The day begun with greeting old friends. Faces I had known and worked with during my time at the University of Essex. I talk with such nostalgia even though I graduated three years ago and find myself back on my old campus regularly for a writer’s group. But I felt the best person qualified to be nostalgic. The event that brought us together was a fantastic celebration and one of the guests was the man who finally gave the creature a voice, Frankenstein writer Nick Dear and I was one of the few people there. It was a great shame.
As part of the Essex Book Festival, the university and the Lakeside Theatre were celebrating 50 years of theatre. We would be talking about the great history of the dark space underneath the library as well as the plays that explode when history and theatre meet. Jeremy Krickler, a proper historian would be work-shopping a play he is attempting to write on a moment in history too dramatic and terrible to be lost in an essay. Nick Dear wrote a piece based on the life of Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft was the mother of Mary Shelley who obviously went on to write Frankenstein, this is a coincidence. Or was it?
It was exciting to hear Nick Dear talk about his time at Essex. His degree is in Comparative European Literature which he got back in 1977, Drama only became available as an option thirty years ago. But the theatre was there in his day, Dear saw it as an excellent opportunity to meet girls, playing the complex character of Murderer 2 in Macbeth. It brought a smile to my face to know Dear had also ‘endured’ the Enlightenment module, a study into Europe when science began to rein supreme. Looking back, I’m glad I did that module. How can you question knowledge and authority without knowing where it all started? Dear must be glad too as he went on to write a number of plays based on that crucial era.
I look back at my time at the University of Essex fondly. I think about the girls I lived with, the Essex Tramps (the sport trampolining, not the life style) and, more importantly, the girls I did the course with. We did more than create together, we’re lifelong friends after sharing in the frustration and ecstasy. I think of myself and Rachel spending hours in the library cursing our younger selves for choosing to do the Independent Practical Project rather than a simple module. It is the university that gave me the opportunity to explore playwriting as a vocation but it’s those girls that encouraged me. And events like this are encouraging. Dear and Krickler didn’t study drama but that doesn’t make them inadequate playwrights. Studying drama has put me at an advantage but I don’t need any more qualifications, like them, I just have to have a story that needs to be told and tell it.