Exit Stage Left – Part 1 / Chapter 6

By C Parke

Image: Wesley Pribadi

By the time March rolled around, business was really slow, especially during the midweek. On one hand, I liked it as I only had to do a single performance each day, plus with all the fatigue and muscle cramps I was having at the time, it was a needed rest, but on the other hand, it was never as exciting as performing in front of an audience that filled only half of the seats. The lustre of theatre life was gone. During peak season, before the show began, we would excitedly and nervously scurry into our places, waiting to greet the hundreds of adoring fans. Now we would only perform for the handful of spectators only there because of the mid-week 20% off price cuts. With all this downtime, I started to think about the busiest time of the year for an actor like me, Boxing Day to New Year’s Eve.

During that period, I would perform four times a day. Each performance was two hours long, including the fifteen-minute interval. Despite how tiring performing could be, the director would constantly remind us to give each show our all; there’s no room for laziness in musical theatre, he always reminded us. As an actor, you were allowed to get up in the mid-morning, around 9:00 am, which also meant working late into the evening, so I would often arrive home well after midnight. While most people were sound asleep in their beds, I was sweating buckets flinging myself across the stage doing all the flips and parkour being the lead role demanded from me. After being subject to blinding stage lights and blaring music, it was normal for me to wander home half asleep, stumbling along like a zombie. I would complain about this to Mum, and she would always say that it could always be worse and that I should just suck it up.

Mum prided herself on being a hard-working woman. When she was eleven, her mother died giving birth to her sister Grace (the grandmother we talk to on Skype is my paternal grandmother). After that, , she assumed the role of mother of the household. When my grandad was at work, he’d hire a carer to look after Grace, but when Mum got home from school, the carer left and now it was her responsibility to look after the baby, she would change her nappies, feed her bottle milk, cook dinner and wash the dishes. Even though Mum had a lot on her plate, she was extremely bright and took almost every opportunity to study that she could. Her favourite subject was biology. She was very studious and eventually got accepted into Cambridge University without the help of tutors or private school.

At Cambridge, she studied Medicine for three years, and it was there where she met my dad, who was studying law. Mum nowadays is a surgeon who performs organ transplants, she takes much pride in her work and achievements, and she wants me and Gabriel to be just as successful. There were times when I felt guilty that Mum went through so much, and at such a young age, it made me wonder if I deserved any of my good fortunes. I didn’t have to work for my wealth; I was born with it, and she would have never had the option of taking up a career like mine; it would be too much of a risk, sometimes I wonder if she even respected me, her son who was given everything on a silver platter. Mum would tell me stories about how she and her family had to rely on food banks, and her father would frequently work overtime just tom make ends meet. I would look at everything I had , a nice car, a large house, the ability to go on holidays every year and I would feel ashamed that I had all this and yet this was the most frustrating thing about my mother, she would speak to Gabriel and I as if we’ve never known and never will know hard times. Still, I can’t help the fact that O was born wealthy. No one can control the circumstances of their birth.

I remember when I was a teenager and started to demonstrate a talent for performing, I participated in the school play each year, I had regular singing lessons and taught myself how to dance, the problem cam when after GCSE’s I decided that I didn’t want to do A-levels like she had hoped. I wanted to go to a performing arts school. we had a massive argument over this. She said it was a waste of time and that I should be studying proper subjects like English and Maths, she rolled “We paid for all your tutors, books and your laptop and now you want to be an actor. Half of those performing arts students end up on the streets dancing for fucking pennies!”. I screamed that my life was mine, and she couldn’t dictate it. Eventually, Dad broke it up and told her that the decision was ultimately mine. After a while, she mellowed out and came to accept my choice begrudgingly, though sometimes I think she still feared something would go terrible wrong for me like the theatre would close or an economic crash would happen, and then I’d be left with nothing.

(I think she was right.)

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