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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Family of show-offs

Once I left the newspaper I swore I'd had it with covering amateur dramatics, especially rigorously filleted plays which enjoyed Methodist seal of approval. But Zach's appearance in Rumpelstiltskin, a pantomime, demanded my presence.

Zach had two parts. As a bearded gnome, he slipped down his beard to make himself more audible and I could hear his confident young voice ringing out in the choruses. As the King's valet (left on pic) he was on-stage for ages but with little to say; his eyes roved as if he was imagining himself in a more demanding role - Iago, perhaps. Before the panto he'd played a Saturday afternoon soccer game, the following morning he was off to play rugby.

I once wrote a five-act docu-parody which I also directed and narrated. There were never more than three on the stage whereas here there were dozens - appalling logistics, but well managed. Confirmation too of what V said throughout last year: as with singing so with stage speeches, Brits must conquer a national tendency whereby what they utter fades away into nothingness.

Occasional Speeder, Zach's Mum, was Adult 3, a role forced upon her as a result of being Zach's chauffeur. As I earlier found out there's nothing like acting for creating a buzz. We all got home at about 10 pm and went to bed at 2 am. Much Green Room chat, much malicious gossip about those who became excessively "precious" during rehearsals, much giggling at risky improvisations.

I recalled my own acting debut at primary school, aged about 7, reciting The Grizzly-Izzly Bear, for a group of mothers, shabbily dressed, exhausted, able to forget the War for a few minutes. I didn’t forewarn my mother, she didn’t attend and there was a huge hole in my jumper elbow.


  1. Looks like the costume department was well funded.

    I played Abanazer in Aladdin for my Scout troop aged circa 14/15. I had to do a long soliloquy in front of the curtain before the performance started for real. Other actors forgot their lines and when I delivered mine to them I was doing the prompting as well. I I don't think any of the family came to watch.

  2. I played Cassius Clay(not yet Muhammad Ali) in my only acting role at around age 12. My counterpart and close friend John Stone played Sonny Liston. I don't recall the detail of the thirty second dialog, but it attempted to mimic the taunting that was taking place between Clay and Liston prior to their first fight. I vaguely recall being a Liston fan, or at least being under the impression that he was invincible, but I was quite willing to take up the loud mouth's role. Skit ended with Sonny teetering me with a big right hand, then running behind me to catch me as I fell trustingly backward toward the floor. He then dragged be off, stage right. Stoney didn't let me down here, but soon thereafter hit me squarely in the ear with a slushy snowball, the result of my being reluctant to "ride him" on my bicycle, a skill I had (shamefully) not yet learned.

  3. Sir Hugh: If I've got the dates right I suspect I was lying abed in the British Military Hospital near Kuala Lumpur, waiting patiently for my terminal Athlete's Foot to clear up. Let the others find their own alibi.

    MikeM: I never learned to "ride" anyone on my bike. When the pressures became too great I went South for work.

    For shame. You've sat on this for years without giving a hint. There's a full-blown short story here, possibly even a 500-page Rites of Passage novel in the manner of the early Steinbeck.

  4. Good account and photo!

    My most notable stage appearance was in a Gertrude Stein play in college. I was allowed to swing out over the audience on a rope, and that was amusing. That's really all I remember....

    I enjoyed having my husband and child no. 1 acting all summer in "The Crucible," but didn't have the least wish to act myself.

  5. Marly: You remember none of the Stein dialogue? I'd have thought that would have stayed with you. Not too hard to memorise, surely?

    I trust neither hubbie nor child no. one had one of the leading roles. I've always stayed away from Crucible because of the way it ends. Having relations involved might be just a little too poignant.