Sunday, 15 June 2014

Group 64...

"Does it feel very sad that it's over?"

"It hasn't quite sunk in yet."

That was an exchange I had with my Granny, earlier yesterday evening. I had just finished my last show at Group 64.

It would be mere hours before that fact would properly register for me.

I've been quite good at compartmentalising things as of late. I'm at a stage of my life when a lot of things are ending - where I'm having a lot of lasts. Last Religious Studies lesson, last exam, last BTEC Drama performance, last day of school...

But yesterday was my last day at Group 64.

Eleven years.

Eleven years I've been there. I've been going there over a decade. I'm an adult (well, legally speaking) now, and I've been going to this place since I was seven.

When I first started at Group 64, I was very different. I don't know if I'd say I was shy, but I wasn't as outgoing, that's for sure.
Group 64 brought me out of my shell. It was a place where I got to go, every Saturday, and I loved it. It started out as just a bit of fun, and then I started doing the odd show with them. Not big parts, mostly just being a little bit part in scripted shows or part of the ensemble in an end of term performance.

After a while, I started getting a bit lively and mad. Not in a troublesome way, just very energetic. Mum once said to one of the tutors, Ned Glasier, "He used to be so quiet..."

Ned's response? He laughed and said, "Henry? Quiet?"

Eventually, due to this increasing level of childlike madness, I was cast as Professor Plumpton - a part especially written for me by the youth director at the time, Kirsten.

Going to secondary school was a massive change in my life. I had spent my entire childhood in the same school and was very attached to it. What really helped ease the transition was having this one constant - you've guessed it - Group 64.

I started to get parts - very good parts - in more and more shows. Marley in A Christmas Carol, Jake in Sparkleshark, the King Of Mirrors in Beauty & The Beast, Specs in A Handbag, Lord Boreal in His Dark Materials...

I made more and more friends who would frequently be in classes and shows with me. I could write an entire blog post entirely dedicated to the friends I'd made over the years at Group 64, and I still probably wouldn't cover all of them, or feel I'd fully expressed how much they mean to me. I could write a book about all the wonderful times I've had at this place.

Group 64's been a comfort blanket, through the tough or the sad times, and a place where I've had some of the maddest, happiest, most brilliant times of my life. It's been the grounding at Group 64 that I've had in Drama that's lead to doing so well in it at school, getting in to the National Youth Theatre (with three other Group 64 friends that year, and many more have joined since!), getting to perform onstage at the National Theatre, and being part of the first season of the National's Young Studio initiative.

I would not be the person I am today if not for Group 64. I would not have some of the truly loveliest friends I've made in my life. I would not have had such an amazing wealth of experience, I would not have learned so much about theatre, and drama, and people, and myself, if not for the influence this magical place has had on me.

The place may be 50 years old, but the impact it has on people's lives is immeasurable. 

The moment it sunk in that it was all coming to an end was later last night, when Nicola, the youth director, presented us all with these wonderful posters of ourselves in productions from over the years, and a special message from her to each of us. At that moment, both me and Stanley (one of my oldest friends at Group 64) broke down into tears. Group 64 really does mean so much to us, and although a part of us will never truly leave, we are at a point of big change in our lives - last night, performing in the Young Company Sketch Show, really was the End Of An Era.

I can't quite believe that I'm not going to be attending there week in, week out any more.

I owe my Granny so much for taking me to see one of their shows, and asking me if I wanted to be a member, all those years ago. Without my Granny, this huge part of my life that I am so grateful for would never have happened. She even got a little mention at the end of the show, which she was over the moon about!

It's difficult to truly express how I feel about this magical place, especially if you haven't been to see me in a show there before. I feel like our Young Company Sketch Show did quite a good job of capturing some of the essence of Group 64, and since it was filmed, perhaps soon I can show you a little bit of it to give you an idea. 

Until then, I'll leave you with a video, made by my good friend, Kate Mason. She made it late last year, but at this point, for me at least, it feels even more poignant, so I'll share it again.  It's the end of an era, but it's the end of one of the happiest eras of my life.


"The people here are just brilliant, and the friends you can make are just legendary..." - Stanley Miles

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