Last weekend, I had the privilege of being part of the cast of Dean Close Remembers, a production that retold the stories of the former pupils who gave their lives in the service of their country during the First World War. The director of the production, Rebecca Vines, and the director of Drama, Lloyd Allington, had clearly been struck by my ability to play the role of a headmaster and cast me as one of my predecessors, Dr Flecker. Despite the lack of rehearsal time, my ability to read a register and read from a script in a school assembly shone through.
It really was a privilege to put myself into the shoes of a school leader who had to regularly give devastating news to the pupils and staff at Dean Close from 1914 to 1918. The reminder of the number of young lives of young men of great potential who were not able to realise all that they could be was brought home to me in the most powerful of ways. Reading the roll call of those who died at the Somme whilst imagining what that might be like today is something that will stay with me for years to come.
Secondly, it was a privilege to be back stage and to see a cast that was so committed to telling the stories of Old Decanians with integrity and with passion. There was a strong sense of the responsibility to get this right. Whilst it is a little strange to talk about the courage of actors in the context of a production about young men whose courage was severely tested, I was struck by the courage of the pupils involved. Seeing them stride out onto the stage, trusting their fellow cast members to feed them the right cue, banking on their ability to remember where they should be and what they should do does require a good degree of courage. It is the same courage we often associate with sportsmen and women but not so often with the performing arts. The interesting thing is that there were approximately 120 pupils with a very small part, they only had to say one name as part of the roll of honour at the end. For those with little experience of public speaking, choosing the right time to say your line and trying not to stumble over it in front of a full Bacon Theatre is an intimidating thing. My congratulations to all who were involved.
It was a great privilege to be part of this production not only for what I learnt about the Headmaster of Dean Close in 1918 and his pupils, but also because of what I learned about the pupils at Dean Close in 2018. There are times when being the Headmaster of Dean Close School is a truly wonderful position and last weekend was one of those.