This piece was written for the Six Sentence Challenge, with the prompt word of ‘play’. It’s basically true, allowing for some poetic license and what time does to memories, and I only publish it as a very poor confession for a thoughtless act.
In my callow and thoughtless youth, I was a budding and ambitious thespian who grabbed at the offer to be stage manager in a touring production of a play, with the bonus of also having a very small part, as a black English sailor.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I am not now, nor was I then, black but a ginger-haired Anglo-Saxon who, with the aid of a crew cut and voluminous amounts of make-up was up for the challenge, rationalising my decision on the basis that persons of colour were rare in the theatre in 1960’s Australia.
One night after the show, a smartly dressed woman waited around afterwards and, after introducing herself as the wife of the Colonel at the local Army base, insisted we come to their home for supper and wouldn’t hear of me waiting to remove my make-up.
When the cast arrived at the grand house and trooped into a living room that would have served well as the setting of the final scene in an Agatha Christie mystery, a maid was despatched to prepare tea and supper and to fetch the Colonel.
Soon the Colonel made an appearance and, without batting an eyelid, marched over to me, shook my black make-up caked hand and said ‘Welcome, you look like you could do with a scotch’ and then chatted to me amiably, as if fake black men were regular visitors to his home and that they always left black stains on his expensive scotch glasses.
When we finally grasped the chance to say our farewells, the Colonel once again gripped my hand and intimated in a low voice that I was the least convincing black man he’d ever seen and that perhaps other roles might suit me better.