Slowly marinade, and watch the child grow up immersed by theatre and dramatics.
The exciting performances started with the stairs going up to the attic, and the dressing up drawer.
In the drawer were hats, cloaks, skirts, false armour, crowns, weapons, skirts, stage jewellery (overlarge and shiny), wigs and hairpieces.
These became whatever we thought up and the stories made up. The attic stairs became the mast in Treasure Island for Jim to climb. Best of all was the chance for Jim to say ‘One more step and I’ll blow your brains out.’
Cushions became Peter Pan’s raft, it was easy to do. ‘Tick, Tock,’ was for the crocodile swallowing the clock! Just to say these words make my spine tingle, ’Growing up must be an awfully big adventure.’
We all fought to be Captain Hook, and make a hook for his hand. Adventures were simple but at least we could have them. Outside our garden wall provided climbing experience, and danger, especially with barking dogs on the other side. Always wondered if the neighbours minded being spied on.
On an early trip to the theatre the house lights fade and I am on the edge of my seat to see whatever is lit up on the stage. ‘I am watching Peter Pan; my mother knows most of the actors on the stage at the
Scala. She is anxious that I go to the loo before the next act. The lagoon lights up; Captain Hook and his pirates are ready to pounce, Peter Pan, the lost boys, and the Red Indians are circling.
The crocodile continues to tick, Wendy, John and Michael fly home to Kensington Gardens, leaving Peter behind in Neverland. ‘I never want to be a man.’
Exploration and adventure are on offer here in the theatre. Safe space!
Quick as anything we go backstage so my mum can have a gossip with Russell Thorndike alias Smee the pirate. In the meantime, a good corner for me is under his sewing machine while they reminisce and bitch about other actors! ‘Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.’
‘Now is the winter of discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.’
‘Come what come may time and the hour run through the roughest day.’
‘This sceptred isle set in in a silver sea.’
Being soaked in Shakespeare felt normal to me; according to my mother Shakespeare would have been asked to be my Godfather! The dimming house lights and another world appearing on the stage is the magic of theatre, to set our souls on fire.
Grayson Perry has recently challenged us to think what art will there be after this pandemic, and if it will change.
Theatres are dark now, actors do not have live jobs. How much do we want theatre? Personally, being taken into another world is for me as good as travel. The experience can change me.
The escapism and experience on offer in theatre and drama seems to me irreplaceable. It is an ephemeral art form, blink and you miss it.
Written by Julia Jarrett, one half of 'The Julias' Play reading group, as a plea for live theatre and drama during and after the COVID pandemic.