Friday, January 06, 2006


Have you ever noticed in films, dramas and comedies how there are always people milling around in the background? If the drama is set in a pub (or bar) there are people pretending to be drinking (or actually drinking) or socialising in the background. If the drama is set in a hospital, the extras are dressed up as doctors and nurses, or pretending to be patients. These people are called Extras. Extras help create the scene, make it more believable.

Sometimes while watching television with my mother, we play the game of "spotting the extras." This makes for very entertaining viewing. There is a hospital drama we watch called Holby City. My mother and I reckon it's the busiest department ever what with all the extras moving to and fro trying to make it look busy. As if this happens in a real life NHS (National Health Service) hospital!

In the play I call "The Life of Enocia" there are a few people with major roles and minor roles and the rest are extras. The major/minor players in my life are infinitesimal compared to the amount of extras. As I write this, there are over 6 billion people living on Earth. That's a hell of a lot of extras. The wonderful thing is as life unfolds and I take on new roles, many extras end up playing major roles, depending on the script.

As a child, my mum and dad and brothers had major roles in my play while the rest of the world were extras. When my parents separated and we left London to live in Sierra Leone, I was introduced to extras who now took on major roles. I was now living with my uncle and his family; they were now my extended family. Then my mother left us in my uncle's care for six years while she came to London to work. My uncle and his wife were now my parents; and their kids my extended family. My mother was now playing a minor role or so it would seem. In truth, her role was very important as she was paving the way for me and my brothers to join her in London.

At school I met new extras. Some became my friends, antagonists and teachers; while others remained extras.

After secondary school, I took on a new role which involved coming to live with my mother in London. This meant my aunt, uncle and cousins were no longer major players; they were now extras. My school friends and teachers also went back to being extras. My mother now had a major role in my play until I left home. Then my mother and brothers took on minor roles. I was now introduced to new extras who took on major roles in my life as college friends, work friends, work colleagues, housemates, even Internet friends.

Years later I would be playing a new role that would involve my mother reprising her role as major player in my life. We are currently living together and her support has been invaluable. I shall be shortly taking on a new role where my mother will revert to playing a minor role, while I meet new extras who will be major players.

I have found many extras pop up for a moment of need where they play the role of the thing needed and then they're off. At that moment they are major players. Though their roles are short-lived, their impact can last for eternity.

This morning I went to do some grocery shopping for my mother. While I was waiting at the checkout, the woman in front of me, whose shopping was being processed, noticed I had some turkey ham slices that were on a "buy one get one free" offer.

"Excuse me," she said, "do you know if there are some more of those turkey ham slices left? They didn't have them the other day."
"Yes, they've got some left," I said.
"Thank you. I'll get some later."
"Why don't you have mine?" I said. "I can run and get some more."
"Are you sure?"
"No problem, I know where they are anyway."

I ran to the shelf and got some. The woman was very grateful. While she was paying for her grocery, the shop assistant asked her if she had a store card. She said she had but had left it at home. She asked me if I had one and I said yes. She asked the shop assistant to transfer her points to mine, which was very nice of her.

At the bus stop I saw another woman whom I'd noticed at the supermarket. She looked exhausted.

"Are you OK?" I said.
"Yes," she sighed. "I only came out to buy some rice they had on "buy one get one free." Look what I've ended up with." She pointed to the bags around her.
"Maybe you needed these things," I said.
"Yes I do, but it's so heavy to carry."

I asked her where she was going. It turned out we were waiting for the same bus. When our bus arrived I helped her carry her bags on to the bus. During the journey she told me she'd been to Jamaica over Christmas to visit her elderly mother. Her mother has been insisting that she spend Christmas with her. She said it was the first time she'd ever been to Jamaica over Christmas. She said she had a lovely time. When we got to her bus stop, I helped her with her bags and I continued my journey on the same bus.

Up to this morning, I'd never met those two women before; they've been extras. For a few minutes we got to star in each other's lives, which was great.

There are other types of non-human extras that play very important roles by making life easier. They are the equivalent of stage props and they come in two categories: working props and scenery props. Working props include buildings, furniture, cookers, fridges, microwaves, washing machines, dish washers, vacuum cleaners, irons, videos, DVD players, music, radios, televisions, telephones, clocks, cameras, cinemas, media, art, books, Internet, computers, electricity, cars, all types of transportation, money, water, food, drinks, clothes, shoes, hats, bags, cosmetics, makeup, jewellery, etc. Scenery props include forests, flowers, fauna, rivers, ponds, lakes, oceans, mountains, deserts, the sky, the moon, the sun, stars, planets, galaxies, etc.

I mustn’t forget the animal extras who play vital roles as pets, friends who cross my path from time to time, ones who offer themselves as food, and millions of animals I've never met but I know exist.

Finally, there are invisible extras that act as ideas that inspire such as love, peace, joy, truth, freedom, beauty, perfection, harmony and unity.

As I believe God is all there is, it is God that is playing all these roles.

All my love and gratitude to the billions of extras in my play: "The Life of Enocia."


Related article: Acting Like a Professional