You’re invited to a Premiere

For those born since the second world war nothing quite compares with the strangeness of life at the moment in the United Kingdom.  There have been wars, terrorist attacks and economic crises but as far as I can think it has taken a tiny microbe virus to make the world stop turning.

In my school days we had the 3 day week and a caretakers strike that shut down schools.  I remember being in London in the middle of an IRA bombing campaign when the railway stations were closed, and I couldn’t get home.  911 changed the world but it happened thousands of miles away.  The wars in the Falkland’s, Iraq and Afghanistan took the lives of family members and friends but somehow life here carried on.  But this?  This is something entirely different.

I’ve been trying to work out how long we have been in lockdown.  Time seems to have a different meaning at the moment.  Days fly by and before you know it, it’s Thursday evening and time to throw open the windows and clap for the NHS and care workers and shop workers and truckers and refuse collectors and all those who have to get up, and get on with it to save lives and make life bearable for the rest of us in lockdown.

With this lockdown set to run another 3 weeks at the very least maybe having to stop will give the rest of us a chance to think, to really think about life.  After initially being glued to the news channels I am now rationing the amount of Coronavirus updates I get during the day.  I want to be informed but I don’t want the despair anymore.

Every so often something jumps out of the oft repeated headlines and interviews.  One of this week’s highlights has been the heart-warming story of the 99 year old who wanted to do something to help the NHS, so he decided to raise money by walking around his garden.  Captain Tom Moore became a national hero by raising money for the National Health Service, which is brilliant, but I still can’t quite remember when the NHS become a charity!!!

One interview really hit home for me.  It was with a man who had spent a week or so in intensive care.  He was still wearing an oxygen mask which he had to remove to talk to the interviewer.  His Coronavirus experience had made him re-evaluate his priorities. He said he had worked too hard and for too many long hours. From this moment on he was going to concentrate on what really mattered to him, people, his family and friends.

Part of me thinks life will never be the same again whilst another part of me thinks, give it a couple of months and we’ll all look back at this like some strange far off dream.

What have we learnt so far?  Well, doing nothing sounds like a great idea for a couple of days but pretty soon ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ and ‘Flog it’ can start to look a little samey.  I miss hugging people.  Exercise is really good for you.  You don’t need as many things as you thought you needed.  Cooking from scratch can be fun and a sense of community like we’ve experienced on a Thursday evening can make you cry.

What else?

I was talking to my neighbour, from a safe social distance, after the NHS clap on Thursday.  He said he’s been working harder than ever over the past few weeks from home. But he’s noticed that all those meetings he used to have in Cardiff can be just as easily accomplished on a zoom call on his iPad from home. Sometimes up to 20 other people would all traipse to Cardiff from all over Wales. If you consider all that time spent in cars, the petrol and diesel and tyre rubber saved then maybe there is a better way of working that we could take with us when the world opens up for business again. Of course, sometimes there is nothing quite the same as being in the same room as people but maybe not every time?

Then there’s entertainment.  Whilst I’m missing going out to see a show or a gig I have to say there is ample opportunity online to enjoy unique collaborations.  It has also encouraged ‘ordinary’ people to be creative whether its funny videos on ‘tic tok’ or shows from people’s sheds and kitchens.

This lockdown has given me the chance to look at my archive.  I’ve been posting old tv shows and even recording some videos in my shed as well, but one chance conversation last week has led to me inviting you to a premiere next week, a theatrical premiere.

Mike Doyle on Opportunity Knocks 1988

I’ve known Mike Doyle for years; the Carmarthen born funny man who won big in Bob Monkhouse’s ’Opportunity Knocks’, performed for the Queen at the Royal Variety Show and has the voice of an angel.  Like many of us, Mike has seen all of his tour dates postponed for the foreseeable future.  As we commiserated with each other we got talking about shows we had done together.

It was back in 2006 I asked Mike if he would be interested in a new musical I was writing about the boxer Tommy Farr.  He said yes and so began an amazing journey for Mike and me.  He learnt how to box with the aid of Mario Maccarinelli, the father of World Champion Enzo, whilst also being able to sing and dance at the same time.

The show brought together 2 vocal titans, Mike Doyle and Peter ‘Phantom of the Opera’ Karrie. I told Mike I was pretty sure I had an archive recording of the show somewhere and I should dig it out. The thing is because I was on stage playing the piano and Mike was onstage doing just about everything you could imagine, neither of us had actually seen the show.

When I eventually found it, I was blown away. Mike was terrific, Peter was sensational and the whole cast and production still shone 13 years later.

You could almost hear the cogs whirring in our heads. What if we put it online and had a party, maybe have a proper online premiere where we get dressed up in black tie and tails?  But when?

It was only on Thursday that I decided to check when the show opened at the Swansea Grand Theatre…Tuesday 24th April 2007.  Is that serendipity or just a coincidence?

Maybe in the future we will hold meetings online and do more shopping online after this experience but one thing I don’t think you will ever be able to replace is live theatre, live music and live shows.

But in the meantime, if it helps you remember what its like to experience a night out at the theatre please join us Friday 24th April at 7.30 on www.contenderthemusical.com and remember to dress up.

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