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Post 26: “Overtures and beginners”

As a teenager I was an avid fan of the series Fame and then saw the movie - a transformative experience. I hugely identified with Doris Schwartz, the wisecracking Jewish girl who wanted a career in the theatre but had yet to find the right path. She was desperate to fit in but came to understand that she had to learn to be comfortable in her own skin.

The idea of stage school also fascinated me, being with like minded people all day, standing on your seat in the dining room and bursting into song… luckily, despite not going to Sylvia Young or Italia Conti, I found two places to be where that was possible.

The first was through my youth group, where creativity was totally de rigeur and we thought nothing of improvising a sketch or writing new words to a pop song and teaching it to everyone. In fact I found lifelong friends through that group, including people as passionate about theatre and comedy as I was. We even created our own improv space where we relentlessly went through the Whose Line Is It Anyway Book Of Games.

The second was my school. It was not an approved activity. But I had a couple of musical theatre obsessed friends and nothing stopped us from performing extracts of Les Mis during break time or deciding that, on this particular day, any communication between us should be done in the style of Phantom.

We even had a girl-band that did a bit of gigging and somehow managed to blag a spot in assembly. For this, we were expected to provide music on religious themes to celebrate the new Jewish month. We took Hebrew texts and put them to Beatles music for our 15 minute slot. The students and younger teachers got it immediately, they were laughing and singing along. The Head and RE staff knew there was something up but being unfamiliar with secular music, couldn’t place what it might be. That tickled me. It still does.

Those are some of my favourite memories of what was in many ways a challenging time, and I’m pleased they’ve stuck in my brain. I only regret that neither of those ended with a really good finale. A bit of me thinks that every life stage should finish with an ensemble song, bows and a curtain call. I might need to sort that out.

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