Wednesday, 14 August 2013


It's really not very wise to take one's World War One research into central London where there's always someone around to see the bitter tears being wiped away from one's eyes! 

This evening, as I sat in St James' Theatre, I read a charming little letter from Rifleman Bert Bailey, written to his young wife in 1915. It was full of "keep yourself warms" and "the OXO cubes were a lovely surprises" alongside a beautiful description of a harvest moon. I got a little tearful reading it. Innocence and hope poured from it.

I turned a page to discover that Bailey was killed four hours after writing the letter. There was even a photograph of his mother, in France, tending his little wooden grave in the 1920s.

I stopped reading for a moment to compose myself and flicked through the rest of the book noticing  it had been given to me as an 18th birthday present, 21 years ago, by my best school friend, Tammy. "Sponge" (read the inscription, I doubt she'd even remember why she called me that) "happy, happy 18th birthday, from your ever-loving friend, Tammy."

And then that set me off again. And all the waitresses in the theatre bar started looking over all concerned, which made me start to laugh hysterically! It was every shade of embarrassing. Damn that war for getting so firmly under my skin so early in my life.

St James' Theatre is a wonderful new performance space in Victoria, a part of town which seems to be in absolute disarray at the moment. I don't know what they're doing, but it seems to involve a huge area of land in and around the station. The place is full of diggers and cranes and weird wooden hoardings which funnel  pedestrians into a sort of labyrinth where one mistake could send them into an exit-less corridor which could end up at Buckingham Palace.
Still, it was worth the trip to see the magnificent NYMT performing The Other School,  Dougal Irvine's new psychological musical. I wish I had a name like Dougal Irvine. With a name like that, you're always going to be a successful writer of musicals. I bet there isn't someone else on twitter called Dougal Irvine with more followers!

One of the kids in the cast was from Higham Ferrers, so I collared him (and his parents) afterwards to talk about the old place. Sadly he didn't go to the same school as me. He goes to a much posher school down the A6 in Bedford. Oddly, the school that producer Julian went to. It's a small world!

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