Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Trapped in an alley!

I was astonished to wake up this morning to the news that, in the wake of the dreadful events in Manchester, people are taking to twitter and inventing relatives who were in the MEN Arena last night simply to get social media hits. I'm somewhat ashamed to live in a society where people would value social media so much, that the truth of what they're writing becomes of less concern than the number of hits they're generating. What is the point of fake news? What makes someone want to make news up? It all seems very bizarre to me.

I tried to leave my house this morning, but, ever since the bastard at the other end of my terrace decided that one of the entrances to the alleyway we use to access our flats was his to fence off, we've had to deal with the fact that there's actually only one way out. I'd always imagined how awful it would be if one of the houses further up the hill caught fire, or if there was some sort of gas explosion, because if anything blocked off the very small entrance to our end of the alleyway, we'd be royally shafted.

And so, this morning, I came to understand quite how shafted that was, when, at 8.30am, I stumbled upon a set of comically awful builders who were trying to get some sort of heavy machinery down the footpath. The machinery had become stuck and access to the street was entirely blocked off. "How long will you be?" I asked. They shrugged, "ten minutes?" "But I have to get to work!" I said. Another shrug.

I stood, somewhat helplessly, for some time, until a man came sauntering up the alleyway behind me. "Do you want to come through my shop?" He asked. He then led me back down the alleyway and into the garden of our next door neighbour's house before ushering me though his shop, which, incidentally, sells baths.

The commute into rehearsals seems to be getting worse. I think perhaps I'm leaving later every day, and therefore making myself more and more likely to encounter the rush hour crush. It's hot, smelly and sweaty, and commuters are brutal to one another. There's rage just underneath the surface in all of them. And on the days after terrorist attacks it feels so profoundly counter-intuitive to be shoved in cattle trucks darting underground like that.

A homeless man passed through the carriage this morning. Begging in this manner has become quite the fashion in the last ten or so years. In the olden days it was passive, doe-eyed Romanian women with cardboard signs or curious little packets of tissues, but these days, people are far more confrontational. They get on the tube and make announcements, pleading for compassion, usually asking for a few pence for the cost of a hostel for the night. It's always incredibly sad but also such a regular occurrence that it becomes utterly impossible to engage with. I, like most of the other people on the train, bury myself in a newspaper or a computer and fundamentally reenforce the homeless person's lack of self worth. One of the dreadful things about living in a city is that you're often forced to leave your compassion at the front door because the energy you require simply to remain sane in the dog-eat-dog world requires every last drop of energy. Engage with those around you and you become furious, so most simply attempt to zone out.

I was, however, somewhat surprised to see today's homeless person attempting to beg in a carriage which was so full that he was physically having to push people aside in order to pass through. Surely, there are more productive times of the day to beg?

Rehearsals for Em took off big time this week after the arrival of our choreographer and our new musical director, Ben, who worked with me on the original production of Brass. It's been such a thrill to have him back in the space, and he's been making all the right noises about the score, which, I realised today, is such an important thing for a writer to hear. There's always the little voice in the back of one's head which tries to tell a writer that he's not very good.

It's a very happy rehearsal space. Hannah is a brilliant leader and the only tensions so far have been inconsequential and about silly things like photocopying. It turns out that our choreographer's partner actually knew my Grandmother. Rather well as it happens. They lived in the same tiny Warwickshire village. In fact, I vaguely remember him from my distant childhood. It's these sorts of coincidences which remind me that this is a project worth doing and a piece which will have great meaning to people.

Today I worked as an accent coach, teaching two of the cast how to speak in a Northants/ Warwickshire accent. Apparently the vocal coach had told them they could just speak with a posh "neutral" voice to represent Midlands-based characters, which made my blood boil so much, that I stepped in and delivered a little master class of my own. It struck me today quite how bizarre some of the vowel sounds are in that part of the world. They always seem so natural to me, but when you start trying to get someone saying the "u" in words like Rugby and funny or the "i" sound in "like", you realise there is nothing similar anywhere else in the UK. Unfortunately, once I start talking like that, I find it quite difficult to stop! I was hugely impressed by the ears of the girls working with me. Lizzie in particular, did a sterling job and we have a New Zealander called Niamh whom I think is also going to crack it. I keep meaning to tell them what good stead it will set them in when they audition for Kinky Boots. Which is set in Northampton, by the way. Not that you'd notice by listening the accents most of the cast choose to talk in!

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