If I was still 18 there’s no way I’d get this blog written. I’ve just walked out of a humongous party. All the young company, all the young musicians, a load of tired dancers musicians singers and actors, all crammed into a room with free hotdogs and donuts. It’s the last night bash for West Side Story. Just when we got started.
There are some people who have been working to make this happen for a year. Others who have worked tirelessly for months. Then some have worked bloody hard for weeks. And then were a few like Toby and I who did a bit of work for a couple weeks and then did a turn. Overall though, so much work from so many good hearts. All filed to a point. 4 packed out shows, high production values and a pressure-learn for the young company. And that’s it. Gone. It’s absurd when you think about it. So many people. Hundreds of people. For 4 shows. It went down a treat with those that got to see it. And the kids grew hugely through it. But so short…
Theatre is written on the wind. I love that about it. It’s ephemeral, you can’t catch hold of it. It’s destroyed in the moment of creation and lives on in memory. But so many of us came together to tell this story. To sing these remarkable smart songs, to dance hard and tight, to move from moment to moment and make them all honest, energised and positive.
Every night for this show the wings were thronged with kids, waiting for their entrance, watching – thrilled – as different people shared their different skills, knowing they were part of it. A huge weird community of shining misfits. And rare in that there was no nastiness. Nobody whose insecurities were such that they smashed the spirit. It only takes one bad apple. The jobs without them are really special.
After a show you need to wind down, and after a run you need to say farewell, even a short run like this. There are still people I worked closely with that I may never see again. In a company this big it’s very likely. Others will unexpectedly walk into the rehearsal room on my next job, or go into a commercial casting with me, or end up married to a friend of mine. We have little control over this. But you want to say goodbye properly, and wind down from the show at the same time, so yeah – hotdogs, donuts, beer (if you’re old enough or in the case of Toby and I if you’re young enough).
Once I noticed that people were shifting towards slurring despite the hot dogs, I walked out of the party and saw the other side of things. A patient huddle of parents waiting hopefully in the café for their sons and daughters to emerge. All sitting beside each other but not really speaking to one another.
A dad comes up to me as i put my helmet on. He wants me to know he enjoyed the show. “It’s been all my daughter’s talked about for weeks.” “Who was your daughter?” I ask, and he seems surprised that I remember her. He confides; “I wonder when she’ll be out of that party. I don’t want to rush her, you see. It’s been important for her. I’m settling in for the long haul.” I suspect he’s still there now. But his “it’s been important for her” rang with me. I remember that importance for me. Finding a community in a shared task, a means of expression, a storytelling. What goes on in front of the lights is just scratching the surface of a show. This one did a lot in a short space of time. I wonder who they end up staying in touch with, what friendships and first loves this might kick off. And for myself as well, what may come? , A joy. And a miracle that I got home without drinking.