Friday, November 8, 2013

Bumble Heginnings

My first memory of being in a play is at Norton Fitzwarren Primary School at about 6 I suppose playing a buxom cook in a winter production. I have no idea what the play was about, what my character did or whether it was any good. What I do remember is my costume: it was a voluminous black jumper with two of the school PE footballs shoved down the front. My mum says she nearly died when I walked out on stage but then was greeted by other parents in the break telling her I was hilarious. My poor mum wasn't so sure I was hilarious but I think we probably both knew it was best I get this sort of thing out of my system on stage.

I did a lot of amateur dramatics at school. I was never exactly what you might call 'leading lady' material; much more prone to a shepherdly casting than a Mary. But, as my mum said then and has been proved right; "Pretty girls will get the romantic roles, but you'll get all the interesting ones.".

And I did, in the course of my primary school career I played Monty The Python, a snake being charmed by my then crush, the mighty 10 year old Sam. Looking back, I probably only got the part because I was small and light enough to be put in a basket and carried on stage by two other people so I could come out when the music started and deliver my hilarious monologue in a camouflage tube that acted as my snake costume.

I was also lucky enough to play Willy Wonka in a later production, presumably the recent OFSTED slating had revealed that none of the boys at my school had the capacity to read at the time and so I was dressed in my Dad's chinese silk dressing gown, a purple hat and a massive grin and churned out as Mr Wonka himself. That production was a technical feat, much improved by the casting of twins to play Violet Beauregarde; one pre accident, one post. Magic.

Other smaller bit parts included "Learner Angel" and "Citizen" in some productions I have swept from my memory as the teachers, ever more concerned with fairness than theatrical quality, decided it would be best to let someone else have a go. No wonder I got into stand up, an ego like this has no place in a chorus.

In my final production as a Norton Fitzwarren minor I played a variety of roles in Rolling Back The Years, an epic production that spanned the 20th Century looking at major events. Roles I inhabited included Ginger Rogers, a Jarrow marcher and Madonna. See that casting directors? I am nothing if not versatile.

After Norton Fitzwarren I moved on to Bishop Fox's Community School, where I continued to pursue  an acting career despite there now being boys capable of playing boy roles and girls who looked much more like girls than I did. I looked a bit like Neville Longbottom but very malnourished.

Nevertheless, I joined an Am Dram club and played Eric the Thief (as part of the famous Wilson, Kepple, Betty & Eric. Methinks the caster took pity and added an extra role, no?). In a brillinat turn of events, a small play I did at the, sadly now closed down, Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton, led to me being cast in The Turn of the Screw by Henry James where I played a creepy little kid named Flora. No idea what the play was about but I got a costume and I was in a theatre and none of my friends were. Winning!

Back down to earth with a bump at the end of the production, I was "chorus member" in the 2002 production of Return to the Forbidden Planet. Chorus member? What?! Were they kidding?! Did they know who I was? Of course they did. You were a terrible singer and still are. Return to the Forbidden PLanet for me consisted of wearing a blue boiler suit and hanging about with a girl called Rachel saying things like Rhubarb and Crumble to look professional.

Luckily the year after was the famous 2003 Grease the Musical production in which I had the all singing, all dancing role of Frenchie. Except that Frenchie is the only main character in Grease that does not sing. So it was mainly dancing for me.

And I am not a great dancer. So I just sat about.

Leaving school meant college. 2003 saw me join Richard Huish College and commit myself to being a SERIOUS ACTRESS doing plays about issues and badly misinterpreting Pinter so I could wear a wedding dress on stage. If this is not what your college years are for, then what?

At the end of my college years, the faithful old Brewhouse Theatre put on a school's production of Les Miserables and yours truly was offered a role! A real role! Can you guess who I was playing? Eponine, given my stature? Cossette perhaps? Fantine? Madame Thenardier even? No. I was "Old Woman Who Buys Fantine's Hair" but I was delighted. Probably the best time of my life pre University.

Tune in next week for The University Years and a Step Into Comedy.
Or, if you found this intensely tedious, don't bother because it'll be similar.

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