Angels, and a fool

Wednesday 8th February 2012

RUTH, Russell and Kay did an abridged version of In Camera, at lunchtime; Jeremy graduated from policeman in Oliver! to Aegisthus in Electra; Steve was a shy Romeo; Sue a raunchy Potiphar’s wife.

They were there before me. Risk meant endeavour, not assessment. We learned together.

My second teaching job: a secondary modern, just gone comprehensive: large drama studio, small budget. I wore a pony-tail then, would grab a quick smoke between lessons. Older students baby-sat for us. Several have kept in touch, remained friends.

Their thirst became my vocation. You can look straight into an inquisitive mind; like a galaxy calling, ‘Find me, reach me’; or a door, ajar.

The director of studies brought his wife to see Oh, What a Lovely War! I asked him if they’d enjoyed it.

“Enjoy is not the right word.”

My fault for seeing him as a colleague, not theatre-goer. Wasn’t that what we were after, with that sombre, silent curtain? The cast had laughed when I’d admitted, during rehearsals, to having been in a cadet force as a boy.

When a new deputy headmistress was appointed, she volunteered to be on duty for the Thursday night.

“On duty? Do you mean, helping back-stage?”

“Patrolling the aisles. You know, cat-calls or whatever. In my last school…”

I chuckled, explaining the difference between an evening’s theatre and the productions put on elsewhere.

“Just come along and watch. And don’t expect to see me switching off the fluorescent lights at the start. There’s a lighting crew, who’ll be given a cue when to dim the house lights.”

Mark later joined the Household Cavalry; Victor became a valet at Buckingham Palace; Tim still plays a mean bass, supports the Hammers. Wonder what became of Joy, who wanted to be a dancer; or Mike, who talked of teaching History. Wish I’d kept more copies of the programmes.

They didn’t know it then, but it was those already there – the secondary modern kids – who kept me from falling. A fool rushed in, to find fearless angels treading the path ahead.

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