Friday, November 28, 2008

Scheduling Problems

Scheduling Problems

Dear David,

Time for a gratuitous shot, I think, just to demonstrate (a bit) that I approve (quite a lot) of the general look -

David Tennant Visits My Theatre. When I'm Not There.

But the real point of this letter? We really, really need to co-ordinate our schedules better. Next time you decide to go to my place of work you really should let me know in advance. So I can be there and whatnot, rather than seeing the photos the next day and thinking - midway through - heck, that's a sign for the Upper Slips. Our Upper Slips. Trust me, it's not the kind of shock I need to be subjected to. Obviously I wouldn't have been able to talk to you given that I might well have been wearing a uniform which makes me appear box shaped. But that isn't the point. And if I don't flag this up now you never know where it might end. So, a quick message wouldn't go amiss.

Glad we got that cleared up.


PS. Break a leg and whatnot for next week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Not Kissing Girls

On Not Kissing Girls

"So, have you ever kissed a girl?"

What started as a quick drink after class has become notably less civilised since Playwright Tutor left.

There is something about the Oxbridge/ Girls School combo which means that this is not the first time I have been asked this question. The answer is no more interesting than before.


Irish Boy raises his eyebrows.

"You must have!"

Even through the slight haze of vodka it strikes me how young he looks. For a fleeting second I yearn for life to be - I search for the right word - that uncomplicated. Did I too once look that young?

I look directly into his eyes.

"I haven't".

He holds the gaze trying to decipher if I am lying or not.

Meanwhile I remain safe, wrapped up in the blanket that is his inability to read me. It is a rush of power more potent than anything the bar can offer.

The look broken he bows his head, a concession.

He picks his pint back up. "Your parents clearly didn't pay enough for your education".

I cannot help it, I smile. And then ask him if he wants another drink.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"All These Things I'd Do For You..."

"All These Things I'd Do For You..."

The radio kicks into life -

"The A171 between Scarborough and Whitby is closed due to snow. You are advised to make only essential journeys".

I look out at the snow which is beginning to fall in waves against the windscreen. I concede the broadcaster may have a point.

The moors spread out as far as I can see; the landscape which, from childhood, has thrilled and terrified me in equal measure. It has some sort of gravitational pull which I will never be able to explain or escape from.

Seeing the sign we turn off of the A171.

"Just seen my first dead sheep" I say.

The thermostat in the car drops so that it marks the outside temperature as being 0 degrees. I have no hat, Val has no gloves, Cat has no socks. Possibly we are not dressed for the occassion.

We drive into the village, past the field where the tent marquee was, past the tea-rooms that we had a running joke about buying when they came up for sale and up the hill until we reach our intended location - a sign by a cattle grid.

I open the car door.

"It's cold!"

Possibly this would be stating the obvious. As I begin to faff with my shoes a collection of printed directions are blown out of the car.

"You may want to get them, this being a national park and all" Cat says.

She has a point. I clambour through some prickles and rescue them. I am officially a good (if prickled) person.

All rubbish reclaimed we walk to the sign. It is harder to climb on than I remembered and I'm mometarily thankful that no photos have been taken of my hardly dignified ascent.

Somewhat quicker than last time due to the fact we are facing imminent frostbite we take turns to pose.

There is one thing left to do, however.

Cat places the flower - pink, undeniably Alex pink - at the base of the sign.

No one needs to say anything, the gesture is all.

Today, it does not need articulating, is the hardest thing we have ever had to do together.

It is just right, so right, that we are here. The warnings, road closures, falling snow, make it more so.

It's crazy, yes. But then we always knew we were crazy.

Ten minutes later, sitting as the only custumers in the Castleton Tea Rooms, we raise our (hot) drinks.

"To Alex".

Monday, November 17, 2008

"It's Not Geographical, It's A State of Mind"

"It's Not Geographical, It's A State Of Mind"

Dear the Northern Division,

It is hard to believe that it's been five years. In some ways it seems like the proverbial yesterday; in other ways I refuse to believe that it's only been five years (surely those dubious nightclubs in the Midlands were at least a decade ago). Everything that has happened in between, everywhere we have been, the thousands of photos we have taken (and by 'we' I mean 'you' and not 'me'), the songs we've sung, the clothes we've worn, not to mention all the questionably coloured cocktails which we've drunk. How could that possibly be summed up in a couple of hundred words?


