Tuesday, January 10, 2012
1975: Facing the world
The school play: who didn't want to be in it? Well, me, actually.
It had been announced in the autumn of 1974 that this year's school play was to be the Wizard Of Oz and everyone in the class had a part. I was in the fourth year at primary school, and both us the fifth year class would be taking part in some form or another, whether it be acting or producing or set designing or whatever.
The year before had been the first one they'd ever done and it had been Aladdin and was a roaring success with Michael Bernard-Jones stealing the show as Widow Twankey. Yes, the dame is always played by a man but this was a an all-boys school and a catholic one at that. But they still knew how to have fun.
So now it was our turn to be involved. So when the headmaster, (our form teacher and a Christian brother whose wandering hands landed him in court some years later), read out who had got which part I sat hoping there was no place for me. I didn't want to be in it at all. In fact, I couldn't think of anything worse. So when I was announced as the Wizard I shot my hand up and said I didn't want to be in it. Brother looked stunned. But okay, if that's what I wanted so be it.
Needless to say as the weeks went by and everyone got terribly excited about it and could talk of nothing else I felt hugely excluded. What had I done. It actually looked rather fun. That was that: I wanted in.
I asked Brother if I could have a part after all and the only one going was that of bold Munchkin girl. Well, it was better than nothing. I wasn't proud. I would be one of three 'girls' who represented the Lullaby League and welcomed Dorothy to Munchkinland. A singing role and brief too. But hey, I was in it.
So the preparations began. Mum put out feelers. We borrowed a long diaphanous blue dress from Auntie Barabara's daughter, a hairpiece and a mob cap (for some reason) and the outfit was complete. Oddly, when I showed Brother, he told me I wasn't allowed to wear any underwear undeath the dress and made me stand on a table in front of a window so the light shone through. A teahcer was present, who must have thought it rather odd that this should be the case, but there was the problem. This filfthy perv had been getting away this kind of behaviour for years. But no one said anything, it was just allowed to happen. It took a teacher almost 25 years to finally pluck up the courage to report him but when none of the parents would believe her she was sacked. But she did get her day in court eventually. Shame so many young lives were touched in such a sorry way by who was essentially a paedophilic monster. But that's the catholic church for you, I'm afraid.
Anyhoo, the show must go on.
That Christmas, I saw the film of the Wizard Of Oz for the first time. The whole class was glued and when we came back in January we had four weeks to get it polished and professional. Endless rehearsals and dress rehearsals and meetings, all taking place after school. But what fun it was to be involved. The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd. We were word perfect by opening night.
Three nights only, parents came, neighbours came the whole thing was a triumph. Nicholas Wood shone as Dorothy, carried off the solos with aplomb and looked very comfortable in blue gingham. I wonder what he's doing now? But in the blink of an eye it was all over.
I'll never forget the pain of that hairpiece though, and the pot of Pond's cold cream mum gave me to take my clownish make-up off each night. It took forever. Who'd be a woman? More trouble than it's worth.
The drive home always involved this song by Pilot popping up at some stage, cold and pitch black outside, the excitement subsiding as we got nearer home, but a big sense of fun all the same. It was brilliant, but I've not trodden the boards since.