Yesterday was a quiet one, mostly spent indoors nursing my sore muscles and feeling under the weather.
In the late afternoon, and after a little sleep, I got out the script and had a go at learning my lines.
For what? You may well ask – and I shall tell you. A month ago, a friend told me about a new drama group, started by two local young men (both, I believe, in their twenties – or young enough to be my sons, to put it another way!), which was looking for actors and rehearsed in the back room of a local pub, the King Arthur.
The name of the group – Shadow of the Tor – entranced me immediately, as did the mention of an Arthurian Watering Hole and people who, according to my pal, were lovely.
Glastonbury has a reputation for airy-fairy-ness, amongst other things, for happy hippies (to misquote a line from the recent pantomime!) – and the shadow reference in the group’s name represents a timely reminder of the darker side of my new home town. But also, to my mind, shows the necessary polarity in and on our landscape: Shadows are essential as protection and as contrast to the brightness of light. You cannot have one without the other.
One Monday afternoon – fresh, as it happened, from my first stint at a local-ish school – I arrived, late, to my first rehearsal, walking into a room full of colourful, mainly young, people. Brad Crowley and Francis Oliver (both of whom I have mentioned before in connection with the Glastonbury Town Players’ pantomime), long-haired and delightfully reminiscent of male students when I was at university in the seventies, stood up on the stage – and were, as my friend had intimated, lovely.
We started the session by singing Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in its entirety – and I knew, at that point, that these were my sort of people! Never mind the thirty odd year age gap between me and most of ’em!
To my surprise and delight, I was given a small part in their forthcoming production – ‘In the Shadow of the Tor’ – and had great fun at the session, though I had to leave early to deal with Jumble (who had been alone since 7.30 that morning).
For various reasons, I have only been to one rehearsal since then – and was aware, yesterday, that Time’s Winged Chariot was drawing ever nearer to Beltane (the play is going to be a part of the Beltane Celebrations weekend here and will be performed, in the afternoon of the 29th April, after the Dragon Conference events) and I only knew one word of my, admittedly small, bunch of lines!
Before I go any further, let me just indulge myself in a whimsy of remembrance. Three years ago this month, I discovered that I had to learn the lines for Veta-Louise Simmons (Elwood P. Dowd’s sister in ‘Harvey’) at the proverbial last minute. The woman picked for the part had lost her voice – and, long story short, we ended up sharing the role on alternate nights.
Thanks to help from a close friend also in the cast, I ended up learning the whole lot in three weeks – and, although not word-perfect, made no more mistakes than any other cast member!
But, with doubt having been cast on my mind and memory since those halcyon days, I was anxious about learning the few lines I had – and had, I now think, been putting it off for that very reason.
I did what I always do: Paced up and down, declaiming with attitude, bunging in the cues where possible, until I felt I could go script-free.
To my relief, the ability to remember, to set each line in a cement of pronunciation and emphasis, came back almost immediately – and, although not as speedy as I was in my late teens and early twenties, I am pleased that the ability to learn has not deserted me in my late fifties!
I shall practise again today, and tomorrow, and will, with luck, be pretty much word-perfect by Monday!
Lovely to be in such a vibrant drama group, however, and I am now really looking forward to the Beltane performance of the play.
Me as Veta-Louise Simmons in late May 2014 – a fine figure of several women! Look at those chins!