There is, of course, no way that it possibly can. The beginning - that should be easy enough. A train station in York, a purple hat, a glitter banner. But that is not the only beginning. The tree in the middle of Boro, another banner, the Thistle Hotel. As two of you like to point out - a pub in York. A radio station car park in Newcastle. The lighting of a candle in London. A nightclub in Derby (by the gents' toilet). And, later still, for our newest member who can hold the moral highground and say he never went to Harlow/ Swindon/ Falkirk/ Berlin/ Zanzibars/ Jumpin' Jaks [delete as appropriate] or had a body part signed in Derby but who gets us just as much as all of us who did.

Radio Tour One

Because that was what it was always about. It may have been a boy named Griffin who started the story but he quickly became part of the sideshow. Which was, I suppose, what marked us out and why I'm writing this letter to you all now and not simply trying to put names to the faces which peer back at me from a photo album as I do to many who shared that bit of the journey but who have melted now away.

Movin' Out

Deck shoes. Riccardi and coke. John Barrowman. Fountains. The Evil Eye. Stage doors. David Tennant. 'Stargirl'. Eurovision. Girl Bands. Roadtrips. Bloody Bristol. The Bedford. JCS. Paolo. Camping. Banners. Dressing up. Never dressing down. Bouncing. New Years. Birthdays. Crazy golf. Puddings. Good grammar. 'Semi Charmed Life'. Bingo Films. Cocktails. Wine.

More Evil Eye

Not laughing at me every time I threw up/ fell over / cried during a gig. Laughing at me every time I deserved it.

Where did you get that guitar?

The Little Griffin Van. The Castleton sign. Latitude. V Festival. Gavin. Steeeve. The Riccardi Boys. The Ivyrise boys. Dublin. Paris. London. Staithes. Whitby. Liverpool. Manchester. Blackpool (it didn't get better the second time). Derby. Leceister. Birmingham. Scarborough. Danby. Blakey Ridge. Masham. Swindon. Warrington. Epsom. Newmarket. Bunbury. Stockton. The Mighty Boro. York. Leeds. Nottingham. Newcastle. Guisborough. Lincoln. Oxford.

More Birthdays

Shameless Corner/ The Corner of Glory (thanks, Fox). Tombolas. Quizzes. Peter La Scala. Bunbury Cricket (oh, and Jamie Theakston). The International Sign for 'Griffin in bed at the Evil Eye'. T-shirts. Red Tinsel. National Trust. The V&A. Newstead. Costume Hire. The dance moves to Take That songs. Zac Flippin' Effron. McFly. Gethin. NKOTB. Liverpool FC. Newcastle Utd. Strictly. Reality tv snobbery.

Radio Tour the Second

Harry Potter (well, some of us). Shouting lyrics. Dancing. Planning on stealing boats. Dares. PLOs. Not getting arrested. Being almost stalked. Indie Rock and Roll. Being asked to leave more pubs/ theatres/ venues after closing time than I would like to remember.

Rockin' Boro like it's 2003

Oh, and being escorted out of Nottingham Ice Rink.

Rocking with tinsel

In-jokes. Odd jokes. And the things that make no sense to anyone but us.

From the Little Griffin Van

Everyone who came in our box at the Clapham Grand (even, horror, Barry). Every photo we made 'our' boys pose for. And every time we insulted them.

Mud in Danby...

Tat bags. Second verses. The Reduced Billy Joel Company.


Fox. Griffin. And FA.

Becky's Birthday

York Opera House.

The Half Birthday

"I'll Be There For You".


More laughter, memories and glorious, dizzying, fun than I will ever be able to express.

The Team Photo

Of other things, the words slip through my fingers. I do not even know where to begin as to what our fifth year has already brought, reducing our team photo forever more by one. It has confirmed, however, how proud I am of having shared the last few years with you all. We've done incredible things together. Often crazy things. But incredible too.

I would not have missed it for anything.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Wherein there is much excitement because someone we know is on BBC4

Wherein there is much excitement because someone we know is on BBC4

"Hapgood's brilliant!"

"Don't tell me, I have to wait until it's available on iPlayer!"

"He has five lines then it cuts to the battle, there's bodies everywhere and you see him dead! All within the first five minutes!"

"And how is the mustache?"


"I'm supposed to give this a "Tennant" standing ovation".

"It deserves it. I would have if the cat wasn't sitting on me".

