Generous to a fault

14th December 2012 at 00:00

There are many occupations that an actor's wife could choose that would be compatible with the hectic, glamorous and demanding lifestyle of one who genuflects at the altar of the Muses. Cognitive behavioural therapy, for example, or floristry, or even making handmade first night cards with appliqued organza bows. All would perfectly complement an actor's career. But for reasons that have never been adequately explained to me, my wife saw fit to become a teacher.

Now, it may seem to the casual and ill-informed observer that the two vocations could exist in harmony with a spirit of mutual cooperation prevailing in the marital home. And perhaps, given this atmosphere of reciprocal respect, such benefits could be nurtured to the enrichment of both parties. But, sadly, the lack of any personal evidence of this leads me to draw an inevitable conclusion: actors should not marry teachers.

I say "sadly" because it is not for any lack of effort on my part that this situation continues to blight our connubial bliss. I am, for example, constantly offering helpful advice, such as suggesting the correct techniques to adopt when addressing an audience (gesture, projection and that indefinable "presence" an actor must possess to mesmerise a resistant and uncouth crowd). I have even volunteered a series of one-to-one workshop sessions. But my overtures have time and again been brutally rebuffed (often using language I find shocking coming from the mouth of one given charge of impressionable youngsters).

I ask you, what is more important: marking a backlog of 40 A-level essays while simultaneously lesson-planning for tomorrow's Ofsted observations, or learning how to breathe correctly from one's hara in order to tap into the fruitful stream of feeling that lies just below the threshold of the subconscious?

I'm not surprised she is always "tired". She has never, to my knowledge, properly warmed up either vocally or physically before teaching a class. What if she does have early starts? I often have matinees, but I make sure I am at the theatre by at least midday doing stretches, breathing and prolonged humming and lip-smacking exercises. My body is my tool and I never face my audience with it unwarmed.

There are lessons here for those with eyes to see, but my spouse's are often blinkered by prejudice (and, more than once, hangovers).

I say nothing of the times I have asked for an appraisal of my latest screenplay outline or my interpretation of a difficult Beckett monologue, only to be met with a thin smile and drooping eyelids. I'm sure it is hard if you've been put on cover for all your frees and spent all your lunchtimes supervising detentions or frequenting meetings on "managing attainment paradigms", or had your coursework called for and three parents' evenings in a week but that's no excuse for falling asleep during your husband's groundbreaking one-man show based on Izaak Walton's seminal 1653 work The Compleat Angler, featuring real fish. Plenty of shows run at two and a half hours without an interval.

I struggle on, though, offering her advice on little-known speeches in Shakespeare and useful suggestions on how she can best make her learning more "visible" (downstage centre with a follow spot) but receive little in return. However, generosity is the true gift of the actor and I am generous enough to forgive my wife's shortcomings. She is only a teacher after all.

Husband of Thrope is married to Anne Thrope (Ms), who is taking a short break and will return at the start of next term.

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