Sean Lock has a point you know, kids and acting, your average school play is for the parents benefit, if your kid isn’t in the play then you’ll realise pretty quickly that its a crock of shit – problem is the kids get praised from the parents and suddenly being an actor is the most important ambition in their sorry lives – its why 98% of all actors are out of work at any given moment in time, its why Bill Roache is the luckiest actor in actor fiefdom.
We had drama lessons at Leeds Modern Grammar School but fortunately it was because it was a compulsory part of the English curriculum and not because the English masters thought there may be an Academy Award winner lurking among us, our drama lessons were always viewed as an easy way to waste a 40 minute lesson in the morning period rather than anything important, even by Hodgson the English Drama master.
Not so fortunate at my Junior School where Holmesy the Pompous Head got it into his brain one christmas that what his inconsequential district Junior School really needed was a christmas nativity performance with a difference, no more kids with tea towels on their heads, oh no, this would be selected elements from the school singing serious christmas songs, playing serious musical instruments, reciting serious passages from the bible from a lectern – lets remind ourselves, the oldest kid in that school wasn’t yet 11 years of age.
Lets also remind ourselves that the school had no musical talent, music wasn’t on the curriculum unless you count those 15 minute lessons once a week where we all listened to a huge radio set at a BBC broadcast that tried to get you to rattle a Fairy Liquid bottle filled with dried peas in time with some south american bongo music.
Unfazed by the complete lack of any talent in his school Holmesy went out and bought some violins and gave them to one of his teachers, the one who didn’t even know what a violin was, and told her to teach five kids how to play the thing before christmas, this would be around the start of November.
He then pointed to another teacher and told them that they now had “choirmaster” added to their teaching CV and despite protests that the teacher didn’t even like music of any genre the job stuck and that teacher was tasked with forming a choir of 9 year olds who could be taught to sing Handels Messiah in three weeks, and sound like they meant it.
Finally Mouldy Moulton, our teacher was told to select five individuals from the class who would stand in front of a huge invited audience and read bible passages from them, “pick the ones who speak nicely” he said to her obviously bearing in mind that most of the kids in our class had pretty broad Yorkshire accents and the ones from the council estate were barely legible, inexplicably the daft bint picked me as one of the orators, to say I was horrified is the understatement of the year so far, I was given three or four paragraphs to memorise from the moment in the bible when the wise men appear in the town looking for a crazy woman who swears that she has never had sex but is clearly up the duff and who has just given birth in a stable of all places, I took home a slip of laminated paper with my reading written on it with instructions that it was to be indelibly printed into my brain by next Tuesday, or else.
Fortunately Holmesy decided that a rehearsal would be expedient and so one day before the big event (to which he had invited no less than the Lord Mayor), the hastily assembled orchestra was assembled, the hastily assembled choir of angels was assembled, and five kids who didn’t want to be there were sat underneath the christmas tree and warned that if they had to read from their notes when it was their turn then they would be dead meat when Mouldy Moulton got them back to the classroom, I was one of those five kids and I hated her.
The god of all get-out clauses was watching down on us that morning for as the violin section opened proceedings with an intermezzo from Bizet’s Carmen it became very quickly obvious that this would be the christmas concert from hell, and when the choir tried to sing along to the caterwauling of horse hair scratched across cat gut then it was more than Holmesy could stand, holding his hands over his ears he stormed the stage and screamed for silence before telling us all that THAT was the worse noise he had ever heard and we were all fired.
‘Twas a good christmas that year after all.