Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The longest day in the world

Today was very much the day that kept on giving. In the background the whole nonsense of Theresa May triggering Article 50 has been somewhat kept at bay by my being entirely unable to look at a television or even check my emails. I'm not going to dwell on it. It's too depressing a thought, largely because it's also our third wedding anniversary. What I will say is that, exactly three years ago, when I walked down the (theatre) aisle with my husband, I felt like I was living in a country which had turned the corner towards openness. Three years on, I feel like we've reversed back round it at top speed. I shall eternally hate Theresa May for choosing my wedding anniversary as the day to do her wicked deed.

Our day started at 5am. 5am! Imagine that! We jumped into the car and drove to a fancy hotel right next to Heathrow Airport. It was one of those curiously laid-out hotels where the car park is miles underground and the reception is in the middle of a shopping mall!

Nathan and I had been booked to do some work with a hugely important charity called the "Buddy Bag Foundation" who create little ruck sacks filled with gifts for young people who end up in women and children refuges across the UK. These kids often turn up in these frightening places in the middle of the night, at very short notice, in nothing but the clothes they're standing up in. The bags are filled with age and gender appropriate things which might cheer them up a little. Colouring crayons. Note pads. A toothbrush and toothpaste. A little photo frame for a special picture which might have been hastily shoved in a bag in the process of escaping a scene of domestic violence. The bags are all topped with a teddy bear, so when the kids open them, it's the first thing they see.

Delegates at the conference we were working on were helping to pack the bags, and seeing the piles of teddies and crayons on trestle tables was heart-breaking. Such simple, inexpensive little things. A smile distilled. The thought that those bags would be opened by potentially terrified children was a great deal more than I could deal with and I had to disappear for a little cry. It's such an important charity. I urge all readers to look into it.

We finished work at noon and leapt into the car. The next port of call was the New Ambassadors Theatre in Central London for the graduation showcase of third year students at Trinity School. I knew three of them: Tom and Jack from the original cast of Brass, and Emyl who was one of the writers I mentored recently. All of them did themselves proud. In fact, I was pretty impressed by the entire year. I have a strong suspicion that Trinity is on the up as a training ground for musical theatre performers. It was a well-timed, well-put-together lunchtime of entertainment which served as a great showcase for all the students. It was rather fun being back at the New Ambassadors theatre. I worked there as the stage door keeper for three years in the late 90s, and know the space like the back of my hand. The stories I can tell you about that place will be reserved for my memoirs on a day when I'm feeling particularly brave and know my parents aren't reading!

We literally ran out of the theatre, jumped into a cab (I don't think I've been in a black cab for five years) and hot-footed it to St James' Theatre in Victoria, which has been recently re-named as "The Other Palace" on account of its proximity to Buckingham Palace and its new-found association with Lord Lloyd Webber, king of musical theatre.

We were there to see a rehearsed reading of Dougal Irvine's new show, Angry Birds, which is a sort of rocky retelling of the story of the Pankhurst Women, imagining all of the suffragettes as actual birds. It shouldn't have worked but I think there's a captivating show in there which really ought to be performed by all sorts of youth groups, if for no other reason than to remind young women about the importance of using their vote.

Dougal writes such interesting music. I think perhaps it's because he's a guitarist that the sonic choices he makes can often be really daring and unusual. He's certainly one of the leading lights of the group of British writers who, like me, are fighting like mad to break through the glass ceiling on top of which Gary Barlow presently sits so smugly!

The piece was performed by highly-talented students on the Mountview Foundation course and directed with subtlety by the incomparable Hannah Chissick.

There was a lovely bunch of characters in the theatre bar afterwards including producers Danielle Taranto and Katie Lipson, Jezza from NYMT, Han, Chris and Maeve (who have variously performed material from Em), Ben from the pop group A1 and the actor Mike Jibson. We sat around for so long that we realised it would only be polite to stay in the theatre and watch their evening show, namely The Wild Party. That would be our third show of the day!

And what a show! I was blown away by its energy and sexual voracity. Drew McOnie's choreography is world class. In fact, it felt somewhat appropriate to be watching his handiwork on the anniversary of our wedding, which he also choreographed.

The cast were superb. It was almost as though Drew had said "your previous ten is our new one and you have to build your characters from there up." Frances Ruffelle was extreme, brave, majestic and actually really moving as Queenie, but the entire cast was hugely committed to the loucheness and decadence of the era. The entire piece felt incredibly authentic and I was really proud to see former NYMT-er Gloria Obianyo delivering a virtuoso performance as Phil. It's a great, great show which I heartily recommend.

As though our day hadn't lasted long enough, we returned to Highgate via the tube, jumped in the car and drove up to Alexandra Palace. It's a little ritual we've developed over the years.

It's such a bizarre place at night. I've written about it in this blog before, but tonight has convinced me that it's a hot-bed for dogging. We pulled up in front of a car which was entirely steamed over and behind a car which had no-one in the front seat but the headlights on. As we walked away from our car, we heard a thud, which turned out to be said car gently rolling into the car in front. A minute or so later, two flush-faced people got out of the back of the car to survey the damage! One assumes that a certain type of activity in the back seat caused the car to start rolling!

Speaking of rolling, as we stood in front of the rose window to pose for our customary anniversary selfie, we were almost engulfed by clouds of dope! Ah! The young people of North London!

We walked back to the car via the road, revelling in the rich, dusty smell of blossom trees. They were in similar full bloom this time three years ago, but for the past two years bad weather has delayed their appearance.

A long, beautiful day! Largely because I've avoided the news!

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