In 1994 I met Martin for the first time over a beer (him) and diet coke (me) after a performance of David Mamet’s SEXUAL PERVERSITY IN CHICAGO - a play he directed, Chantal produced and I watched, intently, in the audience. It was the beginning of something. Not the beginning of GRiP Theatre - no, that started before me and kept going after me - but the start of an incredibly creative and prolific period in our lives that I will never forget.
Since then, Martin, Chantal, Janice and I have been carrying around boxes and brains full of memories, most of which have never seen the light of day since 1999 - when the Rose and Crown Club Theatre, a theatre space we built with our bare hands (literally) was sold and changed into a Noodle Bar (probably for the better, in the end, if you think about it).
We’ve all gone on to many, many other things. Their wedding was a day/night to remember - dancing included. And Joseph had only just been born when we left our flat in Kingston and moved into an apartment in New York (and, yes, the nomenclature and accent there are very important…Martin, just recall the American attempting to sing Blur’s Parklife and that will put it into context). Riley and Eden? Well, they came after us, but I’m happy to see nothing but smilies and great lives being led since then.
But back to the point. GRiP Theatre.
As I was going through many, many boxes that had not been opened in 16 years, I started to see what was really accomplished during those 4 or 5 years; more than 30 plays, a “black box” theatre which changed with every performance, new interpretations of Berkoff, Pinter, Mamet, Hare and (thanks to Martin’s daring and early embrace of digital technology) a multi-media production of Shakespeare. And many new plays. Some of mine, sure, but…several plays, in fact, by BAFTA winning writer Chris Chibnall. That’s certainly much more current and important than any of those other geezers.
But it wasn’t until I really started going through all of the boxes item-by-item that I actually started to piece together all those things that the intervening years had erased from my cluttered brain. Moments.
From Are You 486? to Best Daze, from Two to Slag, from Little Secrets to Parental Guidance. Too many people to remember - Ken, Mike, George, Willow, Ian, Joshua, Alistair, Sally, Andrea, Tina, Jeanne, Steven, Andy, Adrain, Jay, Chris, Nigel, Melissa, Will, Max, Stirling and many I’ve missed (forgive me).
This is my humble attempt to remind us of those moments. Of those people. Of those friends we were and those friends we are. A time in our lives where we did some amazing things. Oh sure, we fought and cried and got pissed and pissed off - but here is a little window into the specialness that was spawned by our collective creativity which, for me, has been indispensable and invaluable ever since.
Even if I have have been completely crap at doing the simple things like staying in touch, remembering birthdays and making a simple trip to the UK for a birthday party that sounds completely awesome - we have been thinking about you and our time, with gratitude and fondness.
So, as Martin would say to me: “Happy Birthday, mate.”
And, as I would say (badly) to Martin: “You should cut down on your porklife, mate, get some exercise!”
Janice and I will always remember our time and our friendship with you both and if it wasn’t for a move to Oregon we’d be there in person.
I present to you the website we never had: GRiPTheatre.com