By Sophie Pryor
I first saw an advert for an information night for the Astral production of Oliver! two years ago and decided to go along to see what it was all about. I had always taken part in shows when I was younger in England and had planned to get back into it when the opportunity arose. With the children being older and Oliver! being a family show I thought this might be an ideal time.
I told my husband, Matt, that I was going to audition and bring the children along too and much to my amazement he agreed to have a go as well. We turned up to our first audition with much trepidation and despite feeling like we were taking part in a reality tv show, we managed to get through it.
Everyone at the audition was encouraging but seeing four people on the other side of a table watching you attempt to act is definitely intimidating and Matt was horrified that he had to sing even if it was only scales. Even after that audition though we were feeling excited, there is nothing like stepping out of your comfort zone.
When we were called by Emma, the director, a few days later to let us know that Matt and I had managed to score speaking parts and the children were to join the chorus as orphans and pick pockets, we knew there was no turning back. And so followed 6 months of twice weekly rehearsals. It was great fun learning songs and dance routines. There was a large group of new and old Astral members who joined in and I loved having the children at rehearsals with us.
Memorable moments included warm ups- singing round, round whilst clapping and running in a circle- we looked like a bunch of crazy people. Matt’s tight, white policeman pants 😂. And having nightmares wondering if I could climb onto a coffin on wheels without rolling off the stage. We all enjoyed trying on our costumes and it is still a wonder to me how the costume department manage to get everyone including multiple children into several different costumes with very little fuss.
As a family we were able to practice our songs and dances at home and it was brilliant to be taking part in something together and not just sitting at home in front of the tv. There were times we thought we would never be able to learn our parts and there were times when we felt like if we ever heard Consider Yourself one more time we would go mad but we carried on regardless.
It was really special to take part in a shared project as a family and it’s definitely something that I would recommend to other families. There’s nothing like a show to bring people together and as opening night gets closer and rehearsals get later and longer there is a real sense of friendship and achievement. Performing the shows in front of family and friends was a great experience and definitely makes all of the hard work worthwhile.
After that first show we are hooked. I took part in My Fair Lady, last year, on my own since the children were unable to join us for that production but it was great to have Matt join us as stage manager for the shows. And the children enjoyed taking part in Alice In Wonderland for the children’s show. We all enjoyed being back, recognising familiar faces and getting to know new people too.
We have certainly missed taking part in a production this year, but I think it will be even more special when we are eventually allowed back on stage. We will all come back with a better understanding of what drives us to take part and with a greater appreciation of the beneficial impact that it has on our lives.