April 15, 2018

Don't put you daughter on the stage Mrs. Worthington. An old post...

My mind plays tricks on me. I think it was 1971 or thereabouts when I looked out of the window from my (famously) flock wallpapered home.

Don't put you daughter on the stage Mrs. Worthington. An old post...

don't put your daughter on the stage

My mind plays tricks on me. I think it was 1971 or thereabouts when I looked out of the window from my (famously) flock wallpapered home. There was in front of me a fleeting scene. A scene of tranquility. Snow had fallen on the ground. Indeed deep and crisp and even. It was completely untouched. A giant white shroud had covered London. Nature had shown her hand, and she was holding all the aces.

The light reflected from the snow brightly, the pure virgin snow covered a multitude of sins and my home in Kensington had many sins that needed to be covered.The good times were rolling to a close. Fortunes literally relied on the turn of a card, even a marked card and our collective karma had dealt the worst possible hand. The road to Desolation Avenue was just around the corner and life would never be the same again for all of us good or bad.

They say that you should never go back. I did, I walked down the street where as a small child we used to play tennis. The street seemed the same all clean and tidy, who knows what went on behind the securely locked doors. The part of Kensington where I lived, Inverness Gardens, was very well heeled it was an area where the misdemeanours of the young were classed as high spirits, but a couple of miles down the road you would get your collar felt and social services would have a field day. The houses, clad in white stucco were places where you could disappear, be anonymous. I often used to wonder about other peoples lives and the secrets within, everyone has secrets. I realised from a very early age how tenuous life is. Nothing was or is permanent I learnt to accept this. Life like the snow I watched through the window would melt and reveal the imperfections underneath.

I was from a very early age a voracious reader, I loved reading, I enjoyed most The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings I escaped into a fantasy world as all children do. Books and reading were my lifeline. I was rarely seen without a book or two close at hand.

Reminiscing further I have to say I absolutely hated school, and I did not get it. The rigidity and rules stifled me I used to hate walking to school. every hour at school was usually without purpose.

I was an awkward child full of energy but with nowhere for that energy to go. To my great good fortune there was one teacher that caught my imagination and mesmerised me. I must admit that at first I found him too much to bear he was a character of such epic proportions that he scared me. Once I got to know him he became someone that I greatly admired and still do. Ivor Cutler was to some an oddball and to others a genius, I thought he was (in time) a genius, and like many others I was slightly imperfect and that was fine, I had a badge to prove it. Anyone who knew Ivor would often be given a small silver or gold sticker saying things like my slightly imperfect label, indeed there is even a book of these badges. Cutlerisms if you care to look. Even John Lennon and Paul Mc Cartney were fans, they cast him to play the role of Buster Bloodvessel in the Magical Mystery Tour he played the part well.

Thanks to Ivor, I discovered that I liked acting, and he encouraged me without realising it. I auditioned for a stage school and ended up at a well known school called Corona Academy, it was ‘an experience’, it was like a co-educational St. Trinians, controlled (sort of) by two sisters, Rona and Muriel. Muriel had a shock of dyed white hair and was known as the ‘white tornado’ she used to teach tap dancing, and I truly had two left feet, I hated tap dancing and I would rather go to the dentist than endure a lesson. However, after time I found out that there were some areas of drama school that I enjoyed. Ivor planted a seed and it came to fruition when I met a casting director called Joyce Nettles. It was the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, 1977. I was cast to play the part of Olaf in an Ibsen play called Pillars of the Community, with the Royal Shakespeare Company I was young and overawed by the role but not completely phased by it.

I remember going up to Stratford Upon Avon by train. When I got there things got a bit difficult, for instance I fell over and nearly ‘broke a leg’ when I discovered the joys of a raked stage. I nearly fell into the front row!

The play was due to run at the Aldwych Theatre in London as the Barbican Theatre had not been completed yet. We rehearsed and rehearsed in Covent Garden, the area was run down and empty it had yet to be transformed into the tourist mega hub that it is now. Eventually the first night loomed large, I was nervous, but it seemed to go well, in fact it got rave reviews. I got my picture in the Daily Mail. I remember with fondness Ruby Wax and Judy Dench without forgetting Ian Mc Kellen, you would not be a thespian without name dropping. I remember holding Judy Dench’s daughter Finty then a small baby in my arms, and I remember on my last night that the audience went wild. My poor mother had to collect me from the theatre and one night she wiped out the door of a black taxi! Then, suddenly It was all over, and life returned to normal. It was difficult to come down from such an adrenaline rush.

Life being a child actor was a rollercoaster ride. I always say to parents now to heed the lines from the 1935 song by Noel Coward and not to ‘put your daughter on the stage Mrs. Worthington, don’t put you daughter on the stage.’ Very much wise words…