Friday, October 17, 2008

The Reduced Hamlet Company

The Reduced Hamlet Company

"I have to edit Hamlet so that it runs for ninety minutes and can be played by six actors".

Val and I exchange looks.

"It's sacrilegious, isn't it? I think my advice in that situation would be: don't perform Hamlet".

Val nods. "It's like in Educating Rita; how do you overcome the staging difficulties of Peer Gynt? You do it on radio".


We are seated in the stalls, awaiting the moment when two thousand people will descend upon us.

"You could just stage the play within a play" Hapgood suggests.

I laugh. "And pad it out a bit?"

"Yes". He gestures to the stage - "Have a big scene change -"

"Two intervals -"

"And a really long curtain call".

I smile. "Really, I don't know what I'm worrying about".

He smiles back. "Neither do I".

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wherein I Am A Bit Mysterious

Wherein I Am A Bit Mysterious

"I've found your new boyfriend" Dean says as I reach the cloakroom.

"Where?" I ask, looking round.

"Well, there's only one obvious candidate, isn't there?"

I survey the boys in the group. Dean excluded, there are three people with Y chromosomes in the immediate vicinity. Only one of them has floppy brown hair. Dean may have a point.

Only - and this is the kind of only that all writers dream of, the big reveal that changes the narrative -

I have met this particular floppy haired boy before.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008



The history of my giving a speech at Dean and Director Boy's wedding is a comedy in itself. I think some of my friends ended up being more worried about my speech (and, erm, the fact that I still hadn't finished it whilst sat in the spa three hours before the wedding) than I was, though only one person offered to write it for me (I declined, with much haste, on account of the fact that the deal would be that I had to read every word of it). I worked from my rough version in the end (finished when I was having my hair straightened) and so this isn't exactly what I said, but it should be here for posterity:

"When I was first asked to make a speech I have to say that my reaction was one approaching utter horror. Not only because I'm a little bit lazy and quite fancied spending the day wearing a new dress and swanning round with a glass of champagne in my hand, but also because summing up Dean in a couple of annecdotes and a stolen couplet is not an easy task. In despair I asked some friends hoping they would come up with something I could steal. Not to denigrate our mutual friends, but they were rubbish. So, in the absense of anything else - to try and sum up what Dean is to me, I ended up having to go for a list because, well, I like lists.

1. Dean is watching re-runs of The Good Life, Keeping Up Appearances and - for reasons I can't quite work out - Waiting For God. He is the aforementioned Jeremy Kyle show. He is also the only person I know who doesn't have a garden who is addicted to UK TV Gardens.

2. Dean is dressing up. A Brideshead Picnic where, in a particularly competitive game of cricket, at the crucial bowling moment Dean managed to split his hired trousers. A Wicked Witch with water colour paint used as makeup, and which has most probably scarred my younger brother for life.

3. Dean is knitting. Buying endless balls of wool, talking fluently and knowledgeably in a language I don't understand to 75 year old women and, in possibly his greatest triumph, managing to knit [Director Boy] two left mittens.

4. Dean is Mecca Bingo. I had never been to bingo before I met Dean. I did not know of the pleasure (and indeed pain) of waiting for the number 56 to come out. Neither did I know of the humiliation of being shushed in a bingo hall.

5. Dean is Beatrix Potter. I know little about Ms Potter, but Dean has educated me on such wonders as Tabitha Twitchett, Tom Thumb and the curiously named Hunka Monka.

6. Dean is going to his first gig aged 20, acting cool and nonchalent until the singer appeared when he promptly turned into an 11 year old girl, mobile phone aloft, screaming and proclaiming - of course - that the singer was looking directly at him.

7. Dean is movement. Leg kicking. Leg behind ear. Legs akimbo. The only time that this isn't the case is when Dean is drunk and develops the overwhelming urge to lie down - on a sofa, on a floor, or, on one occassion, in the gutter of a Leeds street.

8. Dean is forgetting more about dancing than I will ever know. It is him explaining patiently, though I do not understand. Ballet. Contemporary. And, in a category of its own, the Hula Song from Dirty Dancing, which, if you ask nicely, he might teach you too.

9. Dean is next year's fashion this year. Cricket jumpers, school plimsols, yellow wellies, we may mock but next year it'll be what we're all wearing.

10. Dean is my best friend. Through coffee, cocktails and diva strops (both mine and his), Dean is the person who has held my hand, made me smile and reminded me when needed of just how ridiculous I can be, which is more than I could ever ask for.

