I think it was over ten years ago this happened. I was at Latitude Festival. “Hi, Al, we’re doing a Shakespeare workshop up at Ripley Castle. The kids know you from your work at Sprite. It starts on Monday. We need two leaders and we’ve just lost one. Can you come do it?” I had my car. I also was supposed to be driving Melissa back to London from latitude. But I’m me and it’s a job. “Yep. I’m there. Hang on what’s the money? … Great. Fine. I’m in.” And on Sunday evening, late, I left an angry Melissa stuck in a field and drove through the night to Yorkshire. Thankfully she and I are still friends.
I arrived in Yorkshire at 4am at a gargantuan house after an epic night drive. I collapsed into a randomly selected bed in a huge house. The next morning myself and Tom awoke at 7, had breakfast in this cavernous empty house, and Tom told me his workshop plan. He had a plan! Phew. “That sounds great,” I said. And in we went.
Tom and I worked with a load of young people, using Dream as text, but pulling in work by Keith Johnstone. As is often the case with work with young people, it was a confidence workshop with Shakespeare as the frame. He did the text. I did the confidence. One girl, India, ended up walking down a tree root as Titania, and 8 years later she designed and operated Christmas Carol at The Arts for two years. That’s a win. She’s a good friend and artistic collaborator now.
In the evenings, though, Tom and I ended up in a huge house, all alone. What to do? We played fucking Hide and Seek and it was EPIC. I’ve never laughed so much. By the end of the second day we were having so much fun he was able to overlook my hideous attempt at thickening a carbonara sauce by just adding unbelievable amounts of cheese. Use flour, kids. Cheese didn’t do the trick… It made us FAT. Happy. But fat. But he sought to employ me as Scrooge as a result of that fun.
The reason I remember this all is because I had a beer with Tom tonight. He’s in London now and killing it. We still collaborate, but his work has taken him somewhere brilliant. He has directed Christmas Carol and used me for years now but he’ll be too busy to do it this Christmas. Thankfully if it’s Jack and I he’ll let it go ahead as his.
Who would’ve known that a game of Hide and Seek and a terrible cheesy carbonara would lead to years of glorious work. But I guess that’s the thing. We make stuff with people we like making stuff with. I’m sitting antisocially in a restaurant with Tristan and his brother and sister. It’s his sister’s birthday and I want to celebrate it with her. But I’m aware that it’s likely the celebration will obviate the possibility of me writing coherently because it’s her 25th birthday. But here I am with Tristan, who I know I can work with beautifully, Lyndon his brother who was my constant companion and wingman in that very changing time I had in L.A, and Perdi their youngest sister. I’m surrounded by my people. I haven’t worked with Perdi yet but I definitely will in time and I look forward to finding out in what context. Meantime, happy birthday. I’m back to the party. The first year I did Christmas Carol I drove to Wales for Christmas. It was a long long drive from York, there and back.. Their dad, Terry, was the founder of the feast. “Look after my kids,” he told me with great attack. “That’s all I care about.”
Considering they’re looking after me so well, I can only try. As it happens I’m pretty fond of the buggers.