In a few short weeks, Scarlett will take to the stage for the first time. Well, not technically the very first time, at seven months pregnant, I was in a show that my husband wrote and played the parts of ‘pregnant maid,’ and ‘pregnant Lizzie Gupp’ , as well as the highly memorable ‘pregnant chorus girl’. I’m now doing a show with the same theatre company doing a commemorative piece about the people of Gloucestershire in WW1, only this time, instead of being carried around with me, she will be making a very short cameo.
It’s being performed in a theatre of course but anyone worried about me being a horrendously pushy parent thrusting her into the spotlight at such a young age should know that we’re ensuring she won’t be under bright lights or on stage when there are any loud noises and she will essentially be carried on and then carried off whilst all the time being looked after by a family member whilst the rest of the show continues. This is a company that have seen me get married, get pregnant and support me throughout the entirety and it is therefore just a short cameo of a baby girl who is loved by the cast around her. I certainly won’t be pushing her to do theatre if she doesn’t want to in the future. In fact, my husband and I often joke that as we have such a theatrically heavy lifestyle, Scarlett will grow up desperate for a more routined stable office job! And if so, that’s absolutely fine, she will have the opportunity to be whoever she wants to be and when young, if she wants to do some theatre or get involved in shows in any way (her Godmothers are both technicians so she’ll probably more likely grow up as a technician and reprimand her Mother when I behave like an actor!) we will enable and support her to, in the same way that if she’s into sport, we’ll be out in the rain every Saturday morning if needs be.
There’s no getting round it though, with her Father working so regularly with the RSC and both of us running a professional theatre company, writing and in my case performing, she’s going to be around a lot of theatre. A few people worry about the stability of such a lifestyle or the influence that Scarlett will have growing up. And of course her lifestyle, influences and stability are things that concern us as parents, we want her to have as happy and as healthy an upbringing that she can possibly have. But here’s where my views differ from those with concerns. When I was growing up, I remember visiting my Dad at the office several times as he often had to work on the weekends, I used to totter off to the drinks machine and chat to his colleagues, and I have memories of giving him ‘lessons’ on his flip chart in his office. I remember the doorman really clearly, I remember the people he worked with, a lot of whom I am still in contact with today. He used to happily let me wander round to chat to the people in his team and as a result I gained independence, I grew in confidence and I still know that a chocomilk is a number 55 on the machine they used (ok not necessarily a life skill but still…!). I’m pretty sure nobody asked Dad if he thought it was appropriate to let me see the ‘office world,’ or if he worried I’d grow up too sensible as a result, or if he was pushing me too hard towards a life in business. And of course clearly, if he was trying to he failed miserably, out of the two children Dad had, I am by far the most ridiculous, I barely have a sensible bone in me, and although I have done office work, it really isn’t me. And this isn’t because I’m a rebel and am pushing away from my upbringing. It’s because my parents also took me to swimming lessons, encouraged me to learn musical instruments, took me abroad, and, took me to the theatre. I saw and experienced several things and was then able to find what I was passionate about. And I was passionate about theatre, always have been, always will be.
Now consider Scarlett’s childhood, she will meet several of our peers including many RSC Practitioners and members of staff, several other actors, musicians and technicians, if there’s a coffee machine, in time, I will teach her where the buttons to get a chocomilk are situated! She will gain independence and confidence and she will get a really in depth view of a theatrical life. At the same time, we take her swimming regularly, and as much as we can afford we will allow her to experience as much as she possibly can to find what she is passionate about. We’re lucky that our jobs enable us to travel a lot and she will therefore see a lot of the world and if when she grows up, whether she gets her own corner office in the business world like Grandad, becomes a technician like her Godmothers, or finds her own passion and becomes a professional sports player, Dr or astronaut, we will be proud of her and help her achieve her goals.
The only difference between my experiences in the office and her experiences in the theatre is location (and ok, let’s face it, theatre has a little added flair!) we as parents, like my parents did before, will keep her safe when in a location outside of the home. We will teach her to be polite and respectful, and she will know where she can and can’t go (the Managing Director’s office and an unsteady set in a theatre are equally as scary for little ones!). My concession is that a life in theatre is not 9-5, it’s often long hours, late finishes or early starts. And of course, from that point of view, although when she was a newborn she came everywhere and anywhere with us, now she’s nearly four months old, we make sure that she’s at home at a suitable time, and as much as possible give her a routine. Don’t get me wrong, she will experience the shift type lifestyle that we lead and there will be unavoidable times when she’ll fall asleep in the car on the way home because we’ve been unable to get childcare and we both need to be at a theatre, or working separately on productions, but what child hasn’t been carried in by a parent after a slightly later than normal night due to circumstances. She will grow up knowing that at the end of the day she comes first, we work hard to be able to provide for her and she will never be pushed to be part of a world she doesn’t want to.
Theatre is a central part of our lives and will therefore inevitably be a central part of hers in childhood. But if typing hands rather than jazz hands turn out to be more her thing, rest assured we will support her in that. Whatever she grows up to become, I hope that she’ll always have happy memories of her childhood, and will know how much we love her and always do our best for her. And who knows, maybe one day she’ll be more successful than we are in theatre, “all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players,” whatever stage she chooses, whatever sort of player she wants to be, we’ll be right behind her…with dramatic panache!