I was a 14 year old lad. I’d never had any inclination to act whatsoever. Yet when it was time to select GCSE options what do you know? I chose Drama.
It’s like I actually wanted to ruin my own life. Like growing up wouldn’t be hard enough without making crazy decisions that played about as much to my strengths as putting a chap like Donald Trump in charge of the world’s most powerful nation. Oh…
So there I was in 1994, a spotty oik (that couldn’t act) in the drama theatre at Hautlieu School in Jersey, scared to my wits end and about to humiliate myself in front of a load of cool kids who could actually act.
It makes me feel sick just thinking about it now. And embarrassed. Like the embarrassment I felt this week at work, when I stood at the printer wondering out of which orifice my work would suddenly appear. I just couldn’t work it out. Then the lad behind me pointed at some paper and said ‘There it is, mate.’
Anyway I digress. If you’ve ‘done Drama’ then you’ll know it’s all about losing your inhibitions. About relaxing. About letting go (not in a Frozen sense).
To break the ice, we were invited to perform a number of bonding exercises. First I had to fall backwards into the arms of one of my classmates. It helps to build trust, I was told. Then there was a round of ‘spontaneous improvisation’. Think Tony Slattery on ‘Who’s Line Is It Anyway’ (a brilliant show, by the way). My group’s performance, a meandering stream of liquid turd heading straight toward a picturesque lake, was so bad the teacher had to call a halt to it early.
“Ok guys, we get the idea.”
And then there was enunciating. Or projecting your voice.
‘Shout from the pit of your stomach, Tom!’ bellowed my teacher.
‘I can’t!’ I murmured, in a voice that’d make Mickey Mouse sound like Brian Blessed.
And I couldn’t. I literally couldn’t shout with any ferocity.
I know it might not sound like it, but the experience didn’t actually scar me. In fact I didn’t give it a second thought, not until a joyous and celebratory moment in my life occurred – I had kids.
What my drama teacher had failed to tell me back then was that, once I had kids, I would indeed develop the ability to shout, to yelp, squeal and scream like a banshee. With spit flying out of my mouth like Joey Tribbiani from Friends said to do. I can now shout it out loud, soaking the face of the person I’m, well, communicating with (my kids, to be clear).
Of course when the kids are babies they’re adorable, precious, angelic little bundles of joy. And don’t get me wrong I still love them dearly, more than anything in the whole wide world. ‘More hotter than the sun’ as we say in our house (excuse the obvious grammatical error there). But there’s no doubt that once they start school the dynamics change, and basically, they become little terrors.
I blame most of the shouting in our house on the Xbox. No, scratch that actually – it’s down to Xbox Live. For those lucky enough not to have experienced Xbox Live, it’s basically an invisible tool that allows your kids to play games with their mates online. Mine Craft used to be such a tranquil, sedate game when we first got it. The soothing music. The simplicity of building stuff, like a game of Lego online. ‘Look Daddy, I’ve built a big house!’ Amazing.
But that’s all over now, and it’s been replaced by wild shrieks of ‘don’t kill me’ and ‘I’m eating!’ to their friends online, seemingly oblivious to the world around them, including me and Maria. I’m eating?! What does that even mean? It drives me insane.
I’d love to grab the Xbox and chuck it in the bin (although I’d personally miss playing the odd game of FIFA, to be honest). But that’s not the answer. Our kids are growing up in a digital age – all of my daughter’s homework is sent to her online. It’s the way things are now, and things are only going to get more digital as they grow older.
As for my forays into acting? I ended up with a B grade. God only knows how I managed that, I don’t remember taking to the stage a single time. And they say GCSE’s are easy now??