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  • Last night I stayed on at school for the play. The windows in my office open onto a small courtyard with a fountain and a palm and gardenia bushes. The softening evening brought birds to the fountain and the scent of water and gardenias and earth swelled through the open windows. The staff room and reception were all silent. Down the way the night crew shoved a bucket along, cleaning one of the classrooms. Up by the gate the bus drivers and security shared the news around William’s car as he polished it with a soft cloth after its daily wash. All four doors were open and the gospel music he loves poured out. A school is a different symphony without the students

    When I got anxious or restless with work and writing I walked across the playground to the lapa where the kids in the play rehearsed the tricky scenes one last time before the performance.

    The play this year is a Ms Marie original. Utopia! She knew who would likely sign up when she wrote the play back in June and July. There is a part for everyone. The story line is simple, two groups leave their homes where troubles abound to search for the legendary land of utopia. The ending is happy. There are wolves and gorillas and dancing sunbeams and majestic narrators. The jungle kids and the glacier kids trade snappy banter and insults and attitude just like they do on the playground.

    I sat in the back and watched. Watched the proud parents flash pictures and video to stream across oceans and time zones to grandparents and family. Watched Ms Marie scoop up a third grade gorilla in her arms when the shock of being on stage overwhelmed him and he burst into tears as he danced. Watched him come back, comforted and triumphant. Watched Ilektra, the smallest wolf, sing word perfect in her clear wooden voice and dance a studied jig, her echo skills finding a real application at last. Watched the kids glow with red carpet pride at the end.

    A fab four posed for photos after the show, reluctant to leave the stage as the other actors and their families streamed away to separate cars and destinations. Arms round one another, faces bright with make-up, Utopia, they cried and the cameras flashed and the crowd sighed. And I smiled and walked away following the last of them out, to lock my office and drive across town to solitude.
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