Blythe Duff

13th July 2012 at 01:00
The actress and former Taggart star was influenced by a small drama teacher who managed to command attention

Now you can do Higher and Advanced Higher drama in school, which takes you to almost first year at university level, schools have departments with three teachers in them and the pupils have their own studios and theatres.

I think it is wonderful that they have realised young people are really interested in drama. It is an amazing thing to become involved in, no matter what career you are aiming for, because it is a fantastic confidence builder. But it wasn't like that when I was at school.

I was fortunate to have a drama teacher, because it was an unusual thing back then. But my drama teacher - Miss Edwards, who became Mrs Blake - also had to teach English, RE, and she sometimes helped out in home economics.

Drama was just all the rogues of the school who couldn't do maths - and me. It was just the real dunderheids. We did two periods a week of art, music and drama.

Mrs Blake had a strong influence on my school days. She was quite small, about 5ft 2, and just out of drama school - she was probably only 21 or 22. Most of the guys were bigger than her but, because she had been through drama school, she had the vocal ability to command the class. At least in drama they would be quiet.

She was expressly told that she could not encourage anybody to become an actor, she had to encourage them to become drama teachers.

I didn't go to drama school - I didn't get in. I got into acting via community and youth theatre. If you go to drama school you get the chance to really explore texts, in particular classical texts, and I always felt I missed out. But I'm grateful to Mrs Miller, my English teacher, for an early introduction. She helped me bridge that gap by giving me some understanding of restoration comedy and Shakespeare and so on.

Mrs Miller had a real spark and enthusiasm. She was quite polite and she was quite distinctive. East Kilbride is not rough, but it is working class and she was quite posh.

In many ways, you would think there was nothing worse than round-the-class Shakespeare. That would usually be enough to turn anybody off, but she managed to find a way to make it palatable for all of us. That is quite a strong memory for me.

It was a very sport-orientated school - I was in the same year as Ally McCoist. You wore a different tie if you did sports. I was not a bad runner - I could do a decent sprint - but I didn't get any badges or medals or a special coloured tie. I remember PE as being quite a chore. I don't think any female of that age enjoyed PE, standing there not getting chosen for hockey or volleyball.

I did not particularly like primary school. I found being stuck with the same teacher for a whole year tedious. I think the fact I had a distinctive name and was quite distinctive-looking was the main problem.

When I first started school, I sat with my mum in the hall and they shouted out all the names of the children. All the girls went up, got a jelly bean and then went to their teacher, and then all the boys. My mum went up at the end and said: "I've got a wee girl here whose name hasn't been called." And they said they had left me out because they hadn't known if I was a girl or a boy. I just thought: "Right, OK".

When I got to high school I just loved it, because every hour something else was happening. I wasn't particularly academic. I scraped through and I had to work to do that but I don't look back and think it was a terrible time. Our classes went to something like "J" and I was always "E" or "F".

Blythe Duff is starring in `Good With People', one of two plays being presented back to back at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh from 5-26 August. www.traverse.co.uk. She was speaking to Emma Seith

PERSONAL PROFILE

Born: East Kilbride, 1962

Education: Long Calderwood Primary; Hunter Primary; and Hunter High, all East Kilbride

Career: Actor.

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