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Saturday 27th June 2015

4594/17523

About a billion things I could blog about today. Not sure I have time to do it all justice. A bit of a crazy fucked up day.

It at least ended well. I was in Tring to see an amateur production of my 1996 play “Punk’s Not Dead”. As I have been discussing recently it can be weird looking back at old stuff. Like with Fist of Fun and my solo shows I sometimes feel my 1990s plays didn’t get the credit that they deserved, but in hindsight would I see that this first play wasn’t as good as I thought it was? Would it even work now, almost twenty years on? I wrote this play, pretty much in the six weeks between the Sex Pistols reunion gig and the Edinburgh Fringe (though I had been planning it for a little longer than that as I had to have the title and idea ready in the Spring as usual) and it’s ultra-topical, referencing quite obscure current things like the guy from Eastenders playing a Scottish Admiral Nelson in a car insurance advert. Would that even make sense now?

I remember it being a stressful, but joyful time putting it together with a hardworking and unpaid (I think) cast of myself, Paul Reynolds from Press Gang, Paul “Curious Orange” Putner, Jason Freeman and Ewan Bailey. It was directed by Jeremy Herrin (no relation - clearly he has a different surname) who is now an award winning director, most recently with the stage adaptation of Wolf Hall. We rehearsed at the Battersea Arts Centre, where we became firm friends with the people who worked in the cafe. It feels like it took up a big portion of our lives, but it was only two months from start to finish.

The play got good reviews at the time and picked up an audience through word of mouth, but nobody was waiting to transfer it to the West End or anywhere else. Like Excavating Rita that followed the next year, it’s been put on by a couple of amateur groups, but I’d never been to see it again. I was excited to see it staged, but ready to be embarrassed.

But I have to say that I was really impressed. Not just by the group who put it on, who though technically a bit older than the characters they were supposed to play (it didn’t really matter, although the timeline didn’t fit, it sort of made more sense for them to be in their 40s) really captured the spirit of it all. It was very nicely directed with a neat device of having the bits where the characters pretend to be Johnny Rotten (or Sid Vicious)  illuminated by the light from the fridge. And I was also pleased and surprised by the tightness of the script and the way the tensions within the group simmered and boiled over and then dissipated again. It’s a lovely celebration of a group of old friends and of broken dreams, with some weirdly prescient stuff about adverts and the feudal like powers of TV celebrities who get away with whatever they like on set because no one wants to lose their jobs. 

I found it rather moving and almost forgot that I had written it (it happened so long ago that it feels like it was written by someone else) and though I felt a little aggrieved for the fledgling playwright who might have deserved a bit more recognition for his work (who knows where he would be now if someone had spotted that potential), I was mainly just happy to see it staged again and making people laugh. The nostalgia aspect, both of the punk era and the mid-90s, possibly improves the play with time. 

There was a Q and A after the show where I let slip who (as far as I recall) the unpleasant character Cheeky Alan Supple was based on and was able to discuss further the genesis of the piece. I think had it been more successful, it would have been interesting to write another play (or even a second act) where the characters met up again for one of the later Pistols reunions. In a sense having older actors playing the part had gone some way to achieving that. 

Well done 1996 me. You did a good job there. It was nice to be able to celebrate it. In a theatre in Tring. Kind of apt in so many ways for a play about the failure of ambitions and ultimately about our dreams not being as important as the reality of what we have.

So I don’t have time to write about the stupidly stressful day I had where two very tired parents attempted to get out to Tring to enjoy a day at a spa hotel, how badly we failed to achieve that, how in a tired panic to find a lost mobile phone I forgot that our daughter was in the car and left her unattended for about three minutes (the car was locked and she was safe, but the more worrying thing was that it had slipped my mind that she was in there). Or how my wife couldn’t really get cross because the lost phone had been tucked into the baby seat all along. But we’d been so tired we hadn’t even thought of ringing it until too late. Or how on arriving in our room we found the toilet blocked with what looked like toilet paper, complained about it, went to the bar to have a calming drink and were then confronted by a member of staff holding a bag full of the blockage item, and rather than apologising for us having been put in a room with a clearly uncleaned bathroom chastised us for putting nappies down the toilet. After the day of no sleep, driving and stress we’d had I am amazed that I only slightly forcefully told him that we’d just arrived and that we put nappies in the bin because we’re not idiots rather than stuffing the soggy item down his throat.

Maybe these stories will appear elsewhere at some later date.


You can read Punk's Not Dead and my other plays (and much more) in the downloads section of this website.



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