Monday, 23 June 2014

Memory Monday #3

I made my acting debut when I was 6 years old playing a smudgy-faced street urchin in my primary school's non-musical rendition of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It was also the final time I ever tread the boards...

In short the story is about Sweeney Todd, a barber who slits the throats of his unsuspecting victims as they're sitting in his barber chair thinking they're there for a quick shave. He then pulls a lever and dispatches his victims into the basement where Mrs Lovett happily makes them into the filling for her pies and sells them to her customers. I've no idea what else happens but I'm sure many of you will have seen the film version with Johnny Depp (I haven't; too many bad memories...)

Quite why the teachers at a primary school (for children aged 4-11) thought this was suitable subject matter for children to perform as a play is beyond me but that's a debate for another day.

The play was performed as part of our school's Victorian Music Hall in which we sang lots of old time tunes such as "Let's All Go Down the Strand (have a banana!)" (not written until 1909 which makes it an Edwardian song) and "Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile" (published as a WW1 anthem in 1915 making it Georgian!) As you can see the teachers at my primary school were clearly more concerned with having content. ANY CONTENT, than being factually or historically accurate. but again that's a debate for another day!

You may recall that the other editions of this tag (Memory Monday #1 & Memory Monday #2) were centred around my dad and this tale isn't really any different. As "street urchin (girl)" my role required me to wear what can only be described as 'rags'. Whilst making these rags the teacher in charge (who probably called herself The Director and had a chair and clapper board prepared specially) cut numerous holes in a large man's white shirt. Unfortunately she got a little scissor happy and cut a hole out where my bum was so it was imperative, she said, that I wear white underwear.

On the day of the performance my dad dressed me and did not heed this advice. The performance drew closer and as I was changing into my holey rag shirt I heard the teacher gasp and turn to her colleague muttering something. "It's too late now" she said and ushered me towards the stage. I have to say that I was tremendous; my line (possibly something cliched like "'ello gov'nor!") was delivered with the poise, passion and grandeur befitting of such a role and I received a standing ovation... OK, that didn't happen, of course it didn't, but what did happen was that when I had delivered whatever words the script commanded and turned to leave the stage via a hastily constructed faux door I heard all of the children in the audience laugh and a collective groan / gasp from the parents. I ran off stage to the sound of my school friends' childish giggles and burst into tears.
My dad had dressed me in bright pink knickers (think MACs Candy Yum Yum) that were displayed to the entire audience, and captured on film, my shame immortalised forever. I was mortified. Even a rendition of "My Old Man (Said Follow the Van)" couldn't cheer me up (perhaps because the song was from 1919 and by this stage the factual inaccuracy of the whole Victorian Music Hall production was getting me down, although aged 6 I doubt it!)

For weeks afterwards all that my classmates talked about was (a) why Keith K "sang like a girl" (his rendition of "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean" was enough to make a grown man cry) and (b) how hilarious it was that Simone had bright pink knickers on.

Thanks Dad!

I hope you enjoyed this installment of Memory Monday. Hopefully there'll be another one next week but I'm going away for work so I'm not sure I'll have time to write one! In the mean time I'm having a small blog giveaway which you can find here! Good luck and thanks for stopping by!

4 comments:

  1. You're right; it doesn't seem appropriate for children at all! I'm left wondering whether it wouldn't have been easier for the teacher to procure somehow another large white shirt! Not sure they'd be in short supply.

    Also, I can see the resemblance in younger you to you now :)

    ("Georgian" era actually refers to George I-IV, rather than V or VI.)

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    1. I didn't know that! Does V / VI have a similar reference?

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  2. hehe, ahh parents ;)
    My first acting experience was playing Dorothy in my 4th year of school end of year production of the Wizard of Oz. I was so nervous I could hardly get the song out as I was stood on stage, along, signing Somewhere Over the Rainbow with my music teacher on piano.

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    1. Dorothy eh? That's a cracking debut!

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