It’s ages since I’ve done a bit of am-dram. “I’ve been resting, darling” is what I say to everyone about the break from my musical theatre stuff.
So it was quite a treat to be asked to be a judge for Polka Dot Has Talent, a contest for members of one of our local children’s theatre groups here in Spalding. I couldn’t make the first heat a few weeks ago, but I’m sure they managed to get Louis Walsh to step in and guest judge in my place.
I was a little nervous about my role and conscious that some of these young kids would finish the evening disappointed at not going through to the next round on the say-so of my fellow judges and me. Quite a responsibility. I contemplated going all Cheryl Cole for the evening, exaggerating my Geordie accent (doesn’t need much exaggerating, I hear you shout) and flirting with young boys, telling them they ‘owned the stage’ and ‘eeeh, pet, I just luuved yuh’. Perhaps not.
My ever-supportive husband then started to put the wind up me by suggesting I keep a close eye on potential scary parents who believe their little darlings are the next Leona Lewis. “Don’t criticise them too much or they’ll lynch you”, he advised. “Have they a side door you can exit from?” He then said I needed a minder. Simon Cowell has Big Tony; maybe he should be my Big Doug?
In the end, I went on my own and left Big Doug at home.
The room at Polka Dot Academy was set up just like in the real TV show – we three judges were seated facing the stage, with the audience behind us. The compere introduced us and we took our seats. We were told that after each act two of us would be asked for comments; constructive criticism was welcome. Gulp.
The evening was excellent; a really talented group of kids. There were three dance acts and the rest were singers; soloists and three sets of duets. In the end it wasn’t too hard to give criticism. I was able to suggest one young lad keep the microphone closer to his mouth so we could hear him better, another nervous boy with a great voice had looked at the floor throughout his song and some of the dancers hadn’t smiled enough. The compliments were easy : fabulous voices, entertaining musical comedy, brilliant stage presence.
We had to disappoint one dance group (most of whom had performed in separate acts anyway) and one lovely young lad with a sweet-sounding voice whose nerves had got the better of him. Thankfully he was also part of one of the dance groups which was successful.
I managed to leave by the front door without being heckled or attacked and am now looking forward to the semi-finals next Friday evening and the final which is to be held at the South Holland Centre theatre in Spalding next Saturday afternoon.
Big Doug was waiting for me in the Green Room (ok, the kitchen) when I got home with a gin and tonic. I told him I’d probably need a new frock for the final. Well, Amanda Holden would, wouldn’t she?
Darren and Helen who run Polka Dot are appearing tonight, 28 August, on Dragon’s Den, BBC2 at 8pm, pitching for investment in the Pantomime part of their business. Can’t wait to see how they get on and discover if any of the children I watched last night appear on the show.