Last weekend was busy, but I was still hopefully looking forward to our midnight visit to Hampstead Heath. For one thing, it’s beautiful out there – pitch dark, deserted and spooky. For another, it was going to be with the wonderful Katy Carr. The good folks at Run Riot had given it a push and tickets were sold out.
So what could possibly go wrong?
The first thing that made me hesitate was that two people had come dressed as woodland animals. Nothing wrong with that of course, in fact they looked amazing. But they weren’t quite in keeping with the mood… see, the story I had planned was about an incredible escape from Auschwitz. It was the story that had inspired Katy’s song, her film and in fact her whole album. I’d spent months working on it last year… getting the tone right, being honest and responsible. It’s a terrifying, tragic true story with an uplifting but actually-still-sad ending. And it wasn’t just the badger outfits. Everyone was giggling, messing around… the perfect atmosphere for lighthearted fun. They expected a summer-night romp and I was going to hit them with Auschwitz.
Up we went on the Heath, winding paths, towering black branches, glittering stars, more laughter and joking. Finally everyone settled down, torches turned in my direction, gleeful catcalls. This was the only story I had which connected with Katy’s songs and it was the one I’d planned to tell but by God it didn’t have a single funny line in it.
I took a deep breath and began.
As I started to tell it, I felt the mood plunge. In the audience reactions, I sensed the horror of the death camps afresh. Heavy, heavy stuff!
As the words reeled out of my mouth, my brain leapt ahead in the narrative – could parts be left out? Could I change this or that?
Of course I couldn’t. I realised the only thing I could do was be as honest to this story as possible, allow the truth of it to shine. As I went on, the story took over, it came alive, we were back in that desperate place, back in June 1942. The audience held their breath, a great hush, the magic of the story held everyone in its grasp. The tension mounted…
At the point of greatest suspense, we suddenly noticed the headlights of a jeep sweeping ominously towards us, up the hill and over the grass. Suddenly everyone was shouting and laughing again.
Of course the police were just checking, they weren’t about to arrest us all, mainly because we weren’t causing a problem or breaking any laws. (Of course!)
So the police drove away, we finished the story and Katy sang us her wonderful amazing songs with the ukulele. The finale involved walking together through the woods singing the chorus of “Wojtek” (see the picture at the top of the entry, © Nigel Sutton). Got in about 3.00am, buzzing and happy – despite everything it was a magical night.
The Ham & High wrote this funny article about us!