We’ve settled right in here in W12. Shepherds Bush has everything: cafés, caffs, restaurants, markets, gyms, convenience stores, and humming away behind it, glowing like a docked spacecraft, is the Westfield Shopping Centre. It has its own gravity force and sucks us in after matinees, relieves us of fifteen quid for our ‘quick bite to eat’ and makes us buy clothes that we don’t need. DAMN YOU, Westfield (and thank you for your nice Byron burgers and shakes).
Fortunately, the café/bar at the Bush is properly lovely. There’s a reading room with a huge collection of plays on the old shelves (it used to be the local library), including the ones that have recently been playing. You can sit there with your fat sausage roll and good coffee and relax.
It’s not been that relaxing, really; London isn’t set up for that, and it’s better to just drink plenty of coffee and hurl yourself into the maelstrom. Have fun and sleep when you die (or, better, in January). Margaret Thatcher only needed four hours sleep per night whilst she was PM; Andy Rush needs even less, and he’s not busy smashing the Unions. Phil and I were knackered after a 2-show Saturday and an evening at Blacks and Madame Jojo’s (50s hits/Northern Soul), but Duracell Rush wasn’t done; no, he held an impromptu limbo competition in the middle of Soho afterwards.
Andy Rush doing what he does best!
The shows themselves come thick and fast. Whilst we’re waiting to go on we can hear and feel the anticipation from the packed houses. There are people we know at every performance – friends, family, loves, casting and industry folk – along with the dozens who have queued for tickets and put their hands in their pockets to come and see our play. We look each other in the eye as we line up after Amy gives us the ‘Stand by’ call, backs are patted, hands are shaken, a quick hug, one more daub of mud and then we’re out there. We want to give them all a ‘Press Night’.
JFG Bush Dressing Room
The standard we’ve set ourselves is high. Of course we have – it’s a matter of professional and personal pride, but the closeness of the audience and the writing itself demands it. This space keeps you honest and you get found out if your energy or concentration slips by a degree. In two scenes I am sitting on the bench downstage left, only a couple of feet from the front row, close enough to nick their Werthers. The other night I heard a guy whisper the end of one of Viv’s lines before she’d said it herself. It seems people have come back to see us for a second or even a third time.
Audience at the Bush awaiting show-time
James came in last week to watch the show. It was a decent enough performance but the running time was long – a sure sign that some moments are being indulged. He gave us some important notes: keep listening to each other, stop ‘performing’ it, and tell the story for the first time, every time, with simplicity and clarity. An audience can tell when you start to fall in love (a bit) with your lines and gradually you can hear less belly in the laughter and more shuffling in the quiet parts.
Weird things happen when you’ve been doing a show for a while. Phil had a funny turn during one show (not just intentionally funny, which he always is) and scrambled a couple of his lines: ‘slim prickings’ were on offer in his library, and we had to smirk when he declared that, at Luke’s parents’ cookery weekend, ‘you tell posh people how to whisk.’ At the start of scene 4 Viv takes the team through the current league table and complex results permutations. Last Wednesday, much to our surprise, she produced the ball pump (makeshift pointer) as usual but also a pair of granny glasses, which she conducted the scene in. Some actors work from the inside – out, and some rely on props and costume to add depth to their character. Well, it worked for Alec Guinness! I’m considering where I might incorporate a stovepipe hat…
The inevitable xmas jumpers...
Oh yeah, Gary Lineker came to watch the other night. The Gary Lineker who presents MOTD and SPOTY and does the crisps ads and has a celebritmodelactresstvpersonality wife and once babbed himself during a game? No, not him. It was the Gary Lineker who scored 48 goals for his country (England’s second top scorer), is still a hero in Barcelona, where he won domestic and European trophies and scored a hat-trick in an El Classico game (he also learned to speak Spanish fluently). The Gary Lineker who won the Golden Boot in the ’86 World Cup and nearly took us to the Final at Italia ’90. The authentic football legend? Him.
Gary Lineker with Barely Athletic
His theatrical connection goes back some way too. A play was written in 1991 called ‘An Evening With Gary Lineker’ and was later adapted for telly, with the man himself making a cameo appearance. He also guested as ‘God’ in Spamalot in the West End (albeit via video), and a few months ago, he shocked the stage world with a reply to a Simon Stephens tweet. A theatre bromance has since blossomed between the two and Stephens and his wife accompanied the Linekers last Wednesday. It was thrilling to have them in, and quite surreal.
But amongst all this – the rush, the gush, the three quid coffees, the booze, the talk, the photos, the celebrities, the hype, the noise, the buzz and the bollocks – we’re clear why we’re here: to tell the story of 3 gay lads, a bossy lesbian and a young widower who are fighting battles which most know nothing about. Like everyone.