June 17, 2013
I started at The Maynard in 2003. I remember it being that year because at the time Devon and its educational system were going through a rather strange 'Middle School' phase; before starting, my parents sent me to purgatory transitional school for four years where I took my SATS and learned to write joined up.
I took The Maynard entrance exam and was told that, even though my Maths skills were weak enough to warrant a lot of work, help and a prayer, I'd passed and I started that September with a thick haircut, glasses and a skirt an inch longer than most of the other girls'. I didn't fit in - I didn't have wealthy parents, I wasn't particularly good at sports or science, I was easily distracted. The only subject I seemed able to whole-heartedly enjoy and give full attention to was English.
There has always been one teacher for everyone, whose passion for their subject is infectious and whose enthusiasm can make studying exciting and socially rad. Dr Paula Le Gallez was mine. I admired her unadulterated love of Marlon Brando and Colin Firth - both A Streetcar Named Desire and Pride and Prejudice were our set texts – I loved watching her gallop around our school room with such forcefulness to the rhythm of blank verse and I knew then and there that this woman was utterly bonkers.
I was failing an A Level module because, quite frankly, Emma is a ridiculous novel and Mr Knightley is welcome to the cow – Dr Le Gallez revised extra with me, administered essay questions until I got better and I was ready to retake the exam.
Ironically, I don't think you can teach the charisma of your favourite teacher but if you could Dr Le Gallez would run the shop. As soon as I'd heard I'd been offered a summer with the RSC both she and Mrs Martin were among the first I shared the news with. I look forward to seeing both in July on a very similar A Level trip to the one I took five years ago - the same year I saw Stephen Boxer, now Titus, play Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew.
It's an incredible opportunity I've been given to not only learn from RSC dab hands like Stephen and Katy but to also share debuting with such a group of talented young actors. It's like being daughter to a wickedly fun mafia family. They definitely look after their own.
I've been asked if it's emotionally taxing playing Lavinia but really it isn't. I found it tough during the rehearsal process when sometimes I harboured too long in her darker shades – before the start of part two the audience see Lavinia enter and attempt to hide herself under a table. This idea originated from a late Friday tea break back in London; I was exhausted, frustrated and, not wanting to talk about it, had hidden myself under a table and our director worked it into the show.
However, now all that sometimes nasty, necessary rehearsal work is in place: we do the play, wash off the blood and go to the pub.
I miss Devon - it will always be my home - but Stratford is beautiful and like Devon in many ways. I look forward to my next few months here and for them to be filled up with blood, sex and Leibnizian optimism. I only hope I remember which night is which…
by Rose Reynolds
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