We have just got back from the first full public performance of the panto that my son wrote and directed.
I think that it is safe to say that it was a success. In many ways. On many levels. I don’t want to write a review – that would seem a bit weird. But I do want to say how proud I am of him having enabled that performance to happen. Proud at the skill of his writing. Proud that his decisions as a director worked so well. But especially proud that he was able to galvanise his friends to work so hard to make it work. Panto stands or falls on the relationship between actors and audience. Yes, there are the stock phrases and comedy routines (He’s behind you! Oh no he isn’t! etc etc) but they only work if the actors emit the energy necessary to break down the barrier between them and the audience. So that the audience feel part of the show. Because they are. And boy did those young people work hard tonight. They burned with energy. All of them. They were so obviously having fun that they took us along with them. Forced us to have fun too. They were fantastic. Come the final performance, they will have given out so much energy that they will no doubt collapse exhausted. I know Sam will. But they will deserve a good rest because they have made magic happen. Well done to them all.
I am feeling pretty weary myself. I am aware that the whole household has been running on nervous energy for the past few weeks and that inevitably takes its toll.
So, I was prepared for this and over the next two posts my gifts will be extracts from a book I am working on. If you missed the first instalment a few posts ago, here is a link:
and here is the next extract:
Tell us a story.
Once there was a prince.
No. Not that one. We know that one. We have heard it many times. Everybody knows that story. Tell us a new story. Tell us about the girl.
Once there was a girl. She lived with her mother in a small cottage at the edge of the village close to the forest. The girl could not remember her father. For as long as she had known, there had only been her and her mother. Just the two. Life was not easy for them. Just the two to do all the work that needed doing. But, though they had to work hard, they did well enough. They helped each other. Supported each other. Learned from each other. The girl was clever and quick. Though she had only gone to the village school for a short time, she had learned to read and write there. The school gave her a beginning and she was then clever enough to teach herself whatever more she needed to know. And clever enough to learn how to teach her mother to read and write too.
But, though the girl was clever, her mother was wise. Cleverness and wisdom are two very different things. There has been many a clever idiot and a few wise fools. The mother was wise enough to see both the value of cleverness and its limitations. So, she brought up the girl to appreciate her own cleverness but not to take pride in it. To see cleverness for what it is. To know that it is not wisdom. Nor can cleverness take the place of wisdom. For wisdom has to be earned. It takes time. It cannot be rushed. It cannot be taught. But it can be learned. Often in the most unlikely places.
The mother knew this secret and so made a point of taking her daughter to unlikely places. Which was why they lived at the edge of the village. Close to the forest. Most of the villagers stayed away from the forest. Were afraid of the forest. The forest was a dangerous place, they said. It was dark. Wolves lived in there. Wolves that would kill you and eat you. They said. If you went in there, you were sure to lose your way. You would get lost and be easy prey for the wolves. Or worse. They said. For things inhabited the forest which were not human nor beast. But something other. They said. And most of the plants that grew there were poisonous. They said.
The mother smiled. She knew otherwise. She knew the forest as a place of safety and wonder. A place where a person could get lost and find peace. A place where plants grew that could cure and comfort. A place that was home to spirits that could help and advise – if asked correctly. A place to be shared with animal brothers and sisters. And the mother passed on this knowledge to her daughter. Little by little. A drop at a time. For too much knowledge too fast is not wise. No matter how clever you are. She would go into the woods with the girl to gather firewood. In passing, she would perhaps point out a leaf that, when boiled up into a tea, was useful to ease headaches. And the girl would remember. As the pair were out gathering wood sorrell for a meal, the mother would draw the girl’s attention to how the return to roost of the jackdaws so early in the evening told of a cold night to come. And the girl remembered. The mother was confident that, in good time, the girl would indeed become Wise.
For the mother knew that the villagers would always have need of a Wise Woman. Someone who they could come to when they were unwell or had a problem of the Heart. The prince had his doctors and physicians in the castle. But their fees were well beyond the reach of most villagers. And, anyway, most villagers did not care for the leeches and knives favoured by the doctors, preferring, instead, the kinder remedies of the Wise Woman. The mother knew that, when she was no longer of this world, her daughter would have to be able to survive on her own. If her daughter was a Wise Woman, there would always be a place for her in the village. She would survive.
Good. Good. We like the sound of the girl. But what about the boy? Tell us more about the boy.
Ah, for the boy, you must wait until tomorrow.