Celebrating Posy’s Birthday

Play reading

Yesterday 31st July would have been Posy’s fiftieth birthday. This year is also the one in which her unborn baby, affectionately known as Bod, would have been eighteen.

Posy’s attitude to birthdays was that they were to be celebrated to the max. She was to be “Queen of the Day” and the lesser mortals about her were to pander to her every wish.

Thinking along those lines her brother David and his partner Tasha proposed we had a Posy day, where glasses would be raised in toasts, much wine would be drunk, food consumed and stories told. All very much what Pose would have loved. And to make it extra special we would read from some of her work, for Posy as well as being an actor was a writer.

The quest was on to find something appropriate for a gathering which would include small children. The unfinished first draft of her novel wouldn’t work. Her short story was a possible choice, but we ultimately decided on “Please Miss” a play she and I wrote based on her experiences as a supply teacher in between acting jobs.

It was Mike who suggested this script, because I had forgotten it existed, partly because it was buried so deeply in the depths of my hard drive that I had to search for a long time before I found it. Even then, in what began to feel like a series of spooky incidents, I kept mislaying it. When its final version came to light I was only too happy to pin it down in an email and send it to David, so that I would know for sure where it had got to.

Posy and I wrote the script, which we intended to submit for the BBC4 fifteen minute daily drama slot, shortly before she died. Everything in it was based on what she had done during her merciful brief teaching stint, most of which, if anyone had known about it, would have led to instant dismissal. Not that she hit a child or swore, or did anything along those lines, it was more that her teaching was somewhat creative. Her shot at RE lessons was particularly inspired when she got the kids to invent their own gods. Roger the Peanut God being my especial favourite.

The observations of her main character were what Posy would relay in our frequent telephone conversations and truly reflect the conditions in the disadvantaged school with its dysfunctional pupils where she dispensed her teaching skills. Which were considerable. The kids no doubt had fun and she managed to survive where other more experienced teachers would have fled.

The script located and printed out we arrived at David and Tasha’s, toasted Posy and Bod and shared our anecdotes. Remembering her made us both laugh and feel sad as we acknowledged how much we missed this indomitable, sparky, infuriating, creative and funny member of our family.

After lunch we gathered around the table in the garden for our reading. David and Tasha had allotted our parts and Ollie the youngest of us was commandeered into the technical department. He along with Tasha were in charge of the sound effects and one of the highlights of the day was when Ollie, representing the whole of a class of eight year olds ran round and round the patio screaming. He also added his own unique touch the proceedings.  Going off script, the point at which he came up to the table holding a dead mouse and reducing the assembled company to hysterics was an Oscar winning moment.

His stunning performance was one of many. Everyone, professional actor or not, inhabited their characters. Maggie as Cathy a teacher from Australia with her improvised “cobber” thrown in at every possible opportunity was magic, so was David as Ryan a psychopathic pupil, Maddy as various pupils and Lucy as the don’t really care teaching assistant, with a complicated love life. In fact the whole family revealed hidden, and not so hidden dramatic talent.

Our casting being gender neutral the central role of Emma/Posy was taken by Jonathan one of her oldest friends and someone she had worked with on numerous productions. They had first met at the Edinburgh Fringe and he was Mercutio to her Juliet, in her production of “Romeo and Juliet” which was toured in Jamaica.

Jonathan also read from Posy’s letters and her humour and care for other people as well as a certain disregard for conventions and total accuracy came across so vividly that it was almost as if she was there.

After this it was time for us to drive home to Stoke having had a heart-warming and very poignant day which would have delighted our Queen for the Day.

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