Around this time of year 20 years ago we got the news. “You have been accepted to train at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.” Boom.
At the time you could go there to find out live on the day it was announced. I did so. A woman tried to sell me lucky heather on the way. I told her no, saying I needed good luck, I had a good feeling about it, and if I got the result I wanted I’d forever be reliant on heather. Good shout. I am now immune to lucky heather.
I had been working as the receptionist at Ambassadors Theatre Group, Turnstyle. The bulk of my work that day had been to do with preventing Jason Donovan from being put through to a certain producer. There were Rocky Horror problems with no answers yet, and delaying tactics were in full swing. “I know she’s there. I’m sitting in the Rainforest Cafe opposite! She walked in 5 minutes ago.” “She hasn’t walked past my desk yet.” “You’re lying to me.” “I’m not.” It was good to escape. Had I not got into Guildhall I might have still been working there. I’d have a lot more money. I wouldn’t be so happy.
They separated us into groups in the gym at Guildhall whilst loudly playing terrible music. We went into another room. My old schoolfriend Toby read the names. I was counting the group size. I knew that the year group at Guildhall was 24. We had about 30 names called out in our group and as soon as the count for my group went past 24 I hit rage. Toby winked at me as if to say well done. I didn’t properly register it. The numbers were wrong. We were moved into a room and I sat there with a face like thunder. It was too many. I didn’t have a place. Fuck this whole idea. We sat there for ages.
When the faculty came in and told us we had been accepted I didn’t immediately process it, so convinced I had been of it going the other way. After all, I had spoken to one of the guys in my group and he spoke next to no English. Maté, our Hungarian film star. One of my best friends over the years we were there. I often have negative expectations. I’m learning not to.
They buffer themselves with too many acceptances at Guildhall. I was overthinking as ever. Funny that. Sometimes people decide they’d prefer to be a scientist, or go to Julliard or get a proper job. They offer too many places tactically. We ended up 23 because one student literally just didn’t show up on the first day. She was rich Chinese, I think, and her parents prevented her at the last minute. We watched the teachers pretending not to panic about it. It was a wasted space. A shame. But our unit was complete.
Some of us got together this evening for a reunion. Twenty years since we first met. Fuck you, time! But it was lovely.
Russell organised it. It was a strange and beautiful thing. We met in The Jugged Hare – the pub that still stands on the site of our beloved King’s Head. It has since been retooled to appeal to the people we didn’t like when we were students.
A good sized group of us had a meal in the shadow of the past. Things felt much as they used to, although many of us are parents now. I went home early, but full of memories of how it used to be, even now that we are 20 years older…