All the school's a stage, but will the critics love me?

22nd July 2011 at 01:00

"3B or not 3B? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous 4T or to take games against a 5C of troubles ..."

The torment of the Sats scene is over. The romantic interludes from Year 6 couples are in full swing. Sports day was won by the green team yet again and the end-of-term show was a spectacular hit. We are approaching the closing moments of the final act of the year.

And as the fat lady begins her tortuous vocal warm-up, I have already planned the new cast list in readiness for when the curtain goes up once more in September.

There will be 12 classes to teach, each with its own unique challenges, distinct personalities and potential for drama. So which members of my cast have I given which roles? And what about the auditions for the newly qualified cast member? There were more permutations in heaven and earth, Horatio.

I met with each teacher. We reviewed their season, picked out the highlights and explored their ambitions for next year. There were Pinteresque silences and some fine, impassioned, Oscar-winning speeches.

"Once more into Year 4? Dear friends, once more? You've got to be kidding."

"Cry God, not Harry, Ingrid or that George."

"My liege, I dost protest, 3E must have a man next term."

"How can I be from my room untimely ripp'd - after just one year?"

"So foul and fair a class I have not seen."

"Year 2, brute?"

They were bravura performances and I got through a stack of tissues. But they all had a case. I noted down their preferences, but made no promises.

The old stagers longed for an easy walk-on part, but they inevitably have to take the tough crowd scenes. Debut performers desperate for some upstage action need the safety net of a chorus of angels. And some of the cast simply need to move year group to stop their performances becoming wooden.

The plotting was complex, with many twists and turns to resolve. Of course, I sought the advice of my leading players and the combinations they suggested all had an excellent rationale. But each was completely different. I heeded their wise words and added them to my own lonely soliloquy.

It had to be right, or at least the best fit. No tragedy, no improvisation and definitely no farce. There won't be time for a dress rehearsal in September and, by then, what's done cannot be undone.

So I allocated the 12 roles in 12 heartfelt speeches. Not everyone stood to their feet, cheered and applauded. There were tantrums from the drama queens and the silent treatment from the mimes. There might even have been some booing as I disappeared into the wings. I can only pray that no one exits the stage before the October half-term interval.

And, as usual, my own decisions, direction and performance will be at the mercy of the critics and I'll have to face up to the reviews on opening night. My main hope is that it won't turn out to be a comedy of errors.

Colin Dowland is headteacher at a junior school in north London.

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