As a family with three boys, two of whose sporting commitments have, up until now, ruled our lives, it has come as a bit of a shock with Little Man’s forays into the world of drama. Indeed, on both the maternal and paternal sides, there is a strong streak of shyness, but Little Man seems unperturbed by it all, indeed, relishes the challenge.
Just as well really. A couple of weeks before we had even heard about the pantomime, he had joined a local dramatic group – primarily because a friend’s daughter had recommended it, but also because we were conscious that he wanted to do a club that wasn’t sports based. As it happened, the group leader was excited to see him. ‘Oh good’, she said enthusiastically, ‘Just in time, we are about to rehearse our annual production, this year we are doing Annie’.
I reported back to G. He groaned. We have sat through various school performances over the years, mainly of the tea- towel- over- the- head- nativity-type production, in which both of our older sons have shifted uncomfortably through the songs, Middle Son in his earlier years waving at members in the audience, and Eldest Son looking as if he wished the ground would swallow him up. But when Little Man came on to the scene, things ramped up a bit. Firstly, the school decided that for this year, they would do an Easter production of Tattybogle. Secondly, they divided all the kids into animal groups, with strict instructions to the parents to coordinate costumes. Little Man came back all excited.
‘Me and Matty are going to be bugs,’ he announced proudly.
‘What kind of bugs?’ I enquired.
‘Green ones. What’s for dinner?’ and off he wandered. Luckily, Matty’s mum was known to me, and so we collaborated and came back with a simple outfit, comprising t-shirts and leggings, with Comic Relief deely boppers painted green as antennae.
Tattybogle went swimmingly, until the audience began to snigger. The man in front of me grinned ‘Those Bugs are buggering about!’
Matty was swinging his head so that the deely bopper balls spun on their springs and careered into one another with a sharp smacking sound. Little Man was pulling one spring down, popping the ball in his mouth and then releasing it with a loud satisfying popping sound. A bodiless hand shot from behind the stage curtain and whipped off the offending items, as the audience tittered.
So when Little Man came back and announced that he had a speaking part in Annie, we held our breath. On enquiry, we discovered that it was 5 lines, and that he was a Dog Catcher. We breathed out.
‘And…’ he said excitedly, ‘I have to do it in an American accent.’
G choked. We have sat through one of Little Man’s performances, when he had to do an accent… This was another school play, based on the origins of the Olympics, in the year that Britain hosted the Olympics. The two main parts had sheets and sheets of script to learn. The action took place in Greece, and France (where the first Olympic committee was formed). Although Little Man was auspiciously one of the Olympic committee, all of whom were French, he was the only one selected to speak in a French accent. To this day I have never found out why.
The main parts did marvelously that day. Word perfect, great timing, lovely smiles. And then Little Man stood up to deliver his 3 lines. His accent did its own Olympics – running from ‘Allo ‘Allo, to the southern region of Pakistan, to the sunnier climes of the Caribbean and back again to the old East End of London. He brought the house down, as parents rocked, crying with laughter in their chairs…
So along with the impending excitement of hearing his American Dog Catching accent, he has had to learn several songs as, of course, Annie is a musical. We were getting used to hearing various renditions of It’s a Hard Knock Life and NYC as Little Man sang away to a scratched cd in his room, when Amanda announced that the pantomime cast needed to learn two songs for the forthcoming Press Launch.
I have great admiration for anyone who can learn lines of songs. I am one of those annoying people who if I don’t know the words, make them up. Shake a Tail Feather we all knew, but the other song that Little Man had to learn was tricky, not only because the lines were slightly mismatched in terms of tempo, but the tune was a bit of an unknown to him. It was called Have You Heard The News – and was littered with references to Fleet, the surrounding areas and of course the pantomime. It was also one of those annoying songs that, once heard, stuck in your head – rather like the Macarena- and so between that and Annie, we were slowly going a little mad…
A couple of days before the Press Launch I noticed that Amanda had updated the cast Facebook page.
‘Oh look,’ I said, ‘JeremyEdwards is in the show.’
‘Ooh,’ said Grandma, who had popped in for a cup of tea, ‘I like him, he’s the tall dashing one that won Strictly that year’.
‘Don’t be silly Grandma’, Little Man piped up, ‘He’s the shouty one who tells mummies who the daddies are of their babies’.
I rolled my eyes and turned back to Facebook.
‘And it says here that Layton Williams is in it. School for Starz, Bad Education.’
All three sons perked up with interest.
‘Wicked,’ said Eldest Son.
‘Sick,’ said Middle Son.
‘Phat,’ said Little Man.
I don’t know about accents, I’m struggling with a whole new language here…