(No staff were injured in the making of this video.)
Wandered into the staffroom at breaktime to discover a rehearsal, led by Rosa Motha, the DCS choirmistress, in full swing; it was the staff’s turn to run tomorrow’s church service. It took some coaxing for me to join in – a seSotho song with accompanying movement was a little outside my comfort zone – but a Drama teacher can hardly claim he doesn’t do that sort of thing.
We were, however, seriously distracted by Lucky Ratlhagane (off-camera), the dance, drumming and marimba teacher, who was demonstrating some highly inappropriate movement. And I was not about to assault Rosa (though that’s what it looks like.)
They say that great drama springs from constraints; so we are clearly destined for quite a show, as the constraints on this first audition were considerable. On the plus side, it was great to have so many people there (more girls than boys though; some things are apparently universal.) On the other hand, the Hall was being used by the Junior School choir and any outdoor space was rendered impossible when the heavens opened. So we piled up the desks and squeezed into the Drama classroom.
There was scarcely room to swing a cat (English colloquial expression), but they took to their audition task enthusiastically, constructing a short scene based on a strict choice between the story of Adam, Eve and the Snake… and anything else they fancied. The results were hugely entertaining, and took me right back to the equivalent opening sessions with Thame Youth Theatre (if that means anything to you), when we would have a lot of fun… before getting down to work.
Parents’ meetings here at Dominican are a little different.
The formal consultation took place on Saturday morning, then at lunchtime there was a braai (a South African barbecue) for all – parents, teachers, and learners alike. Everyone got a box of meat – in our case, that was a huge steak, an enormous sausage, and a relatively normal-sized lamb chop… each. Then you either cooked it yourself at one of ten or so oil-drum barbecues, or one of Dayle’s team did it for you. Dayle is the guy in green. De- (with apologies to the vegetarians out there) -licious.
The atmosphere was terrific – warm, friendly, and punctuated by gales of laughter. We’ve been here a week now, and already have been made to feel part of the DCS family.
An encounter with a learner (the charming term they use here for a pupil) during a lesson today: she raises her hand, and I make my way to her through the somewhat crowded classroom.
“Yes? How can I help?”
“Please sir, this is not Drama-related, but your eyebrows are rather long. How long are they?”
“Do you know, I have no idea.”
With Viloshni having to undergo her latest bout of chemo, I had to cover a couple of her lessons on my own… In other words, teach! It’s a bit like riding a bike – not the bit about not forgetting so much as you wobble quite a bit until sheer momentum gets you heading more or less in the right direction.
If any of you out there have ever had the experience of being taught by me, they would have recognised the lesson on spontaneous improvisation, starting with Crossing the Circle. Only five in that particular class, meaning. I had to join in as well (just try and stop me).
My first full day at work: in the classroom, shadowing Viloshni Naidoo, the Head of Performing Arts at Dominican, followed by the introductory meeting to “Production”, which is the name given in the extra-curricular programme to the school play… which makes a change from “Congreve”. (For those not in the know, that’s what they call the same thing at Stowe… which is far less intuitive.)
Much to our relief, the attendance was excellent, and with any luck most of them seem prepared to come back for another go. Val thought me mentioning that one of the stories in the play involves two characters who drown another in the river, and that she returns as a spirit to exact revenge, did something to dispel the notion that it was all a bit childish.
(…that’s what I want.)
Franc, one of the deputy-heads here, drove us to the local shopping mall to buy local sim cards – successfully achieved – and to get some money out of the hole in the wall (for non-British bloggees, a colloquial British term for an ATM.) Being momentarily puzzled by the unfamiliar lay-out, we hesitated, at which point a helpful local intervened, and reached over to push a button. And that, presumably, was also the point where he contrived to simultaneously distract both Val and me – his mate had already lured Franc to another screen = and remove my card from the machine. So when I tried to remove it, it didn’t appear… naturally.
Assuming it was still in the machine, we then spent an hour getting the bank to open up the machine… and when it became clear that there was nothing there, we replayed the whole thing in our minds, and worked out what had happened. Even now, I would swear blind that the card could not have been stolen in such a way… except for the fact that it clearly had.
Which should come as a salutary warning. As a generally trusting soul, who pretty much believes that it is better to be occasionally fooled than permanently suspicious, I discovered that even an occasional demonstration of that principle is still painful. Val was not so bothered, as it vindicated her safeguarding procedure – that we are using an account a very limited amount of money in it to access our cash. I’m pretty sure that Franc felt bad, that our very first full day in the country should be so affected. But we are grown-ups, after all… and I suppose I shall have to raise my standard level of suspicion… just a little.
Weeks of preparation, lots of paperwork and forms, a stressful visit to London to lodge our visa application. Today our passports are on their way back from the South African consulate – no idea whether our visas have been granted though. It doesn’t know whether to snow or rain in Oxford today. Very nervous waiting!
An opportunity to meet the staff at the Domincan Convent School in Johannesburg. And a close encounter with a big cat.