"Probably the mustache alone deserves one".

"I turned it off afterwards..."


"Very convenient really, to die at the start".

"What can I say, he has good timing".

Saturday, November 08, 2008

How To: Annoy Me

How To: Annoy Me

To the man with the receding hair and the large laptop bag at Charing Cross Station who not only pushed in front of me but also went through the barrier on MY ticket, leaving me trapped and having to explain what had happened to three different men in neon yellow jackets before I could get through.

In case you'd wondered, it's things like this that I really enjoy, especially when I have a pending deadline crisis, I am on my way to work and it is raining and my umbrella is in Leeds.

Of course, I know it was an accident; I saw your ticket get spat back out just as mine had gone into the machine. You did not (I suppose) intend for me to get stuck and delayed. But of course you did not stop, in the first case to aid me in my 'a phantom guy went through on my ticket' story or, if you couldn't manage that, in the second case for me to fling expletives in your direction. It might even be something where if you hadn't pushed passed me in the first place, none of this would have happened, you would have been 0.5 seconds later out of the station and the world would be a tiny, tiny bit of a better place.

So, next time, how about we try it that way?

Friday, November 07, 2008

To Continue The Theme...

To Continue The Theme...

"When did you start writing?" a Questioner towards the front of the stalls asks.

I am in the middle of E row in the stalls at the Lyttelton Theatre, listening to an almost audience with Russell T Davies*. Already he has divulged that DT's 'I'm leaving' announcement had been hideously complicated to set up (going under the name of Operation Cobra for many weeks) what with it relying on the correct timing of the link, the interval of Hamlet and the small matter of what they would do if DT didn't actually win**, that he knows what the Tenth Doctor's final line is (most likely) going to be*** and that he can't quite believe that there is anyone out there who doesn't like Doctor Who****. In addition he's cleared up the Russell Tovey as the Doctor rumours.***** He has also been, with increasing hilarity, plugging his book.

"When I was fourteen, fifteen I was part of a brilliant Youth Theatre group and they got us writing very early on. So you could say it all began in the theatre. But I suppose if you're a writer it's always going on in your head. You might be a baker or a dustbin man or the Prime Minister, but in your head you're creating these stories. It's just the way your brain's shaped - and I was lucky enough that mine's shaped in that way. So, to say that you begin writing at some point isn't quite true. You just are a writer."

And even though I clap when he is chastised for the emotional fallout of what he did to Donna at the end of the last series and, obviously, I still need to have words about the fact that he has never asked me to fill the role of Companion in this moment my reaction is immediate: I love the man.

*I wasn't entirely supposed to be there given that I have two rather large projects due in less than a week. However, Director Boy messaged me about there being last minute tickets and, erm, I have no willpower. I shall submit the message as mitigating circumstances to the examination board.

**"It was all David Tennant's idea. He's a show off".

***No, he wouldn't divulge.

**** "What would you do to people who don't like it?" "I'd slap them. Every single one. How can you possibly not like it? It's just fun."

***** "If you hadn't noticed - he didn't - I liked him. And the biggest compliment that I can give a man is to say that he could be the Doctor".

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Undiscovered Country

The Undiscovered Country

There are hot tickets, there are Donmar productions and then there is David Tennant in Hamlet. Due to some very prompt action by Val back in the middle of 2007 (and, erm, a little bit of excitement in July 2008) I had procured not only tickets to Love Labour's Lost but also, erm, three tickets for Hamlet. Ticket One was the second preview of Hamlet, back in July. That particular evening resulted in some fairly diverse reactions from our (very large) group. Some of the group utterly loved it. Director Boy (in combination with a very ill-judged RSC performance at Latitude) thought it part of the reason why the RSC should have their subsidy removed. I was probably closer to Val's assertion that "there is nothing to offend (well maybe the cuts), but there isn't as yet anything which makes you hold your breath".

It had always been the intention to see the show early and then go back once it had settled into rep. Even given this, however, it was with a mixture of interest, excitement and slight foreboding that I approached the evening. LLL's had been infinitely more satisfying than the first viewing of Hamlet had been (if I lay to one side, albeit temporarily, the fact that it was quite satisfying in relation to seeing DT's feet). Added to this my own recent forays into the ninety minute Hamlet - complete with reading the flippin' First Quarto - had intensified my belief that the cutting of the production had been somewhat shoddy.

