It is one of those formative memories, a slight scar on my pysche that will never go away.
Aged around nine and desperate to audition for the school play, I stood a lineup and we were asked to sing. Suddenly the teacher stopped in front of me and looked at me closely before asking me to sing a line on my own. ‘You have a nice tone,’ she said, as I opened my mouth in terror. But nothing came out. I was shocked to silence. My opportunity for stardom on the school stage pretty much destroyed forever and my confidence in pieces.
In other words, my chances of West End super stardom were looking unlikely, even before the age of 10. Of course I could sing really, but if you can’t do it standing on a stage there is little chance of ever treading the boards in the spotlight.
Of course I didn’t give up completely and always loved taking part in an ensemble perfomance from time to time. But I absolutely lacked the precocity, drive, talent or uniqueness to take it any further, focusing my attention on sports.
But, in my adult life, opportunities have arisen which have forced me to returnto the spotlight in different ways. Radio is not a problem, I take part in live radio slots regularly and with confidence. I’m not shy. And if you can’t see who is listening, it helps a great deal.
But a number of charity play performances a few years ago reminded me of the true limitations to my peformance skills - I just get too scared. But weirdly, I don’t particularly mind public speaking. As long as I have an at least partly-formed script in front of me, I can even ad lib a little, and without looking like a rabbit in the headlights.
The other week my mettle was tested at the Education Awards, where schools, teachers and students competed in 13 categories. I had to present one award which was no problem, as there was no speaking. Then, at the end, I had to give a speech. I was nervous in front of a theatre full of whooping kids and lively teachers, plus our bigwig business sponsors. But as soon as I stepped on the stage, with lights blinding me, I was fine. But I doubt I’ll audition for Coronation Street any time soon.