EMMA SAYS: Stage fright at my girl’s debut

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I don’t think I have felt this nervous in all my life as I do right now. I remember the stomach knots and lack of appetite which I felt when I did exams; or the state I was in before I got married or even the nerves – or fear – I felt before each birth.

But this nervous feeling right now is like nothing I have ever felt before. And the reason for this? My eldest daughter is making her stage debut and it is keeping me awake every night as I worry whether or not she will be all right. When I do finally drop off I have nightmares of her losing her voice, falling off stage – or having a terrible case of stage fright and having to be in therapy for the rest of her life to get over it all.

There is no doubt this week is possibly the biggest week in her short little life. She is only eight years old but the experience she is getting from this is one which will stay with her for the rest of her life. It is an experience most adults will never have, let alone a child.

But because she is so young she of course is taking it all in her stride and fear is not something she is portraying at all. Only once has she asked “What if I forget my line Mummy?,” and frowned when I said – just make something up!

It was dress rehearsal on Monday night and I was allowed into the auditorium to watch. This was the first time the cast had rehearsed on stage with the technical support, lighting, set and props. As is always the case there were a few teething problems. But as they say, a bad dress run is a sign of a good first night!

I didn’t feel nervous when the set wobbled precariously in the background. I didn’t sweat a drop when the stage hands halted the rehearsal because they couldn’t change the set in time before the next scene and when the rehearsal ran over time I didn’t bat an eyelid. But when my daughter failed to come on in the one of the last scenes I was in a total state of panic. My heart rate went bonkers and my mouth went dry as my hands clenched tightly into fists. It turned out not to be her fault at all – her costume had become tangled and couldn’t be removed. At least that is something which can be resolved easily for the real shows. I just hope and pray this doesn’t happen again – or I fear I may be heading into an early grave.

The shows are all at night, so luckily not having any impact on her school attendance. However, I am quite sure they will have an impact on her ability to keep awake during the day time. She was not in bed until nearly midnight on dress rehearsal night and despite me putting her to bed early the following night (when she wasn’t on stage) she still has huge, dark circles under her eyes. Luckily she gets to wear oodles of make-up on stage (much to her disgust) which hopefully will hide this. And I have told her to save up all her yawns for when she is off stage!

Not only is this a novel event for our daughter, it is for us too. All the other children she is acting with seem to have CVs as long as their arms and have been in various productions from when they were still in nappies. They understand the stage and how it all works and are old hands at getting in and out of costume changes in record time. The parents too seem to all know each other from their offspring being in various shows and are happy to help out with make-up, hair, chaperoning and even moving sets on stage.

One of the things we were new too was the fact that we needed to inform the local authority she was going to be performing as she needs a licence because of her age. They also need to know this in case she needs to miss school for performances, so this won’t be classed as truanting. Sheffield City Council has some helpful advice on making sure children who are performing have the right licences.

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