Updated: Feb 24, 2020
I’ve been on many school stages in my lifetime, usually in non-dramatic roles. I’ve led assemblies, shared news - both wonderful and tragic - and I’ve watched on with pride as hundreds of my students have graduated. But, as far as I can recall, I have only once been up on stage in a dress and high heels.
It was 1985 and, as I stood behind the curtains, smoothing out my dress, rehearsing the lines I’d been memorising for weeks, I knew that this was it, this was my big moment. From the idea, to the organisation and the execution, the whole event was my doing. Now, as I steadied my balance onto the pads of feet far more accustomed to size 10 rugby boots - in the high heels they were crammed into, I was determined to nail the role. I’d spent weeks practising her turns of phrase, rehearsing her hand movements, her stance, the way she raised an eyebrow, the way she tittered to herself, the way she held court. I was ready.
I have been many things in my life. A son and a brother, a prefect, a head boy, a sports star, powerlifter, rugby player, water polo coach, photographer, DJ, soldier, history teacher, deputy principal and principal, boyfriend and husband, uncle and father figure. But, for a brief moment in time, I became Evita Bezuidenhout.
There’s a certain hum a big crowd makes when it’s trying its best to keep quiet. All sounds, from the whispers, to the fidgeting and the creaking of seats, blend together into an almost sub-audible vibration of energy, excitement and anticipation. Louder than silence, you feel it more than you hear it backstage.
With everyone in their seats and the contestants lined up, the prompter gave me a nod.
I cleared my throat as the curtains opened and with a theatrical flourish stepped forward, into the light.
“Good evening, my darlings! How splendid to see you all here tonight!”