Thursday, January 11, 2007

THE PLAYS THE THING

THE PLAY’S THE THING
Story contd.

I told William I planned to join the S.A.P.S. dramatic society and wondered if he was interested.  I knew his stammer would preclude him from acting but thought he may be interested in a back stage job.  He wasn’t and I didn’t blame him.  His job was physically tiring and he was happy to sink in to a book after dinner.  I sometimes felt the book he hadn’t read hadn’t been written.  He haunted second hand book shops – never paying more than a few pence for them and actually got interested in DIY in order to make bookshelves to house them.  If any of the family or friends showed a flicker of interest in any subject William would have a book on it or wouldn’t rest until he had found one.  Fortunately the moves we made were always to larger properties so we never ran out of space.

The play’Before the Party’ was based on a short story by Somerset Maugham the play was actually written by Rodney Ackland only a year or so earlier.  All I can remember about the plot was that it concerned a ‘murder lurking beneath the surface of a socially respectable household.’  There were parts for two men and four women and a school girl Susan. Both Lily and I had our eyes on the part of the young widow.  Lily was very excited as she was shortly going to Oxford to visit her fiancée and deciding on her wardrobe, and I was delighted to be asked to help her choose.  We agreed that whoever won the part the other would accept graciously and may the best man win.

The committee were seated round a table in a separate room and we had to take turns to go in and read for them.  Eventually it was our turn and Lily went first.  She seemed quite happy when she came out so I took a deep breath and went in.  I told them I would like to read the part of the young widow and there was an uncomfortable silence.
‘Actually Pat, we’ve decided that Lily is perfect for that part.  Would you mind reading the part of the school girl?’
I gasped.  What a bleedin’ cheek!.  Here was I – in my early twenties – older than Lily and a married woman to boot – me read the part of a school girl?
Meekly I sat down and looked at the script.  I was choking with outrage and nerves and started to read not knowing how to handle it.  I had to say something about a shilling and I stumbled and lisped a bit.  Hang on I thought that sounded real.  That’s the clue.

When I had finished they were beaming at me and asked me if I would play Susan and I said yes;  already planning a gingham cotton dress, hair in bunches and perhaps binding my bosom.  We went for a milk shake to celebrate.
The only acting I had done previously was a school girl in ‘Oliver’s Island’ a non PC play at school which talked about ‘dusky maidens’.  Not much progress then in my acting career.  William seemed pleased I had a part and the weeks of rehearsal passed quickly as they always do when you’re having fun.
The play was a success with mixed crits.  I treasured mine however even if it did seem as if I was a case of arrested development.

One performance which I exclude from any adverse criticism was that of Patricia ---- who is a young married woman but who lightly shed quite a few years to give a delightful portrayal of the inquisitive lisping school girl,  Besides mannerisms and carriage she caught perfectly every facet of this charming little girl.’
Eric Barclay

The committee said they would like me to take a leading role next time so I decided it was time to start growing up a bit.  At least I felt more mature than Lily.  She told me she was going to break off her engagement – she was still very fond of him but didn’t feel ready for such commitment.
‘Oh Lily,’ I commiserated, ‘and you were so looking forward to going down to Oxford.’ (We always said ‘down to Oxford’ because geographically it was.)
‘Oh I’m still going!’ she said.  I stared at her.
‘Well I’ve got all my clothes ready.’

23 comments:

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Am now astonished that you never earned your living treading the boards. Still loving the story, more please!

PI said...

Zinnia: the mark of a true actress is IMO, that she is prepared to do any part and I wasn't. I discovered this when playing a vamp in a Coward play and it was like a cat being stroked the wrong way. Now Beatty in Wesker's 'Roots' and Blanche in 'Streetcar'and I'm utterly entranced and dedicated.

granny p said...

What - you never got to play Beatty? Shame. As for Blanche. Love these old Am Dram pictures. The actors always look too big for the scenery. But you did make a fetching little girl.x

drunk punk said...

been to a couple more plays with Jax since 'cat on a hot tin roof'. local theatre stuff but really good - well I'm a novice but I liked it n so did Jax. 'Streetcar' and 'Hound of the Baskervilles'. 'Hound was brilliant. No famous actors but the dog was supurb. Lost it's concentration towards the end and fell off the stage right in front of me n Jax. Jax stroked it n it wagged it's tail, jumped back on stage n started growlin again. deserves an oscar does that dog!

