|The 40 In 40 Days Project.|
36. The Rebirthday (1979)
The Au Pairs
|As a boy, I had
loved acting. I had played the lead part in a children’s opera
(Benjamin Britten’s The Golden Vanity), and I even once had the
great honour of playing Mole to a certain Jeremy Clarkson’s Toad of
Toad Hall. Now, after a few years’ inactivity, I was once again on
stage, playing Starveling (one of the “rude mechanicals”) in a
school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
My performance surprised quite a few
people. The director encouraged me to play the part for laughs, and so a
character developed which was effectively a satire on all my adolescent
neuroses. I played him as nervous, fretful, under-confident, almost
tearfully bewildered – but ultimately well meaning. It got the laughs.
Several teachers told me that they didn’t know I had it in me. I was
finally earning some respect. It felt great.
The final performance just happened to
coincide with my 17th birthday. The cast party took place straight
afterwards, at the director’s house, away from the school grounds.
People were coming up and wishing me Happy Birthday, and congratulating
me on my performance. A paper plate was turned into an impromptu
birthday card, passed round the room for people to sign, and formally
presented to me, amidst laughter and cheers (I decided to receive the
plate “in character”). I had a couple of glasses of wine. I made
conversation with people. I had a good time.
All very ordinary and very commonplace. But for me, this particular evening was the first time in years that I actually felt – normal. Not hiding in a corner, not feeling like a freak, but connected to the rest of the world, and accepted by it. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. From that evening on, the long, slow reconstruction of my personality commenced.