Friday, 29 November 2013

Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Fields Forever is a play about the small things and the important things, about taking your chances, not missing the moment.

As the title suggests, the play, written by Bobby Stevenson, has a strong link to the Beatles. The story is based around a chance encounter with John Lennon in the 1960s and his death in New York some twenty years later. As you might expect, it's a story about living and dying, but more importantly, it's about people in a small village who grow and learn to see the value in keeping promises and making others happy. Built on the idea that 'everything matters' there is something inherently right about the very first performance taking place in Shoreham, not just because Bobby lives in the village, but because Shoreham itself is a place where things matter.

As I watched my fellow cast members getting into costume, looking at their lines for a final time, and pacing up and down waiting for their cues, I thought about how important  the Shoreham Village Players have become to me, since the very first time Philip and I encountered them at a Cabaret night in March 2007. As we sat backstage last night, chatting about old performances and players, catching up on family stories, sharing memories and hopes for the future, I remembered once again how the village takes people into its heart, and holds them there. And that was never more obvious than last night.

On a first night, no matter how hard you've rehearsed, there's always a worry that it won't go well and a recognition that some things won't go entirely to plan. The nerves back-stage were palpable, but out front, the hall was filling with family, friends and village residents, all willing to come out on a cold Thursday night in November, all willing the play to be a success. And while there may have been a line or two that went missing, and a few props that didn't quite make it onto stage, none of that mattered as I listened to the audience laughing and falling silent in all the right places and heard them cheering at the curtain call.

Last night I remembered once again that the people of Shoreham know all about the small things and the important things, and my thanks go to Bobby Stevenson, Sheila Webb, and all the cast and crew of Strawberry Fields Forever, for giving me another chance to experience that.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Radio times

There’s almost always a radio playing, though it’s very rarely me who turns it on. Over the years I've got used to walking from room to room, following the sounds around. Often, there’ll be something from his laptop playing through the speakers. Now and then, he’ll fetch a record from the big white cabinet upstairs, place it on the turntable and carefully lower the needle until the old familiar music fills the house, with its gentle background crackles that sound like rainfall.

As I write this, he’s in the kitchen. I hear the sounds of the freezer opening and closing, the chopping board placed down on the worktop, the opening and closing of cupboards and drawers, all to the sound of Shirley Bassey belting out Goldfinger. She’s quickly followed by the sharp drumming of Django Django's Life’s a Beach. There's no way of predicting what will come next; his musical taste is as varied as the books he reads, as the people he talks to, as the things he knows.

When we go for a drive he'll choose the music to come with us. The very first present he ever gave me was a mixed tape, and now every year at Christmas, we’ll each get a CD; something he’s spent hours putting together, picking the tunes that he knows we’ll appreciate, making sure to include something we've never heard before, that he’s decided we should like.

Every so often, I wonder why I live my life to someone else's soundtrack, why he's the one who always decides what we listen to. But then I find myself singing along and see him smiling, or I walk into the room and he plays a track just because he knows it will make me dance.

I sometimes talk about the music that will be played at my funeral; depending on my mood, I imagine the mourners shaking their heads in despair, sobbing their hearts out, grinning at a memory. It doesn't really matter anyway; I know he’ll pick the music he thinks I should have chosen. I don't talk about the songs I'd play for him, not because I'm frightened of choosing and getting it wrong, just because without him, there really is no music.