The first school play I directed, about a zillion years ago, was about football fans and it was called Zigger Zagger. It felt like it had a cast of thousands, but it was between 60 and a 100. For our set I decided that we needed a proper football stand, so I contacted a scaffolding company and they agreed to supply everything we needed for free. It probably wouldn’t be allowed these days.
My father was a woodwork/metalwork teacher, and he helped me create a safe design with cantilevers and all sorts of clever stuff. So, one day a secondary school in Solihull had a large scaffolding lorry arrive. I was summoned! “This looks fun mate – where do you want it?” I directed them to the school hall.
Up to now the rehearsals had been ok but chanting and singing football anthems wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But now I could feel the excitement of the cast – this was going to happen. This was going to be a bit different.
“It totally dominated the large school hall – taking up the entire side.”
“Where’s this bit go, sir?” You can imagine how easy it is for some people to get carried away – and if they are not careful, have someone’s eye out. So, we calmed everyone down and gradually it took shape. There was a basic framework and each added piece strengthened it more. It was cutting edge, although I say it myself – fancy handrails included. It totally dominated the large school hall, taking up the entire side. There was a central entrance, like the players’ tunnel and then stands left and right with planked seating and places to stand. It was quite imposing. Even the Birmingham Evening Mail contributed a large advertising banner on each side.
Once the cast were in place waving scarves, banners, whistles, and even rattles, it looked fantastic. Even the singing, hitherto a bit lacklustre, went up a notch and you started to feel the excitement of the live football match. It was a popular play about a young lad who leaves school with no hope and only lives for his team until he sees that he also needs a life.
“I think his courage had failed him at the last but luckily for me and the cast he arrived and on we went.”
One character played a policeman, and I had gone to the trouble of hiring a real policeman’s outfit. He was a tall boy and it fitted him perfectly. He gave it the right look of authority. On the final rehearsal he didn’t turn up. I went round to his house, heart beating. I think his courage had failed him at the last but luckily for me and the cast he arrived and on we went.
Years later I went to a reunion of the staff. The headteacher was retiring. In his speech he mentioned an incident that he had never forgotten – the day a scaffolding lorry arrived at the school and cracked most of the slabs outside the main entrance. But I prefer to think that nicer things came out of it as well.
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