In order to get with the spirit of the Belfast International Arts Festival, I thought I would share my first ever experience of being on stage. I have an undying love for the Crescent Arts Centre. I spent many a Saturday there all through my teens before it got refurbished into the beautiful performance space it is now. Not gonna lie, I thought it was beautiful back then too. Rolling up on a Saturday at 10am, clearing the beer bottles off the floor from the night before’s gig before stretching a la Fame and Flashdance for the Musical Theatre class. Those were the glory days. My gang and I. I was the COOLEST PERSON EVER. We sang songs, we danced dances and we LIVED.
We were asked to perform at an event in Belfast at the bandstand at Cornmarket. Our performance piece of choice was The Jellicle Ball from CATS. Click the link if you have no idea what I am talking about. Still feeling pretty cool at this stage. I mean someone had asked us to perform so we must be pretty amazeballs, right? Plus, I still remembered the one line I had from our P7 play so I knew I was destined to be a STAAAAARRRR.
The day of the performance arrived and my ever supportive Mum and Dad had the video camera all charged up. They had withstood the tantrum of all tantrums that morning when I attached the tail to my bodysuit and suddenly realised that I looked NOTHING like Bonnie Langford or Elaine Paige from actual CATS. What a let down….
Our dressing room – yes, we had a dressing room, was in an old shop unit just down from Cornmarket. When I arrived it seemed that everyone in the group had had the same realisation as me that morning. There we were, tear stained faces, about to go out in public, in the centre of Belfast, in front of our friends and family, to dance dressed as….. cats? The time arrived and as I was the oldest I pulled myself together and rallied the troops – we walked up Castle Lane en masse. I say en masse, there were 5 of us, 2 had dropped out that morning probably due to crippling fear. We got to the bandstand and watched the act before us finish. He was this amazing mime artist and for a minute I forgot what I was about to do (and what I was wearing) but all too soon he turned to us and motioned for us to take our places.
It was then that I suddenly realised there were only FOUR OF US. Someone’s tail had fallen off somewhere between the dressing room and the bandstand so they could not possibly perform. When Samson had his hair cut off he crumbled, so did CAT no 5.
So there we were, in our crouched positions, the music started and I honestly remember nothing else. Zero. The next thing I remember we were walking back to the “dressing room.” We shunned CAT no 5 (who had found his tail apparently all too late to join us) and I put some real clothes on, threw my tail in the nearest bin and went to meet my parents for a Burger King to drown my sorrows.
On reviewing the video captured by my parents it is safe to say that our brains most definitely have the ability to blank out the things that will cause us distress. My brain must have been trying to be exceptionally kind but as in so many situations, modern technology foiled us again. If I ever find the video I will share it but I beg of you to use your imaginations – four obviously terrified children, dressed in all in one bodysuits (which were semi see through), literally running into and around each other for 4 minutes straight with tails made from tights stuffed with cotton wool to the music of The Jellicle Ball. That was my big stage debut and looking back, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
I still think of it everytime I walk past Cornmarket which, if you are aware of my love for Lush, you will know is EVERY TIME I AM IN TOWN. It makes me laugh so much. So if you ever see a 35 year old woman actually cry lolling while passing the Spirit of Belfast statue it is probably me. Please say hello – unless of course it isn’t me, you really shouldn’t talk to strangers, especially not ones laughing for no apparent reason. Safety first.
In case like me, you would like to watch some amazing artists rather than be on stage, make sure to download the brochure of events for the Belfast International Arts Festival running from now until 1st November. I can’t promise anything like what I described above but I am sure you will find something to tickle your fancy.