Saturday, 9 April 2016

Three lads and a cup of water

Today has felt like the longest day of the week. Waking up was hard: I literally felt like someone had been punching me through the night. I go to bed at 1.30am and wake up at 7.30am, and that's not something which ought to be maintained for too long! It's the quintessential "work hard, party hard"'existence.

Rehearsals this morning happened very much without me. Everything was in hand. Hannah and Sam were working with the girls on dance routines whilst Alex finessed the boys' vocals. I was able to slip away confidently and without any repercussions at 11 or so.

I actually made my way into London to meet Tanya, Paul, Raily, Iain, Nathan, Meriel and associated kids at the Tate Modern. Actually the plan had been to meet at the Tate Modern, but because Mez and I were late, Tanya and family had moved on. That's what happens when you have kids. You keep moving, or little feet start climbing the walls!

I walked along the Southbank about twenty minutes behind Tanya, picking up waifs and strays in the form of Nathan and Meriel. London always feels so hideously noisy when you return after an absence. The area around Borough Market was crowded beyond words.

We eventually found Tanya sitting with her youngest in the little pocket park by the London Eye, which was a really grotty car park when I first lived in London. These days it's a mecca for buskers, all of whom have portable sound systems and make a hell of a racket as they attempt to rally the crowds they need to earn a crust. One man, an escapologist, was quite funny. We'd occasionally tune into what he was saying to his growing crowd of foreign tourists; "Give us your dog, mate, and I'll twist it into a balloon!"

Tanya's lot went on the London Eye. They come from Glasgow, and this was actually the kids' first trip to London. They were terribly excited and reported seeing amazing views from the top. It is so wonderfully infectious to spend time with enthusiastic kids. I get very weighed down by small children who have all the toys in the world who have seen everything and been everywhere. Give me a wide-eyed child who says "wow" any day. I'm convinced they have more fun. I'd even go as far as to say that enthusiasm is the best gift you can give to any child.

More than anything else, Tomas and Lily wanted to go on a tube train, so as we arrived at Westminster, the excitement reached fever pitch. I asked how many carriages they expected the tube trains to have. Lily thought maybe fifty, Tomas thought it was probably twenty. I guessed eight. It turns out the answer is six. Or, at least, we counted six. We may have missed some!

We took the tube from Westminster to South Kensington and I enjoyed showing the kids the thing that I always used to love on the tube, namely the electricity cables which are attached to the side of the tunnels which turn into long stripes of undulating colour as the tube smashes its way through the darkness. They go from green to red to orange to yellow...

We met Sam, Raily, Iain and my god kids at the V and A museum and sat for some time in the inner courtyard where all of the kids fell into a giant pond and got their clothes soaking wet. Lily spent the rest of the day walking about in an adult's cardigan which Raily turned into a fabulously bohemian handkerchief dress with the aid of a single piece of fabric which she used as a belt.

We went to the Curtains Up exhibition which celebrates West End and Broadway theatre. It's wonderful. I became obsessed with a 1928 tube poster which showed a map of London's theatre land and tried to work out which theatres had changed their names and which theatres had gone. I decided it was a shame that the Winter Garden and the Little Theatre no longer exist.

One of my enduring memories from the exhibition was watching Lily intently watching a video of a song from Matilda on loop. I always find it heart-warming to see a young person so into musical theatre. That's the future of the art form!

We tried on costumes whilst singing an impromptu version of Doe-a-Deer but the fun was cut short for me when I realised I had to get back to Sevenoaks for the evening rehearsal which focussed on the new opening of the show. It's a joy to see it slowly coming into focus. I now know I did the right thing by completely re-writing it. It just seems to set the show and its characters up better somehow.

After the rehearsal, the entire cast went back to the Boys' Halls for a little party. This one was official. I bought a load of crisps and fizzy drinks and we sang, played silly games and chatted until 10.30pm, when the girls were marched back to their own halls.


The boys continued to play games, and then, because it was the last night, got a bit silly and pranky. Callum found the entire contents of his bedroom had been moved into someone else's room - mattress and ladder to bunk bed included, and a series of retaliations and counter-retaliations ensued. At that point I bade them a fond farewell...

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