Saturday, June 24, 2006

Market Boy

You've got to talk to them son. Listen to them. Look for a way in. You're a handsome bloke – they'll love you. Give me a year and I'll teach you everything I know.

Possibly about six weeks ago a booklet for the National Theatre popped through the letterbox. I have heard about their Travelex £10 seasons and have always made a mental note to get off my backside and watch something. This time I needed to act.

I flicked through and Market Boy caught my eye. I love markets. When I saw the word Romford I knew this was a play for me. I spent many a weekend and holiday selling fruit on one of the stalls during my A-levels.

There's an art to selling stilettos and you'd better grasp it. Learn a good wind-up, learn the pull of cash, learn drugs, learn sex, and run wild with the market monkeys. Stay sharp in the ruthless world of Essex traders. Romford Market, 1985. This boy has everything to learn.

A spectacular, savage, gorgeous yarn which brings a market jungle to the vast Olivier stage; a tale about the time Mrs Thatcher said we should embrace the marketplace; a story about losing your innocence. And your cherry.

After checking the football fixtures I booked two tickets. C. rightly pointed out I should have invited my parents. I booked two more tickets the next day and coincidentally got seats next to those I had already reserved.

It was absolutely fantastic. One teenager's rite of passage. It's bold, vulgar, brash and totally captures the time and place. We were surrounded by people with very well-rounded accents so it was hard to tell where they were from. One commented, at half-time, that the play was superficial and full of stereotypes. I wanted to shout at her “No! It was bloody well like that”.

It didn't matter what you looked like, if you were a boy working on Romford market – even just packing in and packing out – you were a God. The girls all adored you. It was a glamorous job! (My sister and her friends were part of the coterie who hung around hoping to catch eyes).

The four of us left enthused; listing the people we would force to see it. We were also trying to work out who might have known the writer, David Eldridge. Just a year older than me, someone in our circle must have gone to school with him or even worked with him on a nearby stall.

It came as something of a surprise reading articles about him on the net to learn he went to a posh independent school. I shouldn't imagine that went down too well when he first arrived. It's fantastic to know he thrived. I was too scared at first to say I was going to university in case people dismissed me.

The fruiterer I worked for was second generation. He knew his business inside-out but could barely read and write. I used to help him, and others, by reading and replying to official-looking mail . When I confessed I was going on to study they couldn't stop laughing. Many of them were illiterate in the language of the land and I was off to perfect two others (French and German). They referred to uni as 'Big School'. The nearest stalls had a whip-round and sent me off with a few quid in my pocket.

Give them what they want. And they'll give you what you want. We were put on this earth to chase women, and women were put here to buy shoes. Ginger, brunette, peroxide, they're all here. But this is what you're after, this son, this.

If you're in London, and even if you're not, this a must-see. Just a tenner a ticket. National Theatre. Runs until 3 August.


City Slicker said...

Was there last night as well, in the £10 seats. Absolutely terrific. Agree completely

City Slicker said...

Handbags arent my thing either thank goodness! Just felt a need to comment as Mulberry is so outrageously expensive and all over London. Have a great old canvas one from H&M that has suited me since 2003! Was just a bit of tongue and cheek
Great Banksy on regents park rd chalk farm end
Great to hear from you
but one question -- did you find market boy a bit superficial?

ems said...

Yes, I found the play superficial but it didn't take away from the fact I found it immensely enjoyable. And I reckon there are plenty of people out there leading superficial lives!