Saturday, June 10, 2006

Violent Delights ~ Endgame

There was the inevitable moment on the Thames Embankment this afternoon when, suddenly, it was all over. Just after the last performance, as the girls & Matt put the masks back in the red bag & bound the sticks together with duct tape & I lashed the ghetto blaster to the trolley, I stopped being a teacher. My actors were ready to disperse & I was ready to take the 5 minutes walk over to the Hayward Gallery to join Emma’s Art party for the journey back to Letchworth. There were hugs all round & off they went – Ania, Poppy & Maudie to their respective homes to pack for the school trip to Kosovo; Isa to Singapore on holiday; Aletia & Matt back to family & TV. I watched them go – my last student charges - & then headed off to find the others…

It had been a good day – a cloudless sky & temperatures in the upper 20s & the best for the performances themselves. The Embankment leading east away from the London Eye is a very broad pedestrian boulevard. A line of mature maple trees runs down the centre of the walkway, each one positioned at about 8 yard intervals. We chose a spot equidistant between a motionless gold-clad angel & a guitarist &, once again, we fired up, presenting the piece four times with 10 minute intervals, netting small but appreciative audiences. By now the fights were very slick. In fact, knowing that with two spare sticks available & no more performances after today there was nothing to lose, they really laid into each other &, although practice had honed the routines to a high point of precision, there was a real sense of danger. And as I watched that last presentation of Violent Delights, I listened to the sounds of post 7/7 Central London – ambulances & police vehicles shrieking along the Strand & the chatter of helicopters hovering overhead. A small but telling irony, a group of 16-year-olds presenting a 15-minute reflection on the phenomenon of male violence against that distant aural backdrop.

So now I’m a civilian & I must find my way in the world again. There are few real regrets, but of those that prevail the sharpest must be the loss of the company of young people. It’s been a privilege to share time & space over the years with students working on endeavours with an energy, commitment & overall passion that, all too often, have long since burned out in adults. Just before we parted company there on the Embankment, I told this little group, so representative of that excellence, that I couldn’t have wished for a better way of bringing to a close nearly four decades of teaching.

This account was originally posted to Dick Jones’ Patteran Pages between July 1st & 13th, 2005. Since then, somewhat to his surprise, Dick Jones has taken up a post as Head of Drama at St Francis’ College, just around the corner from St Christopher School.


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