Us or them
Published: March 31st, 2022 by theatretrain

Us or them

I was brought up by my aunt who was a bit of a stickler. She came to driving late and moved at her own pace. A motorist once made the mistake of beeping her when she didn’t instantly pull away from the traffic lights when they turned green. Oh dear. She turned off her engine, got out of the car, walked over, and motioned to him to wind down the window. She then looked at him and said, “Can I help you?”. I imagine he was completely exasperated but she made her point and got back into her car – he didn’t try it again.

“Then a car sped towards us beeping as it did so.”

While I admire her audacity I can’t help thinking she was pushing it. But I was reminded of it the other day when I was walking my young daughter back from the shops. There’s a junction near our house and despite the new highway code some drivers seem not to see pedestrians. Nothing was coming so we stepped onto the road. Then a car sped towards us beeping as it did so. My reaction was to turn – it was still some way off – and we both stared at the driver for a few seconds while standing in the road. In my head I was thinking, “What do you want us to do – run out of your way?”

My point is that surely life is negotiated. Sometimes the car is boss because it is made of metal and travels at speed, but sometimes the pedestrian has a priority because they are vulnerable. That doesn’t seem to suit some drivers who seem unable to adjust in this way.

As an acting teacher I am fascinated by what I call the dynamics between people. Every day we shift our behaviour when we come across other people. Some are friendly, kind, and generous like the drivers who wave you across the road while others are intolerant and mean-spirited and are likely to give you a mouthful. In acting class, I like to set up situations which explore this, so I’ll have an old person queuing at the post office. They take their time and are enjoying the opportunity to chat. I’ll ask another person to be in a hurry – they must get that letter posted in the next three minutes.

“Both people have an equal right to be who they are in that situation”

Yes, it’s deliberately a conflict scenario but it’s interesting to see what happens. Both people have an equal right to be who they are in that situation, and we can’t always be respectful of other people’s points of view. Who knows how important that letter is? Maybe the person who beeped me and my daughter was rushing to a hospital – you never know.

We know boundaries are important in human relationships. It’s great that young people get a chance to put their feet into other people’s shoes and discover this. Hopefully it helps them empathise and let’s face it, the more we can appreciate different points of view the more we can help the world.

Until we realise that we can be just as petty and mean spirited and not “see” that driver trying to come out of a side turning. Actor training can increase empathy, but it won’t stop us being human with all its failings.

My aunt never took account of the driver behind her, but he certainly learnt what her feelings were. I’m still wondering was she right to do that?

Theatretrain – a nationwide provider of weekend theatre schools for young people aged 3 -18, specialise in weekly classes in acting, singing, and dancing. An emphasis is placed on learning valuable life skills such as confidence, empathy, courage, resilience. If you know of a child who loves to dance, act and sing or could do with a little confidence boost why not visit to find out what our Performing Arts classes can offer your child at one of our 80 locations across the UK.