After nine extremely happy and exciting years as a teacher/actor at The Play House I have decided it’s time to hang up my costumes, reclaim my car from under piles of set and scenery and move on to new things. I’m planning to return to University in September to retrain as a Speech and Language therapist, a completely different direction for me, but one where I hope I can use my drama skills in a new way.
So what have been the highlights of my time here? Where on earth to start? I have been involved in some amazing projects and worked with a hugely diverse range of children and performers. Things that really stand out:
- The Newman Experiment: one of the first programmes I devised, and which was really exciting to work on.
- Botanical Journeys: spending weeks dressed as a Victorian pretending to search the Amazon rainforest for the elixir of life. Also, swallowing flies while we worked outdoors at The Botanical Gardens during the wettest summer on record…
- Crossing the Line: while combating trespass and vandalism on the railways I was entrusted with the driving of the biggest van I’ve ever seen. But we survived! And I parallel parked it!
- Pharaoh’s Footsteps: I was the most pregnant mum of Tutankhamen that ever toured. So fat, that one day I crouched down to listen to a child and couldn’t get up…
- Artsfest: always a slightly surreal experience as we never knew who’d be turning up. Performing Things That Go Bump . . . in a tent was a bit of a challenge!
- Conferences in Norway and Hong Kong were just fab. Spending time with the whole Play House gang and sharing our practice on a world stage was a real privilege.
My kids will never forget the journeys home, submerged under programme sets in the car with me shouting things like “Hang onto that wolf’s paw/ Roman villa/ bottle of potion/ Amazonian tree frog…”, and my neighbours can now relax, there will be no more Egyptian mummies sticking out of the boot of my car.
And I got to thinking about the perks of being a teacher/actor the other day. Of course they are numerous, it’s a wonderful job, but a selection would be:
- Lids on loo seats: what a treat when you can put your clothes down as you change into your costume.
- Free staffroom toast: always a boon!
- Staff rooms with copies of Hello and OK: and I never minded how old and dated they were.
- The offer of a cup of tea: believe me, doesn’t happen everywhere…
- Not having to get the set out of the hall for lunch (or assembly…tuck…etc): the joy of leaving things ready for the next session!
- The ability to get the car within a couple of miles of the school hall: see me smile when I don’t have to walk forever across the school with bags of gear.
- A school hall! the times we’ve squashed ourselves into cupboard-like spaces…
And what will I most miss? Well, the excitement of a blank sheet of sugar paper on the first day of devising a new project, the looks on the children’s faces when they say: “Is it Language Alive!? Is it for us?” the astonishing and wonderful things the children do and say when they are totally captivated by an imagined world, and working with a team who are the most creative, imaginative, and truly funny (well, Malcolm excepted…) people I’ve ever met. Not much then…
So as I go off back to studentdom (well if I’ve passed my Psychology A’ level exam that is…) I want to say a huge thank you to all those teachers and children who have allowed me to play for the last nine years, and to everyone at The Play House who have put up with me for so long. And I still don’t really know how to use the computer…!
Nicky Robey (ex) Teacher/actor!!