Alexander Waugh

Caught in the Spotlight

Playing Scared: My Journey Through Stage Fright


Bloomsbury 272pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The chorus stood straight but for one boy in the front row, swaying and clutching his willy through his trousers. They were singing the Pilgrims’ Chorus from Tannhäuser at our school’s house singing competition. Before him, the whole school (myself included) was collapsed in mirth. The louder the laughter the tighter the boy clasped his flies and the more wayward became his sway. Neither he nor anyone on the stage had the faintest idea why the audience was reacting in this hysterical way. It was a cruel episode, which no one present will ever forget. The boy was suffering from stage fright and I don’t suppose there was a pupil among us who had not experienced similar feelings at one time or another. The previous week I had vomited before a race. I frequently lost my way in school debates and once shouted ‘fuck’ in front of an audience of prim parents and school governors when my fingers ran away from me during a competition performance of Schumann’s Humoreske.

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