With the Other Half's laughter still ringing in my ears, I book for a four-day course at a nearby acting school. It's less acting - learning lines, developing character, blocking moves, director's tantrums - than I expected and more what I consider ancillary action - movement, singing, voice, stage fighting. I'm fairly unco-ordinated and have a temperamental knee, but I get through the physical activity with my dignity more or less intact, apart from the Elizabethan scraping, bowing and dancing, where I'm always putting the wrong foot forward or turning or leaning in the wrong direction. As for the singing... I'm one of these people who only ever sings when there is a space of at least five hundred yards between me and the nearest human being, and on those rare occasions when I do give voice I usually cringe at the awful sound that emerges. But George, the energetic, friendly, talented and otherwise excellent music teacher, seems unaware of my ability to sing several varying tones off-key within a single note and gives me a minor part in the chorus we are to present.
I get the point of the these classes, but it's the acting I'm here for and it's good to know that there are more women than men in the class, so while they have to share roles, we males each get a whole scene to ourselves. We're playing Jerry in different scenes, and when one of the men drops out, I get the bonus of playing him in a second scene. I'm not brilliant, I know, but I can feel and hear myself emoting properly, and when I compare myself with the others in the class - all of whom I get to know and like - and hear oblique compliments from several, I know I'm one of the best in the group.
That opinion gets enhanced after the Shakespeare session, firstly when the classmate I choose to be my Hamlet tells he felt properly told off by my Claudius ("'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, To give these mourning duties to your father..."), and later when in conversations with both the school and course director at the end of the course.
It's these compliments and the emotional high that has built up over the four days that convinces me that acting is something I definitely want to pursue. The high is a curious emotion, something that I have never experienced before, similar in intensity to, although obviously different in quality from, first sex. I know I want to experience it again and again. It's composed of various elements that I try to understand. I'm pleasantly surprised that there is no fear, no stagefright; once I am in character and in front of an audience it is as if they do not exist; there is only me, trying, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, to express the character I have become. I can fail, of course, by saying the wrong words or making the wrong movements or expression, or by only partly conveying what I want to convey, but that failure is internal. It is only when I come offstage that I remember there is an audience and I wonder whether it approves or disapproves, enjoys or is bored by, my acting.
The course comes to an end; our group exchanges emails and agree to keep in touch (and so far, many of us have) and I make my way home, still on that high. The stage has become like sex. I like it. I want to do it. I think I can do it well. I want to keep doing it and get better and better and bring pleasure to many other people . . .