The Southwark Playhouse is a proper London thing.
It’s a kind of post-industrial cupboard space under the tube line, tucked behind an old pub on the corner opposite a shining shard of South Bank offices. Arriving there to meet chums Jules and Angela on Wednesday night, I had no idea what we were about to watch.
How to disappear completely and never be found is the kind of metro theatre that simple shire folk like me imagine everyone in the capital goes to see regularly. Tiny venue, five players, energetic monologues and lots of metaphysical angst over modern city life. “You’ll like this” Angela smirked, “it’s about a brand manager losing his marbles.”
It was, and I did. As I have. Too much of the absurd ad-speak dialogue between wide-boy protagonist Charlie and his cartoon clients and colleagues made some kind of sense. Not just to me with my (patently faux) brand consultant’s hat on – I think to everyone. We all understand a degree of brandspeak; the issues of impression and idea and perceived value. And, though I’ve ended up having many serious conversations about it with clients because I think it’s about helping people communicate more effectively… really. Doesn’t take much to make the real thing sound like a finger-pistoling parody. A bit like Sarah Pallin. Except she uses shot guns.
We all laughed knowingly at the well-trodden themes of work pressures and self worth and public transport in 21st century London. After all, who isn’t lost property? Who doesn’t feel the ringing in their ears behind everything? The constant eye-twitching throb. “There’s a blue sky over me, but the fear is on me” Carl from Underworld drones on their new album as I type. The intermittent grumble of underground carriages passing overhead just added to the performance as I sat there, also simply pondering how the fevering players each remembered so much script. The art of the ack-tor, darling.
It was the gala evening show, and as I sat in the intimate audience and watched the spotlit ideas unfold, grateful for an impromptu seat, I reflected on the shared pains of metro life and the coke-addled pressures of managing ideas – brands – at the expense of managing your own. ..Though chiefly, of course, I reflected on going back to sunny Bournemouth after just one night playing the metro life and feeling the coke-addled pressures of managing blah blah… I live by the seaside and I’ve never not been VERY grateful.
At the after-show reception, I found myself being remarkably restrained. Or perhaps even adult.
I didn’t stop conversation with my friends mid-sentence with the words “screw you – there’s a bloke off the telly”. Nope, not me. I didn’t even stop the conversation at the end of a paragraph with some lie about needing the loo. No. instead, I just kept talking to my friends ..and didn’t run over to character acting star Andy Serkis to cover him in enthusiastic spittle with my Gollum impression. I didn’t do it.
We’d all blagged tickets to this version of writer Fin Kennedy’s play because of Julian’s friend Kath, who’s been a stalwart trustee of the Southwark Playhouse for years. The guys have mentioned trying to catch a production there a few times. I’d written some music for Kath’s partner Steve some years back for his London Wall photographic exhibition – culminating in whistly Momo favorite, Metrophilia – and I keep trying to make it to one of their creative social events, often without success. Since Jules finds it hard to out-compliment Kath and Steve after fourteen years of mutual lovelyness, it’s always nice to see them all together. Kath’s energy at all she does is something Julian has long admired.
“I did well meeting them when I first came to London” he said quietly over a champers flute. I smiled. “Yes, you did.” I paused, pursing respectfully – then chin-chinned: ” So did they”.
As we queued for complimentary scampi and chips, I added in a trying-to-seem-offhand voice: “Like the play pretty much spelled out, we need eachother, mate” ..also successfully not adding, in a bubbly blather, “- so let’s hug it up, big boy. C’mon. No, no – c’mon…”
For various reasons, anyway, it turns out that Jules is on teasing terms with Andy.
“So,” he apparently grinned at the Lord Of The Rings legend, “the new Tin Tin movie you’re shooting – had to do much doggy method prep to play Snowy?”
Mr Serkis obviously knows Jules alright, as he merely shook his head – without saying: “you know it’s Captain Haddock…”.
I missed all this of course, as I was faithfully chatting up Angela.
I came home after a subsequent morning trying to frame a brief with Jules for a mutual client – a brief with no parameters, goals or current information, all of which we had to try to commission a PR guy with – to find a little drama had taken place back home.
The new porch guys have taken away our desperately tumble-down old porch. We’re porchless. The house looks like its being demolished, with the sun-tan marks of absence on the exposed brickwork. Poor thing.
It’s disappeared completely, never to be found. Thankfully.