It was probably during the halfterm, or perhaps it was Easter. Anyway, one Monday morning, I stood with my sword, then aimed for Mike’s head. I didn’t miss, but he parried brilliantly, then attacked me. But I too was quick. As soon as his sword started to move, I was ready with mine and having blocked his attacked, resumed my own. This carried on for a while … and it was fun.
Because it wasn’t a real fight at all. It was the first day of the swordfighting workshop organised by Whirlwind Theatre. I’ve often written about the benefits of Whirlwind Theatre for the children. It’s great to work with the children, to watch them grow, even to see how my own acting skills have improved. This time was different. Was it three years ago that I first did something more than singing and moving around? It was the song “build a wall” in the Selfish giant. I took my first tentative steps towrds acting in a choreographed scene when, while singing, I did a little dance and moved the wall into place. But if I thought I’d faced the ultimate challenge, the dances in “around the pond in 80 days” were even more difficult; and add to that the changes of character. I started as a frog, moved on to be the king of the toads, then a newt, then returned to my original role. Playing Brilliant in “Brilliant the dinosaur” had its challenges too, not the least of which was that multi tasking scene where I had to keep the head of the dinosaur in place, sing, walk and lead a group of children in single file. Then, of course, I had to die, while still holding the dinosaur.
This time, the powers that be have decided that I’m playing Aslan. It turned out that although I took full part in the fight workshop, I’m not required to use my sword in the actual play. Pity, I could have shown off my newly acquired skills. I do have to kill the witch at the end, but that’s with my claws, not the sword.
Oh we had 6 and 7 year olds with swords as well. but before you conjure those images of decapitated children, be reassured that although we were taught how to handle our swords, they were not real. And although they can indeed injure, the children were really good. Those who have been with Whirlwind for a while have had the need to take care of stage props drummed into their heads. We sing it to them, play games, etc, just so that everyone knows that we have to work together and support each other.
This year is different in another respect. We’ve now been rehearsing for well over a year. We must have started early in 2009. It’s been 2 hours every week; this means that the children have learned slowly, but we hope more deeply.
There is a fight scene at the end of the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and you do need to see it and marvel at how good these children are. But you also need to see the story; I’ve become more familiar with it than ever before. Of course, we all know it’s a story about Christ, and in that alone, Whirlwind has taken its first step into real Christian territory. I’m always struck by the scene in the play where the children go off to the professor to report that Lucy is talking nonsense. The professor asks why they think so and they say she’s been talking about a wardrobe and strange animals. They also remark that she says Edmund has also seen these things, but Edmund denies seeing any strange creatures. So professor asks them whom they would normally have believed. They respond that normally, they’re more likely to believe Lucy. What would I do if I heard something that was really strange and could only have come from God? Would I try to explain it away or even deny it?
Enough. What I really wanted to say is that this year, it’s staged in a different venue. Although King’s Community Church has been refurbished, (the work was going on as the play was being planned) the play is being staged at the Storey’s Institute, near the castle, in Lancaster. It’s the 9th, 10th and 11th of December. I gather there are two performances on the 11th. You can see the details at the Whirlwind Theatre website, http://www.whirlwindtheatre.org.uk So if you’d like to hear me roar, watch me kill the witch, and watch the amazing swordfight, the children playing all sorts of animals, with masks that some of them made, then please come and see.