What Is It All About Then?

A word from the writer, Daniel Hoffmann-Gill:

Our Style is Legendary has been a long time coming.

The seed of the idea was brewing in me as soon as my best friend Michael died of a heroin overdose in the December of 1992. I was angry at him for leaving me but the thought of him being forgotten amongst the detritus of a city in need of regeneration, where bodies of young men were rapidly mounting up, was too much to bear.

I carried our story with me for some time in silence, indeed I carried Michael with me, the ghost of him slung across my shoulders like a wounded war comrade. Occasionally, stuff would leak out of me onto scraps of paper but it just made me feel so damn sad whenever I read it back, that the thought of anymore writing filled me with dread.

Our adventures kept slipping out, heavily disguised, in my early plays and in intense conversation but the pain of losing the best friend I'll ever have kept the lid firmly shut on that part of my life. However, as each year anniversary of his death rolled on by, it got easier to try and document our time together. I still feel guilty about this.

By the winter of 2000 I had quite a few pages of writing: scenes, fragments, moments, ideas, pictures. Quite an incoherent collection really. Somehow, I managed to convince Giles Croft, Artistic Director of the Nottingham Playhouse, to give me some rehearsal space, a director and a whole bunch of great Nottingham actors. So at the very start of 2001 and for the first time ever, Michael and I, as boys, were bought alive again; re-animated. After each day of rehearsal I went home and cried a lot. The process was a breathtaking experience but one that neither I or indeed the Nottingham Playhouse, were ready for.

What I had then was a visceral, emotional, shambolic and perhaps un-performable collection of very violent, dark scenes that Giles Croft classified as deeply intimidating and not suited to the Playhouse. I thought that a good thing at the time, maybe it was but "The City" (as Our Style is Legendary was then known) was a feral and out of control creature.

I took the set-back from the Nottingham Playhouse badly and vowed to never touch the play ever again, concentrating on my day job, as a working actor.

But I couldn't leave it alone and kept picking the scab, submitting the play to various readers and theatre producers and taking all their constructive criticism on board, through slightly gritted teeth. I just couldn't shake the feeling that there was something there in the play that was essential and brilliant and that had to be seen. So I kept re-writing, honing, re-working, whittling the script down to a fine point.

With