Let me introduce you once again to another one of my friends, Graham Peacock. Perhaps I should say the Reverend Graham Peacock. Here he is, as his alter ego, Madam Fifi…
I must have been very young- maybe 5 or 6- but I remember my class at school being asked about who wanted to be in the school play. I was shy, but I wanted to be in it, yet I hesitated and by the time I put my hand up it was too late.
That memory has stayed with me as a sign of ‘I could do that, but I’m scared to put my hand up and take a risk’. It was a way of saying ‘no’ to all sorts of things because of fear.
Once I got into my 40s- I’m 55 now- I began to say ‘yes’.
From that came wilderness retreats, running gigs, playing cricket hopelessly: I began to switch from ‘I couldn’t possibly do that’ to ‘Why on earth can’t I?’
And so was born acting.
My village has a strong amateur dramatic tradition; many years ago, someone asked me to audition for a part in a murder mystery and I was cast. Eventually I got into the village pantomime which is A.Very.Big.Thing. I did it as a one off: I was a minister in the village and I thought it’d be good to meet new people and to take the church to a different place.
I managed to be marginally less cardboard than the scenery and I enjoyed it so much: the performing, being around people who didn’t have church as a reference point and also the creation of temporary community. The next year I auditioned again. I think this year I’m in my 12th or 13th time of it being a one off…. even through lock down.
On one level, there is no real connection with Advent, apart from the fact that being in the pantomime begins to consume Advent evenings: two lengthy rehearsals a week and seemingly every spare moment learning lines but then trying to deliver them with feeling and humour. I guess there is also something here about repetition of familiar lines until you begin to see the meaning, ‘feel’ them & began to sense nuances that at first weren’t apparent.
For me though, aside from the fun and life that I gain out of being on a stage, each time I do it, my inner 6 year old punches the sky and goes ‘You said yes and didn’t give into fear!’ That’s a very tenuous link with Advent, but for me it is about giving into hope and possibility instead of playing it safe.
As I started writing this, omicron and the spread of omicron seems to have put paid to pantomime happening in 2 or 3 weeks time, but maybe it’ll be possible by Candlemas or later. Maybe…and maybe I won’t be this way again: whatever- the casting, the learning and the attempt have been enough to give me hope.