Extra ingredients

31st July 1998 at 01:00
Once upon a time, I took part in summer outdoor theatrical productions of "great plays". The audience would bring picnics to eat while we actor types strutted our stuff upon the turf.

I never thought to wonder what was in their baskets, but game pie, cold chicken and a chilled bottle of something white and fizzy would top my list.

What I remember most about these excursions was that they were an escape from the drudgery of rehearsing in church halls and acting in chill, damp and depressing theatres.

Those who have tried for a theatrical career will recall the freedom that losing the proscenium arch gives to a performer, the extra space for "cloak and dagger" fights (and the thrill of doing your own stunts) mixed with the sheer joy of being outdoors.

Acting in the open air was somehow more risky than acting in a theatre.

The years flew by and the dream of being an actor came and went. Nowadays, I am in the crowd with a picnic basket.

Each year I aim to see at least one outdoor play. Sometimes, I secretly approach the show as an actor would. I do my research, choose a character and learn their lines. I eat my game pie, not letting on to anyone what is going on in my head. As the play unfolds, I dream. There are no lights to dim (I prefer matinees), no curtain to raise and no proscenium arch to restrict the imagination. As the actors strut their stuff I am - for a brief moment - on the stage, my spirit soaring like that of a happy extra in the wings.

* Adam Jezard is chief sub-editor of The TES 'Primary' magazine

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