Pretty much at this precise moment two weeks ago, I was halfway through possibly the most nuts thing I've done in a very long time: the 24 Arty People project at Manchester's Contact theatre. As anticipated, I was the oldest there by a long chalk (of the other participants, 22 were in their 20s and one was in her 30s), but it took me a fairly lengthy eight hours before I became slightly delirious and packed my bag to leave (the hysteria had kicked in way before that for some of the young'uns). Still, I stuck it out - I'd already had to endure endless rounds of musical statues (pictured below), pass the parcel and sleeping lions in the wee small hours, then the kind of philosophical discussions you usually have at parties, but after three bottles of wine and copious amounts of punch, so I surmised that it couldn't really get much worse - and in the end I was glad I stayed the distance.
When we finally got wind of what the hell we were supposed to be doing, a mere 12 hours before we had to present it to the paying public, we realised we had been split into groups of varying sizes - from duos to foursomes - and from 8pm on Saturday night a total of eight new pieces of work would be performed at various intervals. My group consisted of another writer (which was a bit weird, we thought, given that both of us could have been writing material for the many performers involved), Gemma Langford, and a musician, Jamal Lewis-Service. We'd been given the subject of "after hours", the themes we'd had to discuss at seven in the morning and some props we'd garnered through the games we played, so we decided to go our separate ways and create individually, then meet back to see what we'd come up with. Although I thought this was a bit of a disparate way of working and had been expecting full-on collaboration, it all came together rather nicely, thanks to scriptwriter Gemma casting us as sleep-deprived people having to put up with each other in a hospital, which gave us the scope to do our own things, but in character. We combined music and spoken word and acting, and we sorted ourselves out with costumes, make-up and a set. So glad I made my school let me do a GCSE in drama instead of PE during the lower sixth. Hopefully the 20-minute piece we performed twice wasn't too hideously painful for our audiences.
We were absolutely knackered by the end, and I got a dead leg (apparently from wearing jeans over an extended length of time, according to the GP), but we all got a buzz off what we'd managed to achieve and it was really nice spending time in the company of my group, and with the remaining arty people. It's a shame we didn't have the chance to properly see any of the other performances (I caught a bit of dancing being practised and heard some songs being written), but it was a real privilege to meet such talented and upbeat folk, and get the chance to perform in such a great space. And the after-show wine tasted so so good, it was worth it for that.