Dear Improbable

Dear Improbable,

I am perplexed.

[By Poppy Corbett]

For some time I have been hoping to meet the perfect teacher. A teacher who would nurture my individual needs and inform me of the deepest secrets about my favourite subject: theatre. A teacher I could call my hero.

When I heard you were hosting a mentoring evening of japery at the BAC, I just had to attend, although I’m afraid I’ll be in disguise so you won’t recognise me. But then again, you wouldn’t recognise me anyway as you do not know what I look like. (CLUE – in the study with a pencil.)

A mentor is defined as a ‘trusted advisor.’ How can I know you are to be trusted? Seeing as improbable is defined as ‘not likely to be true or to happen,’ I am immediately suspicious of your wizardry. I always live by the motto ‘love a lot, trust a few.’ If I am to trust you, you may have to partake in a few trust exercises and endurance tests just to prove your worth. I normally set up a Takeshi’s Castle style obstacle course in my back garden which we will both have to complete holding hands and tied together at the ankle. I hope this will be ok with you.

I know you have brought friendly companies along to help mentor us too but in a moment of rash decision I have decided it is you – you who is to be my theatrical teacher, my hero. Don’t worry, I will not be turning up at your door every day with my course book in hand. I’ll just stalk you from a distance, watch your shows, search you on the internet and run through imagined lessons with you in my mind. What can I learn from you about the theatre? Will you give me one-to-one teaching; will there be a theatre school I can attend and what kind of learning environment will you create for me? What if I have learning difficulties? If you put me in a class will I be in beginners, intermediate or advanced? Can you offer a neuro-linguistic programming model to assist me? It should be noted that I am a visual learner and likely to remember things better if I see them although I, myself, rarely like to be seen.

When you mentor me, will you expect me to partake in various activities such as walking around a space with my eyes shut, telling stories a word at a time and doing simple things like that? I’m good at these so I hope so. I often find it is from the most simple of things that the most complex ideas emerge. Light can be shed in simple corners. A simple corner. I wonder what a complex corner would look like and what light would be shone there? Just a thought. Oh, I must also warn you I always hand my coursework in late due to lack of time and money. My deepest apologies.

A few things are bothering me about your classroom. Will we be able to have a break for a pint of milk and a cookie mid-morning? Would you give us homework to complete every night? How would you grade that homework? How do you grade what is good and bad in the theatre? Do you grade the process or the product? What if the process is good but product bad? Can you average that out as…average? Seeing as enjoyment of a theatrical event is subjective, how can you possibly grade it? Ask the audience, phone a friend and 50:50 can all help in these matters but it is my belief grades are irrelevant in your classroom. There’s so much I could say about the troublesome subject of the audience but I’ll leave that for another lesson.

What of the discourse of theatre and the variables within that discourse? I’m hoping you can tell me something about your thoughts on these. I don’t have many thoughts, just a few I will reveal at our next meeting. Often I find it is the pupil who is teaching the teacher. I wonder, will that be the case with us? When I think about famous teachers in time I think of, Socrates, Frank from Educating Rita, Dumbledore, Mrs. Butler of the Alan Albherg poems, the Demon Headmaster and Jesus. I wonder what attributes of theirs you too may share. I imagine you to have the wisdom of Socrates, the liver of Frank, the magic of Dumbledore, a pretty Mrs. Butler dress, piercing Demon Headmaster eyes and a really good beard like Jesus. If this can be confirmed, you’ve made my Christmas.

Will there be peer assessment going on in your classroom? It’s something I don’t approve of. I like my learning environment to be that of an egg wrapped in cotton wool. Totally private, secret and work that can be a little bit dirty until I’m happy with the colour of my feathers. Then I’m more than happy to come out of my shell and display my work to the world.

If you are my teacher and I am the class, I hope we establish a good rapport. I know your kind to be funny (that Lee Simpson often has me chuckling on a Sunday night night, I’m always in the front row). Not only do I think you’re funny but the hugs of Phelim come with the highest recommendation from my pal Dick McCaw. Laughter and hugs are two of my favourite things. They say that theatre mirrors life. Is your theatre then a theatre of laughter and hugs? I think I’d like a theatre of laughter and hugs. But I feel three is the magic number. What if you added a third subject to the equation?

A theatre of laughter, hugs and ivy leaves.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and nightingales.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and melons.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and republicans.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and inbreeding.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and owls.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and tissues.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and nerves.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and bloodshed.

A theatre of laughter, hugs and death.

Changes everything doesn’t it? Adding something. When is it right to add and when is it right to subtract? What is the best possible moment to do either of these things? Questions that constantly trouble me.

There are so many questions I would like to know about my teacher. What is your greatest fear? If you had a cat would you call it Rhyming Hindu? What do you think of when you think of the colour blue? If you travelled on holiday somewhere warm, what would your choice of beach garment be? If you grew a beard would I be able to call you ‘woolly bear’ in a jovial manner? Do you have a Blackberry so we can message each other for free? Do you like to receive chocolates or Jamie Cullum’s dad as your end of term present? I can provide both.

All classrooms are different. I wonder what it is like to learn in yours? Inspiring, beguiling and possibly riling. Do you wear superhero pants for your devising sessions? I do hope so. It’s what I imagine from my hero’s undergarments.

Why should any of this concern you?

It doesn’t.

But isn’t it nice to receive something without agenda for a change?

Prayers are offered to whichever deity one chooses to believe in, have faith in: but what of prayers between people?

An essential dialogue.

Or monologue.

Whatever. Who cares?

Kindest regards,


(Image by Niharb)

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