I’ve been wandering around all week, chatting to people in Deptford who I hope to interview, and I thought I might write a bit about how I got here before I started that.
In 1996 I answered an advert in the stage. A theatre company called Hush Hush Ensemble were doing an outdoor production of The Tempest, and I applied, auditioned, got the part of Miranda. I’d never been to Deptford before. I’d never done Shakespeare before. I’d never seen a pearly king next to a parked black cab that was belting out Chas and Dave before (really). All of these things occurred.
I visited Deptford and I stayed.
I grew up near Portsmouth, so the river and the anchor and the tales of long ago rampaging sea farers made me feel at home. I’ve always felt at home near water.
We performed the show in an adventure playground. It was a beautiful summer and one night the thunder and lighting paid us a visit, as if summoned by all that caterwauling.So I was introduced to Deptford by a storm.
These are some of the things I remember: watching the cast (boys and girls) line up to tighten each others corsets each night before the show; finding a tiny mechanical bird on Deptford Market and buying it for three pounds thereby starting my collection of vintage automatons; visiting Christopher Marlowe’s grave and hearing the story of the tunnel underneath St Nicks church filled with bones and treasures; listening to a man singing “Always look on the bright side of life” outside the “House Wives Cash and Carry” with his trousers around his knees; feeling tipsy after one G&T then leaping for no good reason into a wheelie bin full of garlic on the High Street; seeing Jools Holland in the Dog and Bell pub and then shaving a man’s beard off for a bet; eating amaretti biscuits, setting fire to the paper wrappers and watching them float into the night sky.
My friend Damon (Ferdinand) said he remembers: “creating the storm by hitting the adventure playground. I remember being under a parachute with you. I remember Glyn breaking Tim’s nose with his sword fighting pole. I remember learning to play the perfect version of me as the prince and having good fun being beautiful with you…”
Jules, who played the most glamorous Caliban ever seen (think a hungover Veronica Lake) said she remembers: “Being followed around by the kids in the playground…who, having watched the rehearsals… would shout Shakespeare at us! They also asked some of the boys if they were in ‘Take That’….
I made my entrance to that show screaming, and I cried when it came to an end. So I decided to stay, with my new friends who became my life long friends, and this marked the beginning of my story in Deptford.
Deptford, where poets get murdered over unpaid bar tabs, and the market spills with tat and treasure, and the creek still washes up clay pipes and bones; full of songs and raucous misbehaviour. Tatty. Beautiful. Rebellious. Resistant. The recalcitrant little sister of posh Greenwich. Home.
Thanks to Jules Craig, Damon Shaw and Portia Smith for helping me remember.