I ALWAYS marvel at people who volunteer to go up on stage. As a child, I shrivelled to a shadow when the audience was scanned for likely suspects, but luckily there were always plenty of takers.
As an adult, now pretty confident and having taught drama in schools, people are surprised that I still cringe and refuse to make eye contact when performers ask for volunteers to sing, be hypnotised or sawn in half. I think it must be something to do with lack of control and being unprepared.
Over the years I’ve had nightmares about being in a play where it’s opening night and I haven’t yet learned my lines.
You can guess where this is leading, but wouldn’t you think you’d be safe at a show by a Maori group, Te Oranga Ake, from Auckland?
Mr F and I were fascinated by demonstrations of a traditional welcome, weaponry display and the Haaka – the latter pretty scary with the men’s tongue-pulling and glaring eyes.
But then it happened.
The Maori women had just shown us the Poi dance when the fiercest warrior asked for six women to go up on stage and have a go.
The house lights went up and, as I was sitting next to the aisle, am under 70 and without a walking stick, I knew my number was up.
Mr F did too: he shot me an amused but sympathetic ‘get-out-of-this-one’ look, as the dancers came into the audience.
Did I volunteer? No, absolutely not!
But when a grass-skirted and tattooed Maori reaches for your hand it would be very rude, and possibly dangerous, to refuse.
So, I broke the habit of a lifetime and allowed myself to be taken up to the stage where I was given a poi – a large white pom-pom on a string – as the chief dancer kindly whispered: ‘It’s not difficult’. Hmm...
I somehow got through the routine, but I don’t think my skills will be called upon in future.
As our New Zealand friends put it when I told them I was a chosen one at a Maori display: “It’s called humiliating the tourists”.