Eleanor Roberts shares her memories of the time she spent in the Roundhouse when she was eight.
I walked into the Roundhouse shortly after it had been re-opened and something was wrong. It had shrunk. Considerably. But then again, the last time I was there, the time when I felt it was my second home, was in the mid 1970s when I was five so possibly it was me that had grown and the laws of physics were still intact.
In 1975 my dad, Trevor Roberts, got the job of Technical Director of the newly opened Theatre Downstairs. My mum was a nurse, so when she had to work late my dad would pick up my sister, aged eight, and I from school and take us to the Roundhouse. We seemed to have the run of the place, we loved it.
I remember one amazing evening in the empty theatre when my dad set up a strobe light that was going to be used in one of the productions. We ran and danced and stumbled around with abandon in the never-before-experienced wonder of our now staccato movements. Another production involved my dad having to keep a freezer full of dry ice. He’d chip some off into a plastic cup and we would have endless fun pouring water on the ice and watching the seemingly magic smoke pour out. It was only years later, in my career as a scientist, that I realised that giving a five and eight year old dry ice to play with was probably not the safest thing in the world.
On a Saturday morning we’d go to Anna Scher’s drama classes taught by her teenage students Phil Daniels (soon to be of Quadrophenia fame) and Linda Robson and Pauline Quirk (later to be of Birds of a Feather fame). Being the baby of the class Pauline particularly doted on me but Phil scared me after he and Linda performed an improvisation along to ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren with him in a devil mask so I don’t think I ever talked to him. My new found acting skills later got my sister and me leading roles in Infant and Junior school plays.
I particularly remember one May Day celebration in 1976 where on both sides of the space tablecloths were laid out on the floor and we all sat down cross-legged to eat. My sister and I were entranced by one woman who was seemingly unnoticeably topless, not something we were used to coming from the outskirts of Hounslow. We all got in a circle and the May Queen was chosen by a blindfolded man in the middle spinning round, a finger extended. He stopped with it pointed at me. I was lifted up onto his shoulders, given a bucket for a crown, my May King given a broom as a sceptre and we paraded round laughing all the way. My sister always maintains that it should have been her that was chosen but I wouldn’t let her in the circle, this is possibly true.