Antwerp Koningin Elisabethzaal, April 16th 2017
There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.
— Judith McNaught
The thing is, when your favourite dancer to ever perform as your favourite character in your favourite show sends you a message to say they're coming out of retirement for four weeks only to reprise that very role one last time, you have to drop everything and go...and if you're really lucky? Everything will magically just fall into place and create one of the most special memories imaginable. There are no words for just how special everything about this particular performance of Cats was and always will be to me, and I will never be able to thank Joel Morris enough for that wonderful night. In truth is all started - as these kinds of crazy things often do - with a ridiculously ordinary day, a pretty rubbish day actually, if I remember rightly. And then, out of the blue, my phone lights up with a message. Just seeing the message was from Joel was enough to lift my spirits; I was delighted that even though he wasn't in the show any longer he was still keeping in touch and he is someone who always makes me smile. Everything else about that day was quick to fall away, however, when I saw what the message said: Joel was back as Carbucketty in Cats, filling in during yet another injury crisis and back with the show for its international tour for almost a whole month. Even as I was messaging back a "When? Where? How?" my mind was already turning over - it's impossible, I can't really fit in a theatre trip right now let alone one to Europe, I'm so happy he's back but so sad I won't see it. And then Joel said he would be there for their entire run in Antwerp. And then I started searching the internet for how difficult exactly it was to get there from Stoke. And then I started looking at dates. Then tickets. Then flights. And somehow, I have no idea how, everything just fell into place: the smallest window of time could be found, the wildest and most unlikely coincidence was in that window of time there were the perfect front row tickets on Carbucketty's side of the stage. I told Joel: I'll be there. He seemed so happy to hear it and I trul hope it was, because let me tell you, happy doesn't even come close to describing the way I felt about the unlikely oppertunity which had just fallen into my lap and turned a bad day into the beginning of a new adventure.
Some things are more precious because they don’t last long.
— Oscar Wilde
At an ungodly hour of the morning, and still exhausted from a football match the day before, I woke up to the realisation that I had gotten myself into something truly crazy just for the sake of seeing a performance of a show I had already attended 53 performances of in my life! As terrifying and nervewracking as it all was, as worried as I was about timings and travel and everything that comes along with a trip like this one, the thought of Joel Morris - THE Joel Morris! - going on as Carbucketty for possibly the last few times ever and me not seeing it was enough to make me pull myself out of bed and throw what little energy I had to spare into the journey. It felt so long and yet so quick at the same time, everything going by in a half-asleep blur. I was overwhelmed and, even when the nerves about getting to Antwerp on time were soothed by our prompt arrival at the hotel, the usual pre-show pre-stage door nerves were starting to kick in. I remember feeling so beyond excited as I go ready. I had told Joel I had made it - he had earlier offered to get me a code for a discount on seats and he asked again if I needed it, but luckily I had found the perfect seats so I told him it was fine and that I would see him soon and I don't think it was until that moment that it actually started to feel real. The rush of joy and excitement as we entered the foyer of the (beautiful) theatre was, however, briefly puntured by my dad's revelation that he had accidentally locked our tickets in his hotel room. I waited at the theatre in agony! I thought I was going to be late in to my last chance to see Joel as Carbucketty, or worse still miss the whole thing entirely! But yet again things just...fell into place. The hotel key situation was resolved and the tickets were retrieved in good time for me to be sitting with held breath and tears already in my eyes as the lights went down and, eventually, out of the darkness after the Overture I got to see Joel appear as My Carbucketty, scurrying out for Jellicle Songs with that kittenish look of his which never failed to make me smile and fall in love with the character all over again. I spent the whole performance watching him; I couldn't take my eyes of Carbucketty for more than a couple of seconds at a time, I was too desperate to try and take it all in and commit every detail of Joel's portrayal to memory so that it could stay as clear in my mind as possible despite all the other protrayals I have seen and will see. In the video below I mention the highlights of the performance itself, but one detail in particular which will forever stay with me is Joel echoing our in-show-goodbye from Nottingham back in 2014 by blowing me as kiss as he leapt off into the wings. Desperately trying not to ruin my make-up by crying any more than I already had, as the lights came up I was on a mission: get to stage door and give Joel the biggest hug I could! One small snag: with the drama of the tickets I had broken my own golden rule by not finding stage door before the show - luckily for me my dad is a fast walker and went on a quick mission for me whilst I waited at one possible other door, and my dad definitely redeemed himself for his mishap with the tickets by finding the actual stage door for me and taking me there in good time! Thank goodness Joel is always that little bit slower coming out than some of his castmates! Though I also am sure he would have waited for me, honestly, as he was so happy to see me and so kind and lovely in giving me his time. He gave me an Easter chocolate as a thank you for all my support and he invited my mum and me to come to his post-show dinner spot with him to catch up and chat - we talked about life and the show and when we said goodbye I was so powerfully happy and so desperately sad, unable to put my gratitude into words and still half-gone from the magic and wonder of the show and how everything had seemed to work out just right, even down to Joel going to the trouble of turning down a chance to play Mistoffelees that night just so he could be Carbucketty for me one last time, telling Mistoffelees when he said he felt a little off and asked Joel if he wanted to go on instead "I'm sorry but I HAVE to be Carbucketty tonight!" - I couldn't believe it when Joel told me, how close I had come to a completely different (though it still would have been amazing!) experience and how somehow it had still worked out the way it did. It's hardly a surprise that the emotion (and sleep deprivation) didn't fully catch up with me 'til the journey home: I will remember forever watching the lights of Belgium down below me from the plane window, knowing Joel was on stage at that very moment and realising that, as the song says, the previous night was already just a memory - and just as that thought came into my head, The Last Poet by Take That came onto my iPod. I cried quietly to myself for half the flight. Tired, exhausted but glad to be home again, I set about almost immediately making a video tribute to Joel's Carbucketty set to that same song which you can watch on Joel Morris page on this site.
For the full story of my Antwerp adventure, I recommend you watch the video above which I recorded just a week or so after my trip when everything was fresh enough in my mind for me to actually talk a little more about the show itself and not just the chaos and emotion of how I ended up there - if you can put up with my rambling, there's things in there about the changes to the show itself as well as other members of the cast who I noticed besides Joel. The story as it is told on this page is a different side to the same adventure: the crazy happenstance and the emotion more so than the detail. This trip to Cats was one which will forever stand out in my mind, perhaps not for the show as a whole and not in the same way as those days back in Birmingham with the 2014 tour cast, but as something of a culmination of why I began stage dooring at this show in the first place: for the sake of believing in magic and seeking it out wherever I could, and for the sake of thanking and supporting those special, talented individual who had brought that magic to me.