I met my husband at an amateur dramatics group nearly 40 years ago. We fell in love during a production of Charley’s Aunt, got engaged while rehearsing for Middle Age Spread, and got married post What the Butler Saw. This was over the course of three or four years, and including these plays, we were doing at least two productions a year – mostly performing, but sometimes working backstage. Working alongside a group of like-minded folk to produce something entertaining, and as top-notch as am-dram can be, was, I remember, fun, but also, hard work, frustrating and nerve-jangling,
When I got pregnant with twins we decided, quite rightly, that we couldn’t commit to gruelling rehearsals and set building any longer and hung up our make-up bags. Neither of us have acted since.
Well, that’s changing. You may know we moved, nearly a year ago now, and have begun building a new life some 200 miles away from the old one. We left lots of good friends behind who we miss terribly. We belonged to various groups: art group; poetry group; writers group, yoga class…. (gosh we sound a bit dull… but they were all fun… honestly!) and now we’ve lost all that. So we had to go out and find some new way of belonging, and the best fit for us locally seemed to be the local amdram group.
‘It’ll be fun’ we said
‘like the old days’ we said
So we joined.
The people in the group are lovely and we’ve been attending the socials and readings and have now been given parts in a one act play which is part of the next production.
Aaaaggghhh……. I don’t think I thought this through…. I’ve only got a small part, but there are lines to learn, cues, and remembering to be in the right place at the right time. My brain is forty years older. I can’t even remember how to remember lines. And….. and wait for it…. I have to sing! Alright, the character is not supposed to be a good singer (I can do that bit), but I’ve never had to sing on stage before, and it has to be a song from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the one blooming musical in the world that I’ve never seen! (I’ve been watching bits on youtube… my goodness its dire!)
Dear god, what am I thinking! Currently we’re rehearsing twice a week, and yes, it is fun, and the play is funny (well, makes me laugh). But I do feel a bit like the weakest link.
Lets get this straight, I’m not, and have never been, a talented actress. Not naturally talented, I have to work, think it through. I am rubbish at accents. It takes time for me to get it right. My husband on the other hand has a natural talent that everyone recognises (hence his immediate leading role!). He can employ any accent at the drop of a hat.
I know my limitations. But 40 years ago I was getting leading roles, and my nerves didn’t get the better of me (not too often anyway) and I enjoyed the challenge. Now, I must get over this inner panic, put my big girl pants on, stop being a drama queen, and learn to love the spotlight again. So I’m off to learn my lines, and exercise my vocal chords….. ‘Oh the banyard is busy, in a regular tizzy…………….’
I grew up to the sound of needles click clacking through my childhood like nanna’s loose teeth. My mother’s fast fingers manipulated wool, turning it from a wayward ball into scratchy sweaters far from the cosy swaddle of soft baby blankets.
She fashioned me a swimsuit in blush pink which the North Sea sucked at while I paddled and splashed and squealed. I emerged almost bare initially unaware that the wool, heavy with brine, sagged around my skinny knees.
Tears laddered my face like dropped stitches. Sniggering kids in their 10 bob nylon suits pointed, while mum tiptoed across the sticks and stones of Brighton Beach to shield me in betowelled arms.
My protests never stopped her knitting lace garters for my wedding day, blankets for nuptial nights, and bonnets for new babies.
Now here I am, alone, in silence, sifting through a box full of sixties models smiling from the dog-eared patterns of memories.