Sunday, 19 October 2014

Winner!

As I left the house this morning, dressed in a dapper suit with my dusky pink bow tie, I had the sudden realisation that people would assume I was going to church. I'm not altogether sure the thought sat entirely comfortably with me, but the clobber drew a few approving looks, which are always welcome. A man on a bike shouted "nice tie" and when I turned round to smile, he said "looking very smart." "Why thank you, Sir," I said, wondering which Jane Austin novel I'd just walked out of! I felt proud as punch however. What a horrible world we'd live in if no one commented on a stranger's appearance for fear of being accused of misogyny or harassment. It used to be that many parents would proudly parade their newborns about in fancy prams so that the world could stop and tell them how beautiful their children were, but these days, most people are terrified of their child being exposed to sunshine! Besides, anyone stopping to compliment a baby in the street would be considered very odd these days. Terrible, isn't it? Someone was recently telling me about a beautiful animation he'd seen about a little girl who befriends an elderly man, and I thought how sinister it sounded.

I was wearing a suit to attend an award ceremony at Guildhall. The city of London excites me on a Sunday. It's always eerily empty, yet somehow seems to vibrate with the buzz of the millions of workers who have bustled through its streets on the other days of the week.

The award ceremony was the UK Theatre Awards, which honour the work of theatres outside the West End of London. Brass had been nominated for the award for best musical production; an award we were highly unlikely to win because we were up against a production staged at the Scottish National Theatre and a huge it well received production of Chicago at the Leicester Curve. I was happy for any of the three shows to win, really. The Scottish piece had music by my dear friend James, and Chicago was choreographed by Drew, who did all the dancing for our wedding.

It was a star-studded event, with all sorts of turns and West End Wendies handing out the gongs. There were ten of us on the Brass table, which, when we arrived, discovered, forebodingly, was table 13. Not a great number of the creative and production team were able to go, but boy Robin (and his Mum), Ben and Laura from the cast were there, alongside some of the NYMT angels and Sara Kestelman.

The awards happened during a tasty three course meal with a particularly stunning apple and chocolate pudding. The Guildhall is a beautiful and ancient building which I felt privileged just to be sitting in. And frankly, as the afternoon wore on, I felt more and more privileged just to be nominated for an award. Jodie Prenger sang something from Calamity Jane as the interval act. Michael Xavier was presenting. Wayne Sleep, Anita Dobson and Dorian from Birds of a Feather were amongst the people handing out the awards. It was a pleasure to watch the NYMT cast members seeing some of their heroes in the flesh. And even more gratifying that I was able to introduce them to people like Michael Xavier afterwards.

Predictably our award was announced almost last. I explained to everyone on the table that we couldn't expect to win, because only one of the judging panel had actually seen the show, and also, it would be foolish to expect a youth theatre production to triumph over the big-hitting regional theatres.

Brian Conley announced our award, and did a rather peculiar piece of stand-up beforehand which seemed slightly misjudged. He announced the nominations one by one and our table went bananas when he said the word Brass.

This was nothing however to the noise that was made when Brass was announced as the winner. I looked at Sara, shell-shocked. I hadn't prepared a speech. Neither had she!

We stumbled onto the stage, five of us, and I burbled something about being pissed and not having prepared anything to say. I remember thanking NYMT for their amazing record of commissioning new work, Arnold Wesker for helping us with some of the lyrics and for mentoring me for 20 years, and thanking "my husband, who I'm proud to say agreed to marry me in a TV musical at the start of the year." I then mentioned that Nathan had helped with Brass. And that was it. I should have talked about the importance of commissioning new writing and the importance of listing the names of writers on awards and posters and all sorts. But instead I handed over to Sara and she was wonderful and dignified...

And then we left the stage with a lovely glass award. Of course Sara and I spent the next hour wishing we'd said a million and one other things. Proof positive that you should always plan an acceptance speech even if you think there's no hope of winning.

I walked young Mr Jones back to Angel tube and then came home for a lovely celebratory cup of tea on the sofa. I very much know how to live, don't I? Rock and roll, people. Rock. And. Roll!

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