Blog 54 p…A Celebration…
We’ve all gone slightly mad at the moment with Jubilee Fever…and it’s wonderful! I love that we have a Queen and all the pomp and glory that goes with a Royal Family.
I love the fact that this weekend is extended by two more days making it a special holiday!
Get the flags out! Get the bbq’s going! Hang the bunting and make cakes and sandwiches!
Well actually at the time of writing this it’s a case of get the wellies and umbrellas out…the garden is flooded again!
This is such a contrast to the Silver Jubilee Celebrations when the sun was shinning and the heat was cracking the pavement…and why do I remember the Silver more than the Golden? Well that’s because I performed for the Queen! [Well in a sense I did…]
Many years ago, in fact what seems like a lifetime ago now, I was studying Drama and English at the teacher training college in Liverpool. I had always wanted to be an actress from the moment I saw Ali Mac-Graw in ‘Love Story.’ It became a burning passion but one that I couldn’t tell anyone about as I was supposed to work hard, get qualifications of some kind and then carve out a lucrative career. Fat chance of becoming famous anyway as I was such a nervous person I didn't volunteer for anything throughout school…what on earth was I thinking? But anyway, I filled my dairy with daydreams and then when I had to decide what was I going to do after my exams I of course had no idea…go to London and join a theatre? No way was I going to be allowed to waste a moment of the Convent school education my father had worked so hard to pay for; in fact I had been offered a job as a trainee manageress in one of the shops I worked in during school holidays. [Now those were the days! I worked on a Saturday in a fabulous modern dress shop where the discount was more generous than the wage…and then during the week of the holidays I worked in a slightly classier shop that sold leather goods…ah the smell of the leather...] It was the leather shop manageress that was giving me the opportunity to train…which also meant that I could go on the window dressing courses in London. Ah ah! That was my ticket to freedom. London, bright lights and famous people…I’d be discovered in a shop window and make my fortune as an actress…
However, my parents had other ideas… my mother was diplomacy itself when she tackled the possibility of me applying for the same teacher training college as my big sister… ‘…just apply to keep your father happy.’ Then it was… ‘go for the interview to keep your father happy’…not in a million years did I think I’d pass and actually be offered a place…but I did pass and I did get offered a place and my mother said; ‘Just go for the first term and then tell your father you’re not happy…’ Oh yeah right, sure he’d let me come back home, un-employed and un-qualified and the job offer for the manageress had long gone…so it was that I was at college in Liverpool in the summer of 1977…the year we celebrated the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.
When filling in the college application form I confided in my mother that I wanted to be an actress and she confided in me that I could be anything I wanted to be but I had to go to college to stop my father moaning how his life had been wasted by giving me an education…but we could reach a compromise…I was to apply to do Drama as my main subject; that way I would get drama training as well as a career in teaching to fall back on. Mmm…wise woman my mother. So I studied Drama.
I was terrible; the nerves got the better of me most of the time plus I didn’t really ‘fit’ in with the other budding actresses who had the looks, the talent, the moves.
I was clumsy, buck-toothed, frizzy haired, knock-kneed, fat then thin then wobbly in places, so busty that I was self conscious in the leotards we wore for the practical sessions, I have a dreadful speaking voice [shite through a sieve my dad used to say] broad Lancashire accent that got worse as the Liverpuddlian twang got mixed up with it…but worst of all I couldn’t remember my lines or anyone else’s for that matter so I often missed my cue!
So the fact that I was less attractive and more clumsy than the other budding Elizabeth Taylors was why I was selected for the less than wonderful parts. For the Queen’s celebrations she was visiting the North West of England and the first ever Hope Street Festival was produced to involve all Drama students and school children in the most magnificent street dramas. My drama group were to perform a traditional Mummer’s play which needed a character like a court jester…enter me…my tutor thought this part was more my thing and I was dressed in a multi-coloured jacket, black tights, carrying a mini jester on a stick with bells to rattle and I had a mask. Thank goodness for the mask! I could at least hide half my face!
The role of the 'jester' was to enter the street staging from behind a curtain, introduce the play and wander around the street gathering people to come and watch. OMG.
During rehearsals I popped my head through the curtains and forgot my opening lines the minute I saw the other students gazing at me…45 attempts and the Drama tutor called me to one side and suggested that I go away and practice on my own and come back when I had perfected the role…another student played the same part and she had NO problems!
Hell fire I couldn’t help it, in tears I rang my mum for advice…’write your lines on a piece of paper and stick them all around your room so that you see them the minute you wake up…’ mmm well it was worth a try…dress rehearsal came and I was much better; much to the relief of the other students who were by now less than enamoured by my feeble attempts…
The day dawned and my stomach was in knots, I hadn’t slept for fear of forgetting my lines, my body was shaking and sweating so much I couldn’t get the black tights on properly and to make matters even harder not only were we performing for Royalty but we were being assessed by our tutors for the end of year exam! Standing behind the stage curtain I tried to calm my nerves, ‘stand alone and don’t talk to anyone,’ had been some good advice as well as to run my lines through my head…I could hear the noise of the crowds of people passing by the stage on their way along the street to enjoy everything the festival offered and then…it was time; time to climb the steps onto the stage and pop my head through the curtain…I stumbled, falling head forwards I grabbed the curtain, it twisted, I tensed, my mask slipped and I fell through the opening…struggling to regain my dignity I shouted the opening lines as I lunged forward stopping just in time before falling off the staging…people stopped and stared at me as I stood precariously on the very edge and then I froze…what comes next? What’s my next line? OMG…I looked around and then…I jumped off the stage into the street and began my first ever public performance…not quite word perfect but a few ad-libs and careful movements around the people and before I knew it I was joined by the other ‘actors’ and together we pulled off quite an impressive street performance of the Mummer’s play.
PHEW! I even somehow managed a Scottish accent when I said my line ‘Is there a Doctor in the house?’... mimicking a very famous actor from a soap opera of the 70’s.
The crowds laughed, clapped and we took our bow and only then did I stop to think…where was the Queen?
Ah well, you see her motorcade was actually only passing the top of the street we were in on her way to see the wonderful performance by the school children near the Cathedrals…but anyway perhaps she turned her head and was amused to see a multi-coloured 'jester' flying through the air from the stage to the street below…
Happy Diamond Jubilee to our Queen!
Blog 54 q coming soon…next Wednesday…