, Mrs Washington, I was getting changed, dying to go home and never see anyone again, when she came backstage, and was very kind in her own way, tellling me how she never thought I could act in primary school! But that I’d done very well!
The newspaper article points out that “the majority of the cast failed to convince”, but my classmate Marigold was singled out for maintaining a good standard of acting. Oh how jealous I was of her. Not only could she act, but she got to kiss a boy. I’m not sure what the nuns thought of this. I can’t quite remember, but I think one or two of them got a dispensation to see the play.
All in all, a disaster for me. But I did go to the last night party and stayed the night wth the MacNairs, which was excitement enough. It kept me going for several years, until I had a crush on the next drama master who produced the Tempest, with me as a nymph! But that’s another story!