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Thursday 16 February 2023

Tell Us About.....Play!

 Two children acting in their own play. Picture by cottonbro studio for Pexels

Dear friends. My angle on Play, this month's theme for the Tell Us About Challenge, is "The Play's the Thing", and my thwarted theatrical ambitions. 

As a child I was convinced I would become a film star.  It all started with the Lionel Bart film Oliver! We queued round the block to watch that at the Odeon, and I loved both the songs and Mark Lester (now an osteopath). 

I was convinced a Hollywood scout would discover me, in the tiny village of Colebrook, Devon. I would play my recorder plaintively out of the bedroom window, occasionally singing.  My parents thought it was hilarious. 

My friend Jill and I wrote to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to inquire about opportunities. I was 9, she was 11. My mum could only spare one sheet of Basildon Bond paper so we wrote on both sides of it. RADA replied to Jill and told her politely to apply when she was 18. 

The Pilgrim Fathers 

My class was involved in an exciting project to feature in a play about the Pilgrim Fathers.  It was filmed at Plymouth Polytechnic using what was described as "close circuit TV." I didn't have a speaking role and my costume featured a pillow case dangling on string, which was my apron. My mum was never very gifted with fancy dress. 

The play never saw the light of day. I often wonder if it's in an archive somewhere.  The 400th anniversary of The Mayflower's voyage in 2020 was going to be a huge deal in Plymouth but didn't happen quite as envisaged because of lockdowns. 

Aged 10 I was eagerly creating plays with my partner-in-crime, Duncan.  We occasionally got to perform these in front of our class.  Inevitably the plot involved Sherlock Holmes because Duncan had a deerstalker, and it was easy from a props point of view to create a "car" with four chairs.

Occasionally I'd put on a play in the garden that starred my neighbours and friends Jill and David. We would attach a cardboard clock to the washing line, with a sheet as our curtain. The play - it was always the same one - was called "The Ghost in the Noon Day Sun."  

We'd be putting our heart and soul into it, in front of our seated audience, our mothers. But sadly they were never watching, except to admonish us "Get off the garden, ghost." They were too busy yapping. 

The Big Opportunity

I was 10 when a big opportunity presented itself. One of the teachers, Mrs Horsley, was assembling a cast for our school's production of A Christmas Carol.  It was to be performed at the secondary school down the road, so was a big deal. 

We had to audition and I was quietly confident.

But there was no role for me except that of an onion seller. My speaking part was literally two words, "Onions, onions."  

Duncan was to be Bob Cratchit  (no deerstalker required) and my friend Shonagh was Mrs Fezziwig.

The pic shows the assembled cast. Some of the mums did well with the costumes! Poor Duncan was too nervous on the day and didn't take part.  He isn't in the photo.  I'm at the end of the second row from the top, on the left, in a green fur lined cape that belonged to my friend Jill. I'm holding up one of my wretched onions. Still playing to the camera! 

Reader, that was the end of my thespian ambitions. Well actually it wasn't, because in the sixth form at my next school, aged 17, I played Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, in A Midsummer Night's Dream. But even with two lines, and two changes of costume, I had to admit that I was never going to be a threat to Dame Judi Dench. 

The cast of A Christmas Carol in 1971, performed by 10 year olds at Geasons Primary School, Plympton in Plymouth. Is This Mutton's Gail Hanlon is in the 3rd row, far left, in green with her wretched onions

The class of 1971, Geasons Primary School, Plymouth. Left to right: back row - Susan Mitchell, Gregory Pannell, Theresa Gard, Paul Pulleston. Third row: Yours truly! Lorna Underwood, Linda Keith, Kevin Farnham, Teresa Arbuthnott, Heather Bannerman, Kim Heaney, Susan Payne, Mark Derrick, Mary Shelton.  Second row: Bernice Newnham, Jane Wigginton, Karen Hollett, Shonagh Moore, Julie Hood, Julia Farrow, Jacqueline Bright, Heather Brewer, Julie O'Connell, Christopher Shorey. Front row: Tony Eva, Carole Marley, Mark Lynden, Julie Hambly.

Let's See How My Friends Interpreted Play

I hope you enjoyed my nostalgia fest. Let's find out what my partners in crime have created.  

Australian blogger Debbie at Deb's World, whose challenge this was, says that Play is an essential part of her life. She never plans to stop playing as that would be admitting she's given up! Lots of examples of how she plays are in her post, which you'll find here

US blogger Mary Katherine at MK's Adventures   took a stroll down Memory Lane as she remembered  how she played as a little girl.

Michelle from Following My Muse says generally society tends to regard play as necessary for children and frivolous for adults. But she believes it's very important for adults too.

Penny from Frugal Fashion Shopper is unwell this week but will be posting her Play post as soon as she feels better. Jill from Grownup Glamour was also unable to join this time. Sending lots of love to Penny and Jill and wishing them all the best for a speedy recovery.

Sharing this post with #FridayCoffeeShare at Natalie the Explorer,  #AnythingGoes at My Random Musings, Rena at Fine WhateverTalent Sharing Tuesdays at Scribbling Boomer#SpreadTheKindness  and #Linkup on the Edge at Shelbee on the Edge,  #Neverendingstyle at The Grey Brunette Traffic Jam Weekend at Marsha in the Middle

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