The day of the Christmas play arrived. Backstage I sensed the class’s apprehension. The sense that directed me to this was my sense of smell, they are only 6 years old and pre-gig nerves were inevitable. I had already been a little unnerved by an encounter while helping one of the litter munchers get ready. The zip was damaged on his costume “you might need your mum to look at this” I suggested. He looked me directly in the eye and said “my mother is dead”. I told him that I was sorry to hear this and as is the nature of conversation with 6-year-old kids he went off on another tangent.
Jean swept in a few moments later and I recounted the incident. “His mum isn’t dead!” she shrieked “she works here as a dinner lady!” The most liberal of child psychologists would describe this as the actions of a ‘deep’ child. I didn’t quite know what to think.
I have to say it was a proud moment when the little litter munchers took to the stage. I was crouched low before them to help them remember their moves, while trying not to obscure the view of the audience. I had one of those “if my mates could see me now” moments as the song began and then one of those “oh shit” moments soon after.
The last part of the song involved the children placing a hand on an opposing knee, while kicking out a leg in time to the music. I wondered how to remind them of this part while stooped on both knees. I struggled vainly to show the action and the kids duly copied me. I could sense the audiences collective reaction “why are they now bent double and moving as if they have a sudden attack of stomach cramps?” To the tune of ‘Daydream Believer’ it was incongruous to say the least.
We got through it. Well most of them did. I had to give some solace to the children whose parents did not allow them to be part of the show. Even at 6, the kids were already showing the first signs of dissention. “Why don’t my parents let me be in the show?” “(Kid’s name) is part of the show and she’s a Muslim”. I couldn’t even say they had avoided the future embarrassment of looking back at photos of themselves wearing an ill-fitting pair of their mum’s tights. No cameras were allowed.
Backstage, the kid’s rider involved enough sweets, biscuits and Sunny Delight to start them climbing the walls. It was crowd control, “how many times do I have to tell you?” I shouted at one miscreant. He held up four fingers. I went with it “so how many times have I already told you?” I enquired. He held up three fingers. “This is your final warning then”. He nodded; my earlier lesson in subtraction seemed to have sunk in.