Star spurns stage for school

6th May 2005 at 01:00
The winner of Musicality tells Adi Bloom why he is glad to return to the classroom

Lights. Curtain. As Matthew Goodgame stepped on stage as the star of a West End show he realised a lifetime's ambition - only to discover it far less satisfying than teaching.

The 25-year-old primary teacher from Kent was among the five winners of Musicality, the search-for-a-musical-theatre-star series shown on Channel 4 last November. The five beat more than 2,000 hopefuls to take the lead roles in a one-off performance of the musical Chicago in London's West End.

"It was a mind-blowing experience," Mr Goodgame said. "But you don't have to be on stage to be a star. At school, you feel like a star because you're inspiring younger generations to do their best."

Since winning, Mr Goodgame has taken a year's leave of absence from his job at St Saviour's junior school, in Westgate-on-Sea, to test the appeal of full-time performing. He does occasional supply work between musical auditions. But, despite impressing directors and being cast in a production of Chicago to perform in Singapore, he will return to the classroom in September.

"The more supply work I do, the more I realise how much I love and miss teaching," he said. "There were some days when I couldn't wait to go into school. When you're in a job, you get caught up with paperwork and the negative things. So it's nice to go away and think, 'Is this the job for me?' Because actually, yes, it is."

Auditioning has been a steep and often difficult learning curve. But skills honed in the classroom have helped him to cope.

"People you audition for say, 'This isn't good enough'. They're not nasty, but they're truthful. But children can be your harshest critics. Once, I played them a song I'd written, and they just said, 'Oh, it's not Justin Timberlake'."

School meetings have been useful training for showbusiness networking parties, where he is required to impress influential strangers over cocktails. But elements of his new career have surprised him: "If you're a male primary teacher, they're crying out for you. But there can be a few hundred people auditioning for one role. Either way, you just have to do the best you can."

He says he has not been driven back to the classroom by the luvvie-eat-luvvie world of ambitious would-be stars. "My heart wasn't in some of my auditions," he said. "I'd think, 'If I get this part, then I won't be able to teach next week or next year'."

Mr Goodgame will return to St Saviour's as a music, dance and sports teacher. In the holidays, he will audition for short-term acting and commercial work. "It would be awful not to answer those questions that hang over you," he said. "For me, performing was one of those questions.

"If I hadn't given it a go, it would have lingered, and I would not have been able to give teaching 100 per cent. Now I can."

* adi.bloom@tes.co.uk

Musicality: The Winners' Storyis on Channel 4 tomorrow

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