Last week I went along to see the play ‘Kiss Me Quickstep’ at The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. The theatre itself is rather awesome. It’s in the round, so wherever you sit you have a great view. We were lucky enough to sit in The Director’s Box, which meant that even if the bloke in front had had a mohican (I’ve had it happen) we would still have been able to see without problem. You can even sit on the stage, which would be my next choice, although not suitable for those who smuggle in their own refreshments, not that I endorse such behaviour, but all the same…
The play was very enjoyable; enough of the drama, enough of the funny. It had some nice little ballroom routines in it too, which made me want to be part of it rather than a spectator. At the end the cast invited some of the audience to dance with them – so bad luck for those seated on the stage. Even if they had managed to hide their contraband for the duration of the play, they risked mass Malteser spillage at this dicey moment.
The characters each had their own issues, and in one couple’s case it was money, or lack of it. One of the characters was Eastern European and most of the others were working class northerners. It got me thinking what a wonderful place the dance floor is for classlessness. Dressed in acres of tulle, sequins and spandex, and twirling round the floor everyone is equal.
Wealth, upbringing, education and class are not even brought into question. How very refreshing.
This isn’t the first time this has struck me. When I’m out dancing I often think how lovely it is that no-one’s judging anyone else on anything other than their capabilities and enjoyment of dancing. No-one knows, nor cares, about how plummy (or not) you sound, where you went to school, what you do for a job, whether you wear Hunter wellies or Sainsbury’s own, or any such other nonsense that seems to dominate so much of our lives.
Yesterday I returned to the South East after a week up north and instantly started to round off those vowels a bit. I do this in the interest of intelligibility; basically, no-one down here would understand me if I carried on talking like I had been doing for the past week. “You’ve gone reet northern. Have you swallowed a whippet?” my Sussex-born husband commented, his brow furrowed in concentration as he tried to decipher my words.
I’ve found over the last 15 years of being a northerner down south that it’s usually met with enthusiasm and positivity – and once or twice fear for some reason! I’ve only had a couple of instances of out and out hilarious discrimination. One of those was a few years ago when I was at a lunch meeting with a high end client. When I ordered a fish finger sandwich (which is very de rigueur these days, I must have been ahead of the times!) Mr client nearly fell off his chair and boomed: “Why, I do love working class girls!”. I’m glad I didn’t bring up the fact that I was disappointed it was one of those gourmet jobs rather than a good old Captain Birdseye – he might have sent me straight to the workhouse!
I’ve not managed to find true classlessness anywhere else other than where there’s a parquet floor and a disco ball. I reckon other art forms offer it though. Think of Adele. There is so much interest in the fact that when she sings you’d never guess she ‘talked like that’. Why on earth wouldn’t she? Can only middle class people with Standard English accents sing? Of course not.
Writing’s another good place to find classlessness. When you put pen to paper no-one knows the background of the author (unless the author chooses to make a point of it) and that is liberating. So when the day comes that I manage to get my book published, the readers will not say: “You know, that northern author”, nor will they say: “That writer, you know, who likes Birdseye fishfingers sandwiched between two slabs of Mighty White”.
Then again, I might choose to allude to it on the author’s page. I can see it now…
Gina Hollands lives by the sea. When she’s not writing about romantic encounters, she’s being very cultured at the theatre, going to classical concerts and practising rounding off her vowels.
As a working class northerner she would sooner take off her jumper at the supermarket and walk topless to her car while using it to carry her shopping rather than pay 5p for a carrier bag. This is in the interest of economic integrity. And is of course excellent for the environment.
She also buys vanilla ice cream in square slabs and has been known (on very rare occasion) to smuggle Sainsbury’s own Maltesers into theatres throughout the country.