Given the reason that we're here I feel that it should fall to me to say a few words about how Dean and [Director Boy] ended up together, given that I was there at the time (as Dean's boss). Initially their relationship consisted of much "making eyes at each other" across the theatre foyer. Dean was an usher in a fetching WYP t-shirt. [Director Boy] was the Assistant Director on the Christmas show. The previous year Dean had been persued by the second lizard on the right so, obviously, [Director Boy] had a lot to live up to. The relationship continued through the eye contact and Dean proferring free ice cream (which I would like the WYP people who are here to know is not actually theatre policy). Maybe it would have gone no further - both boys being uncharacteristically shy about the process - had it not been for the fact that Toto developed stage fright and had to be replaced. [Director Boy] - seeing a conversational opening - approached Dean with much excitement saying that he had something to show him. We waited in anticipation, what could it possibly be? Running back [Director Boy] presented Dean with a picture and the immortal line "What do you think of this dog?". In the end I don't think the dog got the role but out of his audition bloomed this relationship. And though [Director Boy] and I have differing views on things like two tone shoes, I feel incredibly privileged to have gotten to know you and I look forward to arguing with him lots more in future. Plus, he is perfect for Dean, not only in his capacity for watching endless repeats of The Good Life but because, quite simply, it works.

When I asked what I should say in this speech I was told quite clearly - be a little bit witty and then drop in something profound. Given that I have pretensions of being a writer I decided to do what every good writer does when it comes to being profound - steal the words of someone else. Sadly I couldn't find a suitable quote from Jeremy Kyle so Auden will have to do instead. I choose this because it seems to sum up what I have seen in Dean since he met [Director Boy]:

"Thanks to you, I have come to see a profound significance in relations I never dreamt of considering before...Even the close ups in films no longer disgust nor amuse me. On the contrary, they sometimes make me cry; knowing you has made me understand".

I think the only thing that remains is quite simply - to Dean and [Director Boy]".

I should probably say that the biggest laugh (actual clapping, let's have it noted) came for the ice cream bit. Flippin' ice cream. And I should probably note that Dean disputes the gutter bit (and on a technicality, he might actually win). Though the praise obviously went to my head (well, it was either that or the champagne) - History Boy banned eventually banned anyone from telling me they thought it was funny - I have to say that the nicest thing (other than, of course, being told by someone who is friends with Richard Curtis that my speech was excellent) was when members of Dean's family told me they thought I'd expressed Dean exactly as they saw him. Which meant I might have, somehow, done him justice.

I hope that Dean and Director Boy don't mind me putting this up here (or the fact that I got the dog quote wrong!) but it really was a pleasure to share the day with you both, I had an utterly wonderful time and I hope you think of me every time you look at those (expensive) towels of yours...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bambi Has A Lot To Answer For

Bambi Has A Lot To Answer For

"We should go find a deer" Dean says, his face somewhat paler than usual. "If you keep going we should see some soon".

Squashed into the back of the car I say nothing, watching the lodge go past with a little shiver of panic. After all, of all the jobs I have to do, surely getting Dean to the ceremony on time is somewhere near the top.

But, I counsel myself, it will be okay. We will find a deer within a few minutes (this is, after all, a deer park) and then turn back.

"There's one!" Dean exclaims.

We all look in the direction indicated. There is no deer, just a rather large dog. Somehow I do not think this will count.

The road branches in front of us.

"Go left!" Dean says "It brings us back round".

Given that I have no idea of the geography of this park I decide to lay my faith in Dean. Not only does he have a Rain Man sense of direction, he has also been here before.

Five minutes pass. We are still driving down the road. There is no sign of anywhere I recognise even remotely. This, clearly, is what happens when you put your faith in someone whose emotional state is such that they can mistake a dog for a deer.


I cannot hide my sense of rising panic. I envisage Director Boy ringing my mobile, the mobile that is currently in History Boy's bag and is therefore probably at the ceremony before I am.

If we are lost in Richmond Park, without methods of communication, I think I will officially go down in history as the worst best wo-man ever.

Dean, however, is more concerned with deer (of which there are still none). I wonder if the ceremony will be allowed to go ahead if we fail in the quest to find any.

If I were a praying woman then this is where I'd break one out.

As I'm not, I settle instead for searching frantically for both Deer and a landmark I recognise. I am not sure exactly which one I want more.

And then - as if it had been planned all along - we see them. Dotted across the landscape, oblivious to our car and the significance of the impending day, there are deer as far as we can see.

I hear my voice, independent of my control: "We can go back now?".

It is a question that needs no answer.