Greasepaint

Once again the rain lashes the glass, driven by a wind that was a gale.  Yesterday it tore the glasses from my face, in pitch darkness, and I stood unable to move, unable to see.  One wrong step and they could be smashed into the mud, though for all I knew they could be twenty yards away in the field.  It was one of those days, but it turned out all right, for I can see the screen, specs safely recovered thanks to an urgent call above the noise and a dash into the tempest with a torch.  But it rains still, though I wake filled with joys, and hopes.

It is that time of year, you might have noticed, the one where bugs and hums come together.  But enough of me for it is a time for children, and don’t they know it.  It is that time when the school show is aired to the public, those long weeks of lines and songs and tears and tantrums come to an end.  And what an end it was we had last night; and the moistening in the eyes was nothing to do with the rain or the wind.

There are 34 children at our local school, soon to be down to 33 as one moves on leaving behind memories and sadness, and a last performance on the stage caught on camera, never to be forgotten.  It is a tiny school with but a handful of staff and scant resources.  Every year they put on a show, written by the teacher of the big class, scripted and scored, costumed.  There is always no room at the inn, for you cannot squeeze enough bums onto school benches to satisfy the families, and you cannot leave enough room in the tiny hall for the children to perform.  So this year we bussed them into town, to the local theatre with its tiered seating and dressing rooms, with a lighting box and a proper stage with backdrops and props.

And did they let us down or did they do us proud?  I think we’ve left the schoolroom behind and the theatre will be in demand; we are past the point of no return.  And by doing so we do our little bit to try and keep the theatre viable, for it is in the old mill, an ancient building with history and neglect and a few friends.  And the mill has found a few new friends with an interest in preservation, for our children now need that theatre.

The dress rehearsal was dire, but I think these things are meant to be so.  It was their first sight of a real stage, their first fright of a real stage, and it showed.  But on the day there was no fright and a lot right.  There were two performances and two packed houses, and every one of those thirty four youngsters had a starring role, and played it, to perfection, well almost. Oh yes they did.

The audience joined in, caught up in the enthusiasm that swallowed them whole.  The event had reached beyond the school and even the councillor came out, and only a cycnic would remember there’s votes needed in the spring.  Our local professional thespian joined us, and perhaps this morning she is beginning to look over her shoulder, or remembering how she got into the business, as I remember the best soap of all.  There’s only one Mrs Mack.  Oh yes there is.

But where are those shy little urchins, tongue-tied, eyes cast down and nervous?  Where did they all get that confidence?  That’s all down to the school, and to the staff, and what a wonderful job they do.  I can but hope that the councillor takes back to his education committee the vital relationship between tiny school and rural community, for without it we have none, and these times there is always threat, and uncertainty.  1874 it was that the school opened, and though the roll is smaller now, the need is even greater.

I remember school shows of old.  In fact I remember the Prodigal Daughter, who will one day return; the lost sheep back to the fold.  Which takes me back to school shows of old, those nativity scenes, the ones where said Prodigal, now graduating, sat as an infant holding the babe beside the crib whilst the shepherds and the kings watched by night.  We have moved on from then, in these days when the minorities are making a stooshie about marriage, rejecting any move that let’s them opt out of being forced into doing what society wants.  These are secular days, times of equality, of forgiveness and understanding.  Days when the schools address faith in different ways, and of different ways.  The nativity is not the theme for the show.

And so we had our own show, with laughter and dancing and songs.  And we had stars on stage, 34 of them, not one singled out, but all together as a community should be, and audiences bursting with pride as the tiny school came to town.  Better get next year’s theatre booking in quick methinks.  For the school room can be no more.  It’s behind you.  Now, where do we get an usherette, with a tray of ice cream and a torch?  Well done everyone.  I’m sure I’m not the only old man waking with a silly grin this miserable morn.  Oh no I’m not.

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