DCLXVI – The Numeral of the Beast - Part 29

A way to promote my fantasy trilogy - Breaking the Tranquillity of Solitude…

Part 29

Whilst we are on the subject...

To stay on the acting theme and to bring it more in to line with my book and how my early life has been influenced by my desire to become, firstly an actor and then more latterly an author, it is sensible to explore another acting performance that became a huge part of my life. I remember it very fondly as do many others that were involved to this day. I think it was 1980, but it could have been 81’. The aforementioned drama teacher, Miss Salmon was certainly at the helm this particular year and by now had, I believe become Mrs Cooper. I am very happy to say that after 40+ years I still chat to the now retired and re-married Mrs Chalk periodically on social media. I am proud to have her as a friend in cyberspace, knowing she is and always was a friend in my real life as well.

The play in this instance was Oh What a Lovely War. It was without doubt NOT the most extravagant production and had been adapted for simplicity and dramatic effect so that all the cast members wore black and white Pierrot costumes and only used hats and deliberately un-realistic props to designate the relevant characters. Well we rehearsed the thing to death and as it was a musical I was always well hidden deep within the chorus line and told to mime wherever possible. I was given various characters to play but the most memorable was the drill parade sergeant major who was meant to be a seriously stern, Windsor Davies played Sergeant Major ‘Shut Up’ Williams type character.

I was given free reign to improvise the 2 minute sketch where the point was that the men were treated like animals in a desperate attempt to toughen them up for impending war. Well to say I got carried away was to say the least an understatement. It was always planned that I would scream and shout and even throw in some profanity for effect, but I did all the rehearsals deliberately quite quietly to save the risk of going hoarse before the performance nights. Consequently it was all bit camp and usually raised more than a few laughs from the cast of soldiers lined up behind me. The lads and ladies were adored with variously ill-fitting tin hats known in the war very ironically for my purposes of relating this to my book as Brodies. This designated their rank as lowly privates, they carried broken shovels, wooden rifles, crutches and other similar rag tag items to portray them as injured, untrained and ill prepared cannon fodder.

This was a far more serious historic point, that eluded us all at the rehearsals, but would come up in conversation with some very knowledgeable people later. I changed the script minutely each time we rehearsed to keep the feel fresh. We had planned the possibility of physical abuse so everyone practiced being fake punched in the gut, but it was deliberately left that nobody would know who was getting it, so I was looking forward to letting rip, I felt very confident and didn’t count on nerves being an issue…

My inspiration!

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