To be honest I was sceptical about the anniversary idea, was ‘not dying’ a sufficient excuse for a party? Isn’t celebrating an anniversary tantamount to become smug and self-satisfied? Fortunately the counter arguments started to mount up: people like parties, we like parties and parties are a good excuse to see people again. The tipping point was reached when it was agreed we would make new show for the party. Who can ever resist making a new show?
On Wednesday we had a party and shared an early version of a new show. Time Critical pits world events against Stan’s Cafe events with a chess clock restricting each side of the show to a strict 25 minutes. Fragments of old Stan’s Cafe shows are scattered through Stan’s Cafe time to link the two worlds. Rarely has a show opened to a more partisan crowd, so it went okay.
The party did its job, allowing us to say thank you to a lot of people who have helped us over the years. Within proceedings there was the obligatory moment in which the thanks implicit in the party were made explicit in a series of speeches and when everything was threatening to topple over into a formulaic cliché we called in Mr. Graeme Rose.
I’d put together a bit of suggested script for Graeme in which he complains that the fancy party catering is a betrayal of Stan’s Cafe’s founding vision. At the conclusion of the rant he takes a cricket bat to the delicious looking anniversary cake.
Of course in the true spirit of the company Graeme took these words and added a great spin and edge to them. He invoked the mythological Stan himself and just before laying into the cake cried “Stan’s Cafe is dead!” At this point in rehearsals I did think ‘that’s a bit harsh’ but then came the cry “Long live Stan’s Cafe” and immediately that felt great.
So that’s what happened, except now it no longer feels great, it feels perfect. In classic ritual structure Graeme smashed the hell out of old Stan’s Cafe and Stan’s Cafe is reborn anew. The anniversary is gone, we are looking forward not back, we’ve eaten no cake, we are as hungry as we were in 1991.