Magazine article The Spectator

A Theatre Critic at the School Play

Magazine article The Spectator

A Theatre Critic at the School Play

Article excerpt

'Another opening, another show, ' sang five-year-old Charlie on his way to school this morning - and then proceeded to belt out the entire first verse of the famous Cole Porter song. No, it's not what you're thinking. All four of my children are deep into rehearsals of Kiss Me Kate, this year's 'summer production' at their primary school, and they're taking it very seriously.

E ven more seriously than last year, if that's possible, when they did Oklahoma!

I say Oklahoma! and Kiss Me Kate, but in fact they're bowdlerised versions, rewritten by the headmaster.

This involves sanitising some of the content - ' I 'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No' became a song about being unable to resist chocolate - and adding lots of topical jokes in the style of a pantomime. The result is a bit like a Morecambe & Wise Christmas Special, but with a cast of hundreds.

During the five years I spent as a drama critic it was a general rule that if the people on stage were enjoying themselves more than the audience, the play was a stinker. There's no doubt the children enjoy these extravaganzas - and all 240 of them are in it - but the parents and grandparents in the audience seem to enjoy them even more.

Every year an amateur filmmaker makes a video of the entire affair, using multiple cameras over several nights, and the resulting three-hour 'memento' is a huge money-raiser for the PTA.

For some stage mums, it's not enough to sit through every single performance. They want to watch it again at home.

It's easy to be sniffy about the summer production, but I enjoy it for several reasons.

First, there's the pleasure of seeing your own children perform.

Eight-year-old Ludo, in particular, lights up in front of an audience. This year he's been rewarded with a speaking part and has had to memorise Hamlet's advice to the players ('Speak the speech, I pray you. . .'), which the headmaster has somehow managed to shoehorn in. He'll get a big round of applause simply for reciting it correctly, but if he makes a decent fist of it, which I 'm sure he will, the reaction will be through the roof.

I 'm looking forward to seeing the smile on his face when that happens.

Then there's the sheer joy of discovering that one or two of the children possess genuine talent. …

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