Enter Stage Left: My Son, The Actor?

Saturday, April 25, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Life, The Pickards

I asked my elder son, BTP, what he wanted to be when he grew up, at about the time he was starting school last year (aged nearly 5).

“An actor or an astronaut.”

This hasn’t changed much in the six months or so since. I’ve explained to him that it is certainly possible for him to try and be either, but they have different requirements. Firstly, it would be harder to be an astronaut, as there are very few jobs available for people to actually travel in space.

Secondly, it would still be hard to be an actor: it would require a lot of hard work — he’d have to make sure he was very good at reading at school, because “reading lines” and “reading through for a part” are key parts of an actor’s role. There are also a lot more people that want to be actors than actually make it as such.

But equally, being an actor is something that is eminently possible. You can’t guarantee success, but if it’s something he really wants to do, and he is prepared to work hard at it, then there is certainly a reasonable chance that it could be something he could make a living at. Not necessarily with the top-billing roles, but there’s always a chance.

He said to me that he would want to be Doctor Who, just like David Tennant, but he said that he didn’t think he would be able to do that. So I told him a story…

If Tennant ever had a dream acting role, it was never the moody Dane on stage, it was the mighty Doctor on TV. Wind the clock back to the age of three. Even then the toddler was apparently telling his parents that he wanted to become an actor because he was mad about Doctor Who

What’s On Stage Magazine, July/August 2008

If it’s good enough for David Tennant, then I don’t see why it can’t be good enough for my son…

Obviously one of the more tricksy things here is nerves. Some people simply wouldn’t appear on stage. They don’t like being the centre of attention. They don’t like having everyone looking at them. If this is you, then maybe an actor’s life isn’t the life for you. It’s about confidence.

And that’s the thing that some people never have. It’s the thing that some people start without, but learn. It’s the thing that some people start with, but lose. Confidence to stand on stage in front of everyone else. It’s something I’ve always had. That’s not to say that I’ve not been a bag of nerves — usually prior to delivering a speech, appearing in some amateur dramatics stuff, or giving a talk — but when I’m up there, I’m fine. I just get on with it.

Okay, so there’s part of me that would quite like BTP to be an actor on the parental wish-fulfillment basis. It’s something I would have wanted to do. That’s the bit I need to be careful of; I need to make sure that I am encouraging him to do what he wants to do, not push him into a life I would have liked to have tried…

[But then again, I'd always wanted to be a writer more, and in terms of word output, I've probably written more on the blog than J. D. Salinger has ever had published, so in that regard I am a writer. I just need to persuade someone to pay me for it now]

As well as that, there’s not currently much ‘pushing’ involved.

The other week, Mammy, BTP and SWP went to the Metrocentre. It being the Easter Holidays, the Metrognomes were in attendance, putting on a show for the kiddies. This required someone to come up from the audience, follow the instructions, and generally take part. BTP volunteers. BTP does it. BTP is not fazed, at all, and is quite proud of himself when I point out that the Metrognomes are actors, and as he has been taking part in their stage show, and acting with them, he’s had his first chance at being an actor.

His first real bow on stage.

And if I thought that was to whet his appetite somewhat, I would have been absolutely spot on. His grandma took him to White House Farm, where they had a petting zoo and other Easter holiday entertainments. There were also little lambs actually being born, but as the kiddies had discovered a playground area with swings and slides, it apparently was not possible to move them across to see this. And there was also a magician.

Magician has volunteers from the audience, who take part, seemingly (from the little I have heard) a little overawed by the whole thing, just stood there, being quiet and so on. Until of course the third volunteer. Yes, that’s him.

Now BTP has an unusual first name, so the magician doesn’t recognise it. So he spells it out for the magician. So the magician spells it back to him. So BTP points out that you don’t say it by spelling it out, you say it like this.

The magician is also doing a trick with balloons. Gets BTP to lift his arms up, he goes to place a balloon under each arm and then lets go of them (so they squirt away) before BTP’s arms are back in place. Magician is pretending to tell BTP to ‘remember to keep hold of them this time’ or some such. BTP points out that he was holding them fine, it’s the magician’s fault for letting go of them too early.

By now, BTP is the centre of attention for the entire crowd, because he is very willing to argue his corner and tell the magician precisely what he is doing wrong. Crowd are much enjoying this: they’ve already seen some magic, now it’s the comedy section…

Magician hands flyers out at the end to the kids, particularly the kids who have taken part, and asks them if they will be having a birthday party with a magician at it. “No,” says BTP.

“Probably just as well,” says the magician. “I’m not sure I could cope.”

So, he certainly seems quite happy being the centre of attention. He seems happy with an audience. He’s not intimidated. And he certainly seems to want to be a showman.

At this rate, Matt Smith had better watch out… as I know a five-year old who wants that job.

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