Dom Joly: My daughter played a tree, but she was really wooden

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The Independent Online

I've been sitting at home, desperately trying to polish off the rough script for my upcoming UK tour. It's got to the stage where I really can't do much more until I give it a trial run in this week's London warm-up. I really needed to think about something else for a while.

This was how I got roped into going to see my daughter in her school play. It would definitely earn me some brownie points and Stacey thought that it might give me some inspiration. I wasn't convinced that this would be the case, but what could be better than to go and see a school production and cheer on my offspring?

Well, to be honest, quite a lot. For starters, I really loathe theatre, especially musical theatre, even if my little girl is in the production. To make matters worse, something seems to have happened to school plays. In the old days, I'm sure they were, usually, crowd-pleasers – amateur recreations of popular hits. I was in Huis Clos by Sartre ("L'enfer, c'est les autres..." how true that is), The Strong Are Lonely (something about Jesuits in Paraguay) and Oh! What a Lovely War (musical protest about the First World War – we were so of our time). OK, looking back, I have to admit that some of mine were a bit worthy even though they dealt with issues that probably mattered more to Victorians than us. We did have some fluff, however: I was in Pygmalion and did something in The Pirates of Penzance.

Nowadays, schools seem to receive play "kits" which come with costumes, ideas for sets, generous roles for nearly everybody (all must have prizes) and... a message. My daughter's play was the moving story of the Amazonian rainforest, so full of delightful creatures. My daughter played the role of a tree. I told her afterwards that her performance was very wooden and she took it totally the wrong way.

Anyway, in the first half we met all the delightful singing animals that lived in this prelapsarian paradise. Then we met all the wonderful natives who spent their time covered in beads, weaving straw baskets and hunting with bows but no arrows. Things were fine, and everyone was very keen to sing and tell you how brilliant everything was.

Suddenly, an evil politician arrived. We knew he was evil because he smoked a cigar and evil people smoke cigars. The evil cigar-smoker started throwing money at the lovely natives and talking in some detail about IMF grants. Now, I've sat through a revolutionary opera in Pyongyang, and even that wasn't as unsubtle as this. But we weren't finished.

Next came the loggers, who set fire to everything so that a man dressed as a Texas cowboy (and smoking a cigar, obviously) could allow his cows to roam the burnt wastelands. The whole show ended with all the rainforest animals being burnt to death and screaming. I watched helplessly as my daughter, the tree, went up in flames.

I was so traumatised by the whole thing that I had to consume two bottles of wine afterwards. This, in combination with my broken foot, made for a messy end to the evening and I will probably not be voted on to the PTA next year, much to my chagrin.

The whole thing was very peculiar, and there is, apparently, more to come. It turns out that the next two school productions have also gone for "controversial" subjects. The first, in which my son plays a traumatised penguin, tells the story of the melting polar ice-caps. The production I'm really looking forward to, however, is the one they are putting on at the end of the year about Hiroshima. It should be a real blast.