Thank God It's Friday

11th November 1994 at 00:00
Monday: Last year, hearing the story of my new school's founder, John Whitson, I remarked that his was a fascinating life: he would have seen - maybe - the Armada, the Gunpowder Plot, Shakespeare's plays, the start of the Thirty Years War. "Someone," I said innocently, "could write a play about him."

Today, I feel like Judy Garland - "Let's do the play right here." Next Monday, in honour of the school's 360th birthday, we will present the play which has grown from a twinkle in my eye to a blot on everyone's horizon.

Tonight it's INSET, so no rehearsal. Not to worry - last week I had to cancel four rehearsals because the cast failed to turn up. It's hard to concentrate on the national curriculum mark eight, or whatever incarnation it currently occupies.

Tuesday: The apron stage is collected. Please God let it fit. Two members of the cast are amazed by the new structure - though I have spoken about levels for weeks, they thought I meant the national curriculum. Rehearse eight sailors - Number nine prefers to be at the dentist, so she must busk it on the night. We've borrowed a leading man from our brother school and he wants to change a lot of his lines . I tell him to write what he likes - I don't care, so long as the script does not go on stage with him.

Wednesday: Collect costumes. I want to get lost in the costume warehouse - an Aladdin's cave of tactile English history.

Wish I could afford to kit out the cast of 40 or thereabouts, depending on the sailors and equally unpredictable - "the party-goers". We cannot rehearse after school - it's parents' evening.

Thursday: I'd like to vet the audience, excluding any qualified historian. Fear my "imaginative truth" may flirt dangerously with inaccuracy.

We rehearse the tiny coffin scene and I find it creepy. Enclosed in the little white box we have to imagine two-year-old Catherine Whitson - one of John's three daughters who all died in infancy or childbirth. Their inspired, but presumably grief-stricken, father, founded our school for "40 poor women of Bristol to be apparelled in red cloth".

We've got trouble with the fight scene - much is meant to be comic, but not this, and at the moment it's the only scene causing merriment.

The cast suggests action off stage - "In Eastenders, Miss" - I know, I know, but garage inspection pits for victims to fall into didn't exist in 1627.

Friday: After-school marathon with the orchestra. Nightmare. Love the music, but fear the whole production will take six hours. Plan emigration.

Costumes splendid but my cast, always inclined to wander, now want to swish their skirts which then knock out all the floor mikes. Drunken sailors sound like an angelic school choir. No matter. All will be well at last rehearsal on Sunday - won't it?

Lighting lady very cheerful - "Sunday will be worse," she offers, "but they'll be brilliant on the night - Red Maids always are!" Hilary Moriarty is deputy head of the Red Maids' School, Bristol

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