When I started secondary school my drama teacher immediately recognised my passion for the theatre and acting. During my time there she allowed me to take part in school productions (earlier than I should have done), she opened my young eyes to live theatre, she encouraged me, pushed me and let me hang out in the drama department. When I was 14 she took us to the National Theatre and I fell in love with the place - a love affair that still continues today. We returned there frequently throughout my school years and I saw some wonderful plays. Forty years later I still have clear vivid memories of some of those productions. She even arranged for us to interview some of the actors - no idea how she managed that!...
My 'initiation' to the National Theatre was to see ‘Death Of A Salesman’ with Warren Mitchell playing Willy Lomax (for which he won an Olivier award that year). In one scene a character gets up in the middle of the night and goes downstairs to get a drink. On a dark stage he performed his monologue, lit only by the light from the open fridge door as he pulled out a drink. Fourteen year old me was in awe of this clever use of lighting and I believe that one moment in time ignited, what went on to be, my love of directing.
Looking back I realise just how much of her own time she gave to her students, given that she was a Mum and had a young family of her own. She directed countless school productions, rehearsing out of school hours; she took us on endless theatre trips; she devised plays for us to perform - all of this was certainly above and beyond her duty as a teacher.
Over the years I have made it my mission to ‘pay-it-forward’. I try to give young people with a passion for theatre as many opportunities as I was given. This can range from advice, training, work-experience, and right through to casting. In our last production (Spine) I was delighted to be able to give 19 year old Beatrice Frias Del Rio an opportunity to perform in a one-woman play.
I am the person I am today because of my Drama teacher. My passion for theatre has brought me so much fun, happiness, creativity, confidence, close friendships and love into my life. I can only hope that somewhere along the line I have been able to help a young person develop their love for theatre, and that they too can go on to be enriched by their passion.
Thank you Mrs McLaughlin – you were one special teacher.
(I will be sending a copy of this blog to Mrs McLaughlin’s daughter to show her Mum)