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

What a cracking review, Pat! Well done on it, especially as this wasn't the part you'd initially wanted. Shows gumption!

R. Sherman said...

Let's recap, so far.

Every man who comes within a mile of you falls immediately in love and asks you to marry him.

You save children from horrible illnesses.

You are fabulous babe in magazine adverts.

You get great reviews for your acting.

Were it not for your profile photo which screams "Honesty," we would all think this was made up.

Query: Why didn't you write an autobiography and sell it like any good capitalist?

You make us wait for the installments when you could have made a bundle on this.

Great stuff as always.

Cheers.

utenzi said...

I gather this all happened a few years back, Pat. It's neat that you just happened accidentally on how you wanted to play the character "Susan". Congratulations on getting that part--and I presume many more since then.

Michele sent me over, Pat.

PI said...

grannyp; yes I did play Beatie and lived and breathed it after my break up with Jamie. It was very therapeutic. I think a Norfolk accent is arguably the most difficult one. I was grateful for the singing postman. Although William hailed from Norfolk he sounde more like Roger Livesey than a Norfolkian. I've just found my tattered copy of 'Roots' up in the attic and it is spelt 'Beatie'. Sorry about that but you know my weaknesses.

drunkpunk: there's nothing like the live theatre - you never know what will happen as you discovered. It must have been hilarious!

Sam: I think maybe it shows I looked more like a gauche teenager than a married lady and it was easier for me to project that.

PI said...

Randall: I know you don't mean it but that makes me sound like a prize pain in the butt. Remember I was dumped by the man I really loved, my sister outshone me in most things and for years I suffered from a crisis of confidence. Now I'm through all that
and have eschewed my creed of keeping my head well below the parapet- most of the time.
I would love to put it all together in a book but need a kick up the backside and meanwhile am happy to find there are intelligent people interested enough to read it.
BTW re the awful story on your blog site - your local sherriff has just been on BBC news talking about it.

PI said...

Hi utenzi and welcome. It was about 50 years ago. I'll resist saying 'Do the math!' Nice to see you.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

A wonderful story; most enjoyable.

Michele sent me.

Peri said...

what a great experience - good job to you!
here via Michele today :)

PI said...

Jean-Luc: welcome! Glad you enjoyed the story.

Peri: welcome also and thank you for reading it.

Bob-kat said...

Sounds like you gave a fine performance as critics are not often kind!

A very nice story and well told.

Thanks for visiting my blog :-)

Mr. Althouse said...

Interesting... I'll have to return to read the beginning, as I am somewhat lost - but intrigued nonetheless...

Michele sends her regards,

Mike

Becky68 said...

Thanks for visiting my blog,
You're very brave, I've been involved in one amature play (when I was a teenager) & stayed behind the scences to play the piano, I had 1 scence & I was awful!

PI said...

Thanks bob-kat!

Welcome Mike and I hope you are intrigued enough to return.

PI said...

Welcome becky68; everybody is not very good to start with. It takes time to build up confidence but it can be very rewarding and a great excuse to let it all hang out. In the end I found I preferred directing and producing 'cos I'm really quite bossy:)

colleen said...

You don't look any older than me. Are you writing your memoirs here? It sounds like a re-telling. Do you still act? I've always thought I would but never go around to it. I do read poetry in public...and I have something bordering on a phobia of public speaking.

Bob-kat said...

Hello again Pat. Michele sent me back to see you. I just reread the last line and it made me smile! Well, if you've got your clothes ready then of course you HAVE to go! :-)

PI said...

Welcome Coleen; yes I am writing me memoirs and doing day to day chat at the same time - just to confuse everybody - but that way it stops me from getting bogged down ith the past.
I don't act now - learning lines would not be so easy althoough there is still apart I would like to play - the old woman in 'The Aspern Papers'.
speaking in public is easier if you imagine the audience have no clothes.

Hi bob-kat. Glad your second visit gave you a smile. I remeber it made me gasp!

Guyana-Gyal said...

You just fell right into your role even though you were disappointed. Do you still act?

You have lived such a colourful life. I was just thinking about it then saw Sherman's recap. Wonderful.

PI said...

GG: I don't act publicly but, as you know, I can be a bit of a drama queen. In real life most of the time I feel young and have to remember sometimes to act a dignified old lady.