Friday, 4 March 2016

Validation

Sometimes you need a day like today. We spent much of the afternoon in a bit of a funk, Nathan particularly. We’re both aware that the journey we’ve been on over the last few months has been one of the steepest uphill climbs of our lives and the little voices in the back of our heads had started to wonder if the view from the top had been worth all the bother.

Today, we learnt that it had. As soon as the show started we became aware that a group of women behind us were laughing at very specific Greenham references which had never caused a great deal of mirth in previous audiences. At a certain point, Nathan and I looked at one another, nodded sagely and said “Greenham women.”

At the interval I turned around and spoke to them; “excuse me. This may sound like a very odd question, but are you Greenham women?” “Yes” came the proud reply. My heart skipped a beat. In front of me was a whole line of the people I have been desperate to see this show, but simultaneously terrified of how they might react. More frighteningly, I suddenly realised that one of the women was Rebecca Johnson. THE Rebecca Johnson. She is perhaps the most famous Greenham woman of all time. She lived in the camps for 7 years. She was about at every major event. She danced on the silos. She was arrested and beaten up by police. She ripped the fences down after Reflect the Base. She is a legend. We based the role of Kim on her. There are lines in the show which I took verbatim from television interviews she’d given.

I am thrilled to report that she, and the rest of the women, loved the show. They cried. They laughed hysterically when Helen sailed across the stage on her roller-skates. They even accepted the central heterosexual love story. It was a truly magical moment. They were so gracious afterwards and thanked us for “absolutely capturing the spirit and characters of Greenham” and even thanked us for portraying all the arguments. Rebecca is a singer, and tells us that she used music all the time to change the mood of people. When everyone was downbeat, she’d sing rabble rousing songs. When they were angry, she’d sing soothing music. She found the music in our show moving. She even loved the rather campy song involving feather dusters, which we’d thought she might have had an issue with. She tells us there was a recent demonstration at Aldermaston, and, because the women protesters had recently been classified as “domestic extremists,” they staged a big dance routine outside the gates which involved dusters and marigolds! So we got it right. Phew! Validation.

To make matters even more delightful, Frank was in the audience from New York along with Fiona and Julian, Jill from Northern Ireland and Stef and David. Stef, who is a rock God from a well-know band, said he’d enjoyed it greatly, despite having “not seen a great number of musicals.”

After the show the women stayed in the bar and chatted to the cast for an hour. It was a genuinely magical moment. For the cast, and many of the audience, those women were instantly heroes. There was such a buzz.

On the way home, we came across a drunk trans person asleep on the tube. A man (who later turned out to be an ex-Marine) tried to wake her up at Archway, but she was unresponsive. We eventually managed to get her stirring as we approached Highgate, and, because she didn’t seem to know where she was going, we pulled her off the tube and tried to help her. We ascertained that her name was Lesley and eventually that she needed to go to East Finchley, so we all got back on the tube, Jill included, and wet there. Nathan (fiercely protective, primarily because she was trans and seemingly vulnerable) and the marine, then escorted her out of the station where I’m told she almost went under a bus and then completely flipped out. Eventually she got into a taxi and vanished in a haze. Meanwhile, I was escorting Jill back to Highgate. It was a most surreal end to the day.

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