Well, what a surreal night it was last night, as well as lots of fun!
Meeting people I hadn’t seen in over 22 years was a really weird experience. Drifting towards the Cross in Chichester in ones and twos, there were squeals of delight as we each recognised first one face and then another.
Our first stop was The Hole in the Wall, one of the old haunts of our college days. Some of the crowd hadn’t been to Chichester in a long while and commented on the pubs that had been lost in the city since our college days – The Punch House in East Street, now a clothing shop; and The Hogs Head and The White Horse in South Street, now turned into bland gastropubs.
Once in The Hole in the Wall we settled down to deliver our monologues – potted histories of the last 20 or so years since leaving college – in true theatrical style, accompanied by raucous laughing and much applause after every act.
The tag cloud of our diverse conversations would look something like this:
22 years! amdram band bar Brighton Chichester coming out Crawley disabled Discovery drinking dropped out family trauma gay illness India job kibbutz kids lesbian Little Britain Live MA marriage messed up Mountview police radio Private Lives retail management Romeo & Juliet separation sex change Sir Paul McCartney smoking social work stage combat stage management Sweet Charity sword fighting Taj Mahal theatre twat hat Veejay
We then continued this very lively exchange of shared memories at Pizza Express, which to us was the epitome of style in the late 80’s (and probably the only place we could afford, other than the café in A&N).
But as I’m standing here typing this (did I mention I do most of my writing standing in the kitchen whilst preparing gourmet feasts for The Family?), I’m thinking, yes, I was genuinely pleased to see all of them last night, as I hope they were to see me; and to hear about the directions their lives have all taken. But where does it go from here? Yes, we have some great shared memories (although mine seem to be sketchier than most), but how will our good intentions of staying in touch stand up when we’re back in our separate lives with all the demands those lives place on us?
As one of the guys said to me, “I barely remember you – I mean, I don’t think we were best buddies – were we?”. And that’s probably a fair comment. We were on a performing arts course together, all of us seemed to enjoy it very much at the time, and when looking back on it last night. But only one has actually made a living out of it – going to drama school to train as a stage manager and then having what seems to have been a fairly fulfilling career so far. One thing this guy did say though that saddened me somewhat was that he no longer enjoyed going to the theatre, seeing it as a busman’s holiday and that he resented paying the going rate to effectively do something he did when he was “at work”. I do understand this, but it has reinforced my belief that I made the right choice all those years ago to not follow the bright lights of theatreland with the vague hope of making it my living. To not feel moved by the power of theatre would, for me, be a huge disappointment.
Another thing that surprised me was that very few of my peers had continued with acting in any way as a hobby. Most had used elements of what they had learned in the course of their ‘normal’ jobs – presentation skills, confidence etc.; one had done some work with stage combat and fighting; another had recently started teaching at local stage school and was part of a developing band. Most cited a lack of time, demanding jobs and working patterns as getting in the way of any creative leanings they still may have. One said to me that it was really good to look through my Facebook pages and see show after show listed (of course that has the reverse effect on my non-theatrical friends who do think I’m a bit barmy and very single-minded). Once again though I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be able to put as much time and effort into what I do as a hobby – The Family are very understanding and they know I know I take them for granted… and for that I’m sorry… but they also know I wouldn’t be ME if I stopped.
So will the class of ’87 meet up again?
I have already mentally declined two opportunities – the first being the band Discovery’s next gig – the date clashes with the final performance of the next play I am in; and the second to the same person’s 40th birthday party – which is on the same day as The Family jets off on this year’s holiday to sunnier climes. (The fact that it is the same person whose invites I am declining means nothing, honestly!).
And the answer?
Yes, I hope our paths cross again… and a lot sooner than 2032.