Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Back to School

We’ve just agreed to revive Class of ’76 this August. Very quickly another couple of possible gigs fell in to place for early 2009.  So, here I am, 8 years after the original process of tracking down my old classmates, still talking about it.  Still telling the story.

Of course, it is very flattering to be asked to present the work after all this time, but we have said several times that *this* is the last time we perform this piece. So, why…?  Well, I realise that it still speaks to me.  And it seems to be in demand. The subject matter seems to endure.  And it will be updated - a ‘revised edition’ - when we present it at the end of August. 

Also, there seems to be a lot of it about at the  moment.  Unsurprisingly, when it was first touring Class of ’76 did get compared to Dave Gorman’s work.  There seemed to be a developing area of ‘is it live art or is it stand up comedy’ work. 

So, it was only matter of time before someone (thanks Noel) pointed out Friends Like These to me.  Danny Wallace, who co-devised/wrote Are You Dave Gorman? has been looking for his old school friends.  Interestingly, from our point of view at least, because he moved around a lot as a kid, he’s not using one class photo, but instead an old address book – and in Class of ’76 we compare the urge to track down down the kids in the class photo with the urge to phone people found in an old address book.

I liked Danny Wallace’s Join Me project very much, so I’m intrigued to know how Friends Like These turns out [I’m 50 pages in at the moment].

I’ve just started working with Mole Wetherell from Reckless Sleepers on a possible response to Class of ’76.  We’ve been talking about how this idea of getting back in touch with school mates won’t be relevant to kids at school today – or indeed people who have left school in the last 5 years or so - because through Facebook, Twitter, personal mobile phone numbers (as opposed to numbers for parents’ houses) they’ll just stay in touch.  Digital Natives.

When we started making Class of ’76, when I was finally getting to play detective, Friends Reunited didn’t exist.  School Disco hadn’t become the "clubbing phenomenon of the new Millennium" yet.  Logging on to Friends Reunited now [and finally even putting up a profile], I see that it would have been only limited help in finding my 1976 classmates now. But it would have got me started, and it would have made it easier, as the idea is so much more familiar.

Oh, and a few years ago there was a TV drama with Robert Carlyle called Class of ’76.  That was about tracking down your old school mates, but by a serial killer, so there was only limited similarity.

Working with Mole on ideas for this project, we’ve been to visit his junior and secondary schools.  Walking round both of them I was aware of the difference in experience for the two of us.  For Mole these were the sites of specific personal memories; for me they were more neutral, generic.  But they still sparked memories for me.  Walking round someone else’s junior/infant school felt very familiar to me; I felt, yes, I’ve done this project, I’ve scratched this itch.  I have my project through which I can talk about this. What surprised me was how different walking round a deserted secondary school felt; I had a real urge to go back to my secondary school, to walk through empty corridors and classrooms.  This felt like a different project, a different itch.

We talked about the difference between those school experiences. How, although you change, you go into infant school a child, and come out of juniors still a child.  Memories of this time are mainly of moments, repeated patterns perhaps.  You go to secondary school a child, but come out, not an adult, but certainly a step closer to who you are now. A different person.  Memories of this time are more of events and narratives. Changing relationships. Friendships.  Infatuations.  Love affairs, even.

As Mole told me these stories from his school days, I was aware that although we were in the school they took place in, I was picturing them happening in my school.  Spending 7 years at the same school, at the time in your life when you are physiologically programmed to be absorbing information and learning, really etches that place onto your memory.