Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My Stage Career

My Stage Career by Henry Marriott

Hitherto, I’ve kept my stage career a secret. I’ve appeared internationally in a number of plays, here follows my acting curriculum vitae.

My career started when I was 7 or 8 at school when eight of us were dressed in Little Lord Fauntleroy costumes, velvet shorts, cream silk shirts and socks and shoes, at a time when we children went unshod in school. We had to dance the “Sir Roger de Coverley “(aka the Virginia Reel) an ancient English country dance. I think I went OK, in any case if anything did go wrong there were eight of us to blame, we were very young and were wearing shoes which pinched.

My next effort was during Rev Ash’s reign. I don’t know why all Protestant Vicars seem to be frustrated Stage Directors, and at the first opportunity would force people into a spot of Am. Dram. On this occasion Rev Ash directed us in a play rivaling any Bollywood epic, all dancing, and all singing and with a spot of drama thrown in, the offering was “Jan of Windmill Land” with practically the whole school in the cast. I hitherto thought, and maintained this belief for years, that I had the lead and Ernie Bamford was my village idiot friend. I was discussing this with Anna Yates (nee Ricketts) and Joanne Dillon and they both told me that I had the subordinate part and Ernie was Jan, and to underline this Anna stated that she played Jan’s mother so she should know, so there. I don’t know what effect if any this had in the course of the play. The play was about Jan and not by him, we had very few lines and they were all asides spoken at stage left front. The choreographer for the many dance sequences was Miss Dennis with whom I was in love. I was only ten or so, and she was very understanding and as a keepsake she gave me one of her handkerchiefs, I suppose because I sniffed a lot. I washed the wisp of lace hemmed scrap of material and when still wet I folded it very precisely into a 2 inch square and kept it next to my anguished heart.

My next foray was as the Duke of York in Richard 11, not the Laurence Olivier “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York….”That one is Richard 111. But the one which has John of Gaunt’s patriotic speech on England, which inter alia says”……This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars……” etc, etc see King Richard 11, Act 11 Scene 1. Just before that speech the Duke of York, that’s me says:

“No; it is stopp’d with other flattering sounds,
As praises, of whose taste the wise are fond.
Lascivious meters, to whose venom sound
The open ear of youth doth always listen;
Report of fashion from proud Italy,
Whose manners still our tardy apish nation
Limps after in base imitation……’

This was written in 1593 or 1594 and is still true today.

The play was rehearsed but never staged, I think because Miss Grey introduced Rabies into the school

My next experience of Am Dram was at MCC; here the director was Rev Dr Martin, a protestant priest again. I was an extra, without a speaking part in “She Stoops to Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith. I was ‘man in pub’ and left the stage soon after the opening. Originally, it was proposed that my companion and I should exit singing, but on hearing our effort it was thought more advisable that we should leave silently. My next effort was again at MCC, this time in an inter collegiate contest of Shakespearean plays. The set piece was from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Bottom’s play within the play, I think it was. Here the chief of the judging panel was kind enough to specially mention me. He said that my speeches were the fastest he’d ever experienced. I don’t think it was a compliment.

I now fast forward to my Military Dramatic career in Malaya, here the Rev Willis, the padre, was the director and I was cast as a Welsh father whose child had been accidentally abducted. I only appeared in the final act to reclaim the child. Now, I don’t know if you have any knowledge of acting, but you keep quiet and avoid bumping into the furniture, until your cue is uttered and then you jump in and say your piece. In this play the person who had to speak the cue for me had herself got her speech in early, so having heard my cue, I uttered my speech, only to find that a great slab of the last act was in this way subtracted. It caused confusion among the other cast members, the director who was the prompt, and of course the audience. However, it appeared that the piece that was extracted in this way was not germane to the story and the curtain came down at a convenient moment with understanding restored. I was not cast in the next play.

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