So a year last December when we were all taking our daily lives for granted Middlest decided to audition for the school production.
This came hot on the heels of his appearance as one half of the Fool in Twelfth Night.
This sudden interest in treading the boards took me by surprise. He had never shown any interest in theatrical endeavours up to that point despite a few of his closest friends being school production stalwarts.
He had a small but funny part in his Year 6 Christmas show as the gadget man Q in their remake of James Bond (the title character played by Luke’s oldest friend, a flaming red head hence the reinvention of the character as James Strawberry Blonde) and had a blast.
But once the compulsory nature of such shows waned Middlest lost interest.
I am not really sure what drove him to audition for a musical production. Middlest never sings in public to my knowledge. I like to think it was my repeated stories about the fun I had taking part in Oliver Twist in Year 10 that had finally sunk in but I think it was more about mucking around with his mates.
Anyway over Christmas 2019 Middlest practised and practised his audition song for the part he wanted to go for. He auditioned (the scariest thing he has ever done apparently ) and faced call backs and disappointments.
But in the out turn he landed a small part with a couple of solo bits and a spot in the chorus. And rehearsals duly began in Jan 2020 which he mostly enjoyed despite being slightly bamboozled by the theatrical terminology and failing completely to learn the chorus dances.
Then we hit, well, you know what and the whole shebang came to a grinding halt.
Late that summer after a period of relative freedom and with the return of school beckoning I got a call from the Director. We were in Edinburgh castle at the time. She was calling all Year 11s to see if they wanted to carry on in the show which they hoped to put on in late autumn.
I signed him up. He was furious, worried about fitting rehearsing in with studies for his GCSEs. He accused me of interfering and not letting him make his own decisions. Bad mum….
Well in any event rehearsals never really got going as the pandemic resurfaced with avengance and I thought the show was dead in the water.
This spring with the exact nature and timing of Middlest’s GCSE replacement assessments unknown we got the letter asking him to recommit for a summer showing. Dealing with a lot of uncertainty Middlest’s immediate reaction was to decline.
I tried to back away and not ‘force’ him into something. I tried to let him make his own decision despite my disappointment after all the work he had put in up to that point. But then a chance encounter in the school car park with the drama teacher/ Director saw him recommit to his part and drop the chorus to allow more revision time.
And so rehearsals began again carefully planned around the Year 11 not GCSE GCSE assessments, year 8 activity weeks, self isolations, sports fixtures, internal year 10 and 9 exams and bubbles.
Middlest has just finished a 4 day run of the show. With actual PHE approved socially distanced audiences.
I picked him up after his last night and he was on a complete high.
We saw the show on Friday evening and it was a total triumph. An uplifting story, stunning sets, carefully planned costumes (many of which had to be altered several times over the 18 months) and truly breathtaking performances from these children.
His siblings and harshest critics were blown away by the whole experience. Middlest himself was brilliant if I say so myself.
The effort, time and dedication put in by not only the cast and band but also the staff is staggering. The whole show epitomised the very definition of resilience.
Middlest wants to do it all over again next year and I am overjoyed he has finally found something I knew he would love. The fact that he can do it with his mates (some of whom are immensely talented) is an added bonus. And he has made many new friends and forged great relationships with the staff of a whole new school department.
Massive congratulations to everyone involved in Wind in the Willows my new favourite musical. What an uplifting experience for all involved. Including the audience. Bravo indeed!