The yellow brick road offers the final few steps on the path to a remarkable recovery for Hambrook’s Harriet Smith.
Harriet takes the lead role of Dorothy in the Lavant Players production of The Wizard of Oz, barely a year after six hours of surgery to correct a spinal deformity.
Harriet admits that it has been a tough year, fighting both boredom and tiredness, plus the frustrations of unexpectedly finding herself living back at home. But her starring role for the Lavant Players is confirmation that a brighter and better future now awaits.
She’s currently applying to university to study to become a dietician. In fact, she will have a university interview during The Wizard of Oz run.
It’s been a change of direction on all fronts. 19-year-old Harriet was at Birmingham reading biochemistry just before Christmas 2012 when the opportunity came up to have an operation to correct her scoliosis, a condition which left her with an S-shaped spine and plenty of back pain.
“The scoliosis was discovered when I was 16 at school my music teacher. I had singing lessons, and people would be telling me to stand up straight. They sent me to a doctor. It wasn’t an emergency, but I was told that it was going to get worse every year. Last December I had a telephone call out of the blue saying they had a space for my surgery, and it seemed to good time to go ahead with it while I was still young. I was in hospital for a week over Christmas.”
Tiredness was a big problem during her convalescence, plus the fact that all her friends were away at university: “I went from boarding school and university to living at home with my parents, “
But as Harriet says, the difference now is amazing: “I had a lot of back pain before, which has mostly cleared up. It has been a really tough year, but now I can see the end result.”
She’s looking forward to a skiing holiday; she’s looking forward to some travelling; and she’s looking forward to resuming her university studies this September.
Her stint with the Lavant Players has been all part of her rehabilitation, she says: “I have always absolutely loved music. I was at Epsom College as a scholar and was involved in a lot of opera and shows.
“After the operation, initially I didn’t think that I was going to be able to sing again, but gradually over the year I have managed to get back into it. I have done a production with the Lavant Players before, Oliver! about four years ago. I heard they were putting on The Wizard Of Oz, and I auditioned for a small part, as one of the witches. I just wanted a small part because I wasn’t sure I would be up to more, but after I auditioned, they rang up and said ‘Would you like to be Dorothy?’ I said ‘Oh go on, then!’
It’s a part she’s loving: “She is just such a typical teenager going through difficult times in her life, living with her aunt and uncle, feeling no one really understands her, having these mythical ideas in her head. But she can be quite feisty, quite determined.”
And yes, Harriet sees a few parallels: “I can see clearly see how she gets frustrated living in close proximity to her family. But she can see at the end that family is the most important thing she has, and that’s quite an important lesson that us teenagers forget!”
The show is at Lavant Memorial Hall, Pook Lane, Lavant, from January 22-25 at 7.30pm plus a Saturday matinee. All tickets £9 on 01243 527124 or www.lavantplayers.net.