To me, Easter holds a special place. For it was Easter when my Nanny, Bess, took me to the theatre for the first time. I was four and, as most four year olds are, very excitable. I remember the smell of the West End, the lights, the action. Oh, the heady days of childhood wonder. It was here I first used a public lavatory.
Nanny Bess has taken me to London because my parents apparently had something to sort out. To this day I do not know what it was but I do know Nanny Bess left our house shortly upon our return.
London was a magnificent place in those days, full of promise and tweed. Before we went to the theatre, we went to see Oxford Street. If there is somewhere which seeped what London was in those days, it was Oxford Street, and I drenched myself in the colourful characters. There was the bus drivers, angry and impatient. The angry taxi drivers shouting as we crossed the roads. The builders always ready with a comment about Nanny Bess which young ears should really never hear and the restrained tutting of ladies as they went by. I was pleased to see Nanny Bess was welcomed to the capital with a picture on the front of the Standard, although I cannot remember what the headline was, I do recall her shyly hurrying away.
The theatre we attended was the Shaftsbury, a place where subsequently I have attempted to work many times. The welcoming foyer and doorman have long since gone, but if you close your eyes you can still hear the sounds of merry theatres goers within. And sometimes you can almost still smell the doorman.
We bought peanuts (you were allowed to buy peanuts in those days) and sat in the Gods, watching the action. It was an Ibsen play 'Olaf Liljekrans'. As you can imagine, watching a 19th century in the original Norwegian didn't long entrance the youthful me, and it wasn't long before I was attempting to flood the stage with ill-aimed peanuts. This lead, I am somewhat ashamed to say to the first and last time I have been forcibly ejected from a Theatre (if you don't include Mother Goose in Southend in 2006. I still say I should have got that part. Damn you, Jacobi!). But the bug was definitely there. For acting, not for being ejected. Although God knows some people have made a big name for themselves being thrown out of entertainment venues of all types. But not me. I like to be in there, on stage, all eyes on me, and if possible, being supposed to be there.
The bug was in me and I immediately pestered my parents to send me to stage school. I wanted to act, to give pleasure. My Father said I gave pleasure whenever I entered another room, so it was obviously something I was destined to do. I was enrolled in Bernie Dintes' Dramatic Academy. One of the advantages of this form of education was that it was self-supporting. We, the students, made saucepans for fourteen hours a day and then would put on a show in what remained of the day (as long as we kept the noise down). Musicals, drama, comedies, they flowed through us in those heady shows like the sauces which were put in the pans we were making. We didn't pay enough attention in the smelting process and thus the school closed down.