The Princess in the Basement

A daft story about a daft story that makes me very happy in this world where we feel we’re not at all in control of the story any more.

CVYT 8-11

Sometimes – most times in fact – my job makes me very happy.

Being half a century old, unknown outside Leeds in the theatre world and too skint to have made any provision whatsoever for impending old-dom might seem like the very definition of ‘unsuccessful’ in my chosen career.

But these three facts are the very reason I have such creative freedom, as no-one is breathing down my neck, no-one else sets my agenda, no-one cares what I do (in the best possible way), because the decisions I make are mine to make and the people who ask me to do work for them tend to trust me – which they’re right to do – because it’s impossible to stagnate when surrounded by 8-21 year olds and freelance artists at the top of their game who measure a large portion of their creative satisfaction by enabling young people to thrive. [1]

During the Summer we were rehearsing the the Addam’s Family with the entire City Varieties Youth Theatre in the Leeds Grand basement, and during one of the sessions with the 8-11’s we started, as we always do with ’10 second news’ – which everyone sticks to, except me, as I get over-excited. One of the kids asked me where I lived and I said ‘here’.

Them: ‘What, in the Leeds Grand basement?’

Me: ‘Yup – no point me going home – when you’re all gone I get all the props and costumes out and re-live bits of our shows’

More voices: ‘Really?’

Me: ‘Yup – I live under that chair there’

Even more voices: ‘Honest?’

At that point I had to admit I was kidding… but what spun out from there was a tale where collectively the group started imagining what it would be like if there was a girl in the basement – a Princess (Trésemme) who’s hair grew and grew and she visits BARBER Striesand (GEDDIT?!) who fashions it into a mohican containing two pet giant headlice (Trevor and Tim) whilst Trésemme sings ‘I Need A Hairbrush’ (to the tune of I Need A Hero).

When the (inevitable) passing Prince (Dandruff) leans in from street level and climbs down her stiffened mohican she hits him with a can of hairspray for assuming she wanted to be saved.

Oh, and her mum – Mother Hairspray – turns up at some point and sings ‘You’ve Got To Be Fake To Be Real’ whilst everyone does the Charleston.

The ending (and much of the plot) is a well-protected secret…

Clearly the rehearsal had been ambushed by our collective delight at a story that had to happen – so we spent the rest of the session devising bits of the story and all agreed it was a right LARF.

Except we couldn’t stop thinking about it – every session the subject would come up and eventually it became clear that the play had to happen.

So it is. I’m fashioning their ideas into a script over Christmas and we’re going to put it in front of an audience in April in… the basement of the Leeds Grand…

How meta’ as one of the older group observed.

I’m telling you this because there’s so much stuff in print that is making so many of us feel really really crap. These kids have had an idea and asked if it could happen and we said ‘yup’. It’s daft, it’s making us all laugh and it’s EXACTLY what is required.

So this is why I love my job.

And you can come and see their story in April if you fancy it.

Just for the hell of it.

[1] (Props to Dawn Holgate, Aron Kyne, Sam Dunkley, Bobak Walker, Richard Priestly and – new this term – Akeim Toussaint Buck)

CVYT 8-11


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