What I hadn't banked on, however, was DT, so to speak, being on one. There have been two performers in my (adult) theatre-going life who have compelled me to such an extent that I've thought there's been a touch of the superhuman about them - Judi Dench singing (of all things) in the very charming but not quite earth shattering Merry Wives of Windsor - The Musical and John Kani just being John Kani in the interesting but slightly uneven Nothing But The Truth. That I've witnessed so few of these moments points to both how rare (and special) they are. I count myself incredibly lucky to have experienced even those two, they remain part of the tapestry of theatrical magic which keeps me returning. Halfway through Hamlet I realised that DT was going to make this duo a trio.

It was a performance which screamed confidence. The RP accent had been taken up a notch, the pauses held a fraction longer, the words tripping out like - I came to believe - they were being said for the first time. Tennant's Hamlet is a boy, ravaged with grief, desperate for the parental protection which never comes, trapped in a situation which is in no way of his making. Clinging, utterly broken, to Gertrude he actually broke my heart a little. And because Tennant had hit the rhythm the play opened out, his ripples spread across, touching that within the best of Shakespeare which cannot quite be articulated. Yes, I felt Tennant's Hamlet was less funny than it had been in the previews, but, more importantly, I felt that in return for this loss he'd reached the emotional unknown. Life, death, mortality - it hung in the air, clogged my throat, made my eyes blink. Through Tennant's eyes Elsinore became a place of utter waste, of lost youth, dying soldiers and no certain afterlife.

My reservations about the production largely remain - better not get me started on the butchering of the fourth act and the fact that it robs us of the knowledge that Hamlet is quite ok with sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths - but they have been consumed by the feeling somewhere I can't place that I witnessed something on Saturday night that I will forever recall at the mention of Hamlet.

As DT bounded back on the stage for the curtain call, and I tried to wipe back the tears which were staining my face, it was obvious he knew what had happened on the stage.

"They better not let him drive himself home after that!"

We - this audience, this performer - had been in this together. Tennant held his arms wide. And there was really no question to be asked.

We stood.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wherein David Tennant Demonstrates Why We'd Get On (Part 1764)

Wherein David Tennant Demonstrates Why We'd Get On (Part 1764)

"I'm afraid that Mr Tennant won't come out if the rain continues" the Duty Manager says to the crowd gathering around the stage door.

Val and I look at each other. Neither of us have an umbrella, I have my pashmina over my head. It is not my most attractive look ever.

"He's got a very good point".

Monday, November 03, 2008

Events from the posteriors of this day, which the rude multitude call the afternoon

Events from the posteriors of this day, which the rude multitude call the afternoon

"You know what the tree means..."

Val, Shona and I had been admiring the beautiful tree on stage in the RSC's production of Love Labour's Lost but have been distracted by the 'Official Postcards' which have already been purchased in the gift shop. Needless to say a picture of the future Mr DA in said tree has captured our, erm, imagination.

Only Val has just pointed to something very important indeed. DT is in the middle of the tree. There is a large branch directly in front of where we are sitting, obscuring the middle part of the tree.

"Restricted view!" It comes out as a yelp. "I want my money back!"

Obviously I hate people like me.

"I will not be happy..."

Only the conversation drifts off as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or Guildenstern and Rosencrantz as we are unable to remember which is which) are joined on stage by a familiar figure dressed in blue. He lies down on the stage, making our seats a perfect vantage point.

"Ok, as of now this is not restricted view..." I concede.

"He's got a lovely profile" Val notes.

It is true. There are many, many reasons I am sat in this theatre on this afternoon, DT's profile being one of them.

As if in response DT puts a straw hat over his face.

"Maybe he heard" I giggle. For I am giggling. Because, hello, that is DT down there.

The missing King arrives on stage and the play begins. And, much to my relief, I am utterly charmed by it. The set is beautiful, the costumes gorgeous, the cast genuinely funny. And DT, well, not only can he wear a pair of tights his comic timing is also so perfect that I wish I could bottle it. I laugh. A lot.

Eventually the 'Tree Moment' comes, DT climbs up and - oooh - we have miscalculated. Rather than obscuring our view the tree means that DT is almost within touching distance, every movement of the eyebrow communicated to us. I sit, utterly spellbound.

The interval comes. Val and I look at each other.

There's a slight pause as we digest what has just happened.

"I take it all back, these are bloody brilliant seats".