My family can boast a rich theatrical background, with some of my ancestors being familiar faces in the musical halls of the previous century.
My grandmother was able to play the spoons with such dexterity and speed that it wasn’t uncommon for her hat to fly off mid-performance. My father was a keen amateur actor. Who could forget his Tin Man, circa 1974, in the Little Wood at Hampstead Garden Suburb? Well, OK, maybe not so memorable then.
Personally, my enthusiasm for school plays was marred by intense shyness and the inability to say anything out loud without blushing a deep shade of red. Despite this, with my irritating aptitude for remembering lines and direction, I was often cast as someone with more than just a walk-on role. I played an angel, a tramp, and somewhat quirkily, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in my junior school’s bohemian alternative to the more usual Christmas nativity (this was the 1970s).
When it comes to my own children, I do have mixed feelings about their own enthusiasm for parts they land in school performances. Not least because it is usually I who have to source/make/borrow/steal the relevant costumes. And in a bizarre twist of fate, they are often even more leftfield than creating an outfit suitable for a fictional book, as my mother had to do way back in the Seventies. Over the past years my costume-making repertoire has had to extend to bakers, trees and a Teletubby.
My eldest daughter has earned the lead role in her school’s latest play and of course I am immensely proud. Especially since the costume is reasonably easy to put together. My youngest daughter, however, has just been through intense and rigorous auditions (if you believe what she says) to gain a part in the school’s Easter performance.
I should point out that when my eldest daughter was at that same school she was offered the questionably appropriate part as everyone’s favourite Biblical prostitute, Mary Magdalene.
Having survived the audition (a self-penned homage to Joyce Grenfell) my youngest found out she is to play everyone’s favourite governor of Rome and slayer of small children, Pontius Pilate.
I wasn’t sure whether to be thrilled or alarmed. As part of her role she must sing a song, declaring ‘crucify him, crucify him’. On sharing this news with a friend of mine, she told me how her daughter, a couple of years older than my own, had once been cast as Jesus. She admitted that she found it quite uncomfortable viewing, watching half of Year 3 turning against her precious child, chanting and singing, quite menacingly, ‘crucify, crucify, crucify!’
Even more disturbing, she said, was that some children were smirking as her child was being nailed up. A tinge of injustice tickled the back of her neck.
Time will tell how evil my daughter’s Pilate will be. In the past she has chosen to add her own impersonations into her parts in school assemblies, notably Simon Cowell and Jamie Oliver. Who knows what she will come up with this time, maybe a touch of satire with Pilate played as David Cameron?
Whatever it is, let’s hope the costume is straightforward.