I was writing earlier about the TV series ‘Hustle’ and the actors who were in it, and it got me thinking about acting, and how much I enjoyed it but how I never got further than doing little plays at home, or among friends in English lessons. I think I became very self-conscious in front of more people, even if it was people I knew, and although I was very good at acting the goat, being a fool, I never got any further than that!
In junior school we did small plays, and every year we had a nativity play at Christmas. I remember when I was probably about five or six I was desperate to be Mary, but I ended up as one of the angels and we had to stand on the edge of the performance with our arms in the air, pretending they were wings. My arms kept drooping, aching like anything, and the teacher kept telling me to lift them up – it probably wasn’t just me, I should think all the angels had tired droopy arms/wings! I did have my triumph as May Queen, and I’m not sure how I managed to get the part, nor how I managed to conduct myself competently through the role, even being praised for how well I did.
When we went on to secondary school, only girls in the upper school were in the school play,and I joined the acting club when I was old enough. The first play was ‘Twelfth Night’ and I got a tiny speaking part, which I think I managed to carry off, but I realised I wasn’t really cut out for acting and joined the history group the following year, giving up drama. I changed schools at sixteen, when we moved across the country, and yes, despite my nerves, I once again joined the drama group. What on earth possessed the teachers to think doing a Greek tragedy was a good idea? Hecuba by Euripides? Good grief, it was bad enough to be in it, I can only pity the poor parents who came to watch it! My friend played the title role and she was stunningly good, but it was a dreadfully tedious play and that, I’m afraid was the end of my acting career.
However… looking back on things, when I became a teacher I without realising, employed my nascent acting skills, especially when teaching history, or telling stories, or reading from texts. I didn’t really think about it very much at the time, I just thought it was part of being a teacher, but getting a whole class to listen, especially young people who weren’t exactly committed to the idea of being educated, and getting them to be so engrossed in what I was saying and doing that when the bell rang none of us noticed, I guess that now I glimpse a potential which was never realised in any other way.
I’ve no desire to join a drama group, or be on stage, but I guess the story telling i do in my books, is part of that hidden inclination to perform – or maybe it’s just showing off!