DANE BAEKDAL 1992 – 2010
Dane joined Masque Youth Theatre in September 2005, having come from Australia with his parents to live in Northampton. His friendly, out-going personality, his big voice and smile, and his gift for comedy made him an instant hit with the rest of the group. Despite his balance problems (he had a form of cerebella ataxia which made him walk unsteadily) and recurring bouts of CVS (cyclical vomiting syndrome) which put him in hospital for days and weeks at a time, he would throw himself into every activity with enthusiasm and determination. More than anything, Dane loved to laugh, to create characters and to make others laugh. A favourite warm-up game was “G’day Bruce”, during which Dane mocked and delighted in our phoney Australian accents. He was able to take part in To Buy A Fat Pig in April 2006, the Summer School in August of the same year and then in the specially commissioned musical “Gulliver” in the summer of 2007. His performance as Mersi, one of the three “Swiss Guards” at the court of Lilliput, was memorable. His clear and confident voice, informing his fellow guards that the man-mountain “farts in the key of E” was a golden moment at every performance.
During 2007 his CVS episodes increased in frequency and severity, so although he very much wanted to take part in Ringtime and also in the Masque production of Waiting For Godot (in which he was cast as The Boy) he was unable to do so and had to be replaced by an understudy. Typically, it was his fear of letting others down that made him pull out of both productions. CVS was proving to be a cruel and unpredictable force in his life, and that of his devoted parents. He left Masque Youth Theatre in 2008 in order to save his time and energies for school work and exams. His absence from the group was immediately and keenly felt.
It was a great shock to hear of his death at the end of November 2010. Tim Page, Elliot Bannister, Brian and I attended his funeral service, in a packed chapel at Milton Crematorium. We learned that his health had continued to deteriorate and that he had become confined to a wheelchair. His father, mother and uncle spoke movingly of his courage, his care for others, his love of life and adventure, his sense of humour.
Despite his condition, he loved to go on the biggest, scariest rollercoasters. An astute businessman in the making, when asked by schoolfriends at Roade to sing the “Sheila’s Wheels” song in his Aussie accent, he would agree to do so, on condition that they paid him 50p. per rendition.
The music that was chosen for his funeral was especially poignant: Fairground by Simply Red and Always Something There To Remind Me by Sandie Shaw.
Dane’s mother Jackie described the last years of his life as a rollercoaster – high points when he seemed well and enjoying life to the full, and lows when CVS and associated complications required frequent and long stays in hospital. The slide show of photographs that we saw after the funeral reminded us all of a remarkable young man who will never be forgotten by all those with whom he came in contact. It was a privilege to have him as part of Masque Youth Theatre for those three short years and we treasure his memory.By Ursula Wright