Saturday, March 07, 2015

Margaret is leaving the group.

Which is meaningless to most people but to me, is like hearing the tolling of a very sad bell.

In all fairness, Margaret has been a member of the aforementioned group for sixty years.

She isn't even really technically leaving. She's just not renewing her membership. Which amounts to the same thing.

The group is Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group. My theatrical pater familias. And alma mater. And taught (the people of whom taught) me much of the theatre-y stuff I know today. Indulger of my dancing curtain calls.  Of my lewd language. Of my water-based flights of fancy. 

Margaret has seen almost four times as much of its history as I. So imagine how much knowledge and been there done that she has in her head. 

She was in the first (Grads) play I was in. A word-based form of Oliver. Adapted from Dickens by Mr Archie Alexander. I was lucky enough (very happy to be) Nancy. In a crumpled pink silken dress (Home Street's best). I was beaten into nightly submission by Mike Phillips. Margaret was the workhouse owner (I think) and received a nightly courting from Mr Bumble (John Kelly) with delightful glee. I remember peeking at their scene from the wings (or the unyielding chairs in our rehearsal rooms) and thinking that was proper acting. 

(The production was also notable for Old Sally aka Siobhan a-dying fast. With a pretty sour expression as the clump of boxes on which she had to make her uncomfortable final bed lacked cushioning.)

My chronology and recollection of detail is atrocious but she also performed alongside me in Terry Pratchett's Maskerade. I forget what she was. I was some sister or twin or nice counterpart to a spiteful girl played by the ever gorgeous Caroline Mathison. (Or was it the other way around?) That was our something anniversary production. 40th? We cut a cake in the Old Quad University buildings to celebrate. 

She was surely in the peculiar but very funny Dandy Dick. I was a socially awkward maid. I've got a lovely photo of Ross and I backstage in costume looking incredibly young. John Kelly was a vicar type. Angela was the leading horse-loving lady. Was Margaret there too? And was she in the excellent Wendy Mathison (directed) Tom Stoppard (scripted) Arcadia? And the fire-interrupted Pygmalion? And in the grand old days of the Christmas show; Puss in Boots?

I remember clearly being on stage under the beating lights as I swooned and fainted my way through David Grimes' (directed) Christopher Hampton's (scripted) Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Margaret was my something or other guardian or aunt or virtue protector and stroked my hair and told me it would be alright. And although I was almost sick with love, I actually, in that moment, believed her. 

She was a great changing room sharer. Of course almost more fun than the play itself is the backstage frivol, eating chocolates and rich tea biscuits and bitching alongside endless cups of tea from the even then on its last legs plastic kettle we were permitted in the paint peeling dressing rooms. And I always loved a dressing room with Margaret in it. So kind and wise and reassuring and lovely and funny and great.

She will have indulged my directing flights of fancy on several occasions. In The Caucasian Chalk Circle. She was third woman, woman 3 (a varied and different character), Old Woman and the (old) woman whose cow had been stolen. In the firework-riddled Antony and Cleopatra (photo above was a publicity shot). Maybe in several other productions though I dreadfully can't remember which and as what - but I do remember fitting rehearsals around her Scottish country dancing classes. 

She never ever liked to prompt. Which I continue to be slightly bemused by and yet admire as a consistent insistent stance. But she's been a faithful front of house-er, I presume throughout these sixty years. And there are few things I love more than a willingness to front of house as without these ladies and gentlemen, what kind of show would we have?

An era doesn't end in an email. I guess it slyly sneaks up on you and you only realise it's over when it isn't there anymore. With sixty years of Margaret rounded up in a little thank you and that's enough now email, it might not be the end of the era in and of itself. But it should certainly be one very noisy and grateful and we've LOVED having her set of rampant respectful lucky to have her not easily silenced bells to mark a bit of a full stop at the end of something very special.


Blogger imw said...

What about a farewell and thankyou tea party. I'd be happy to host it chez moi.

8:36 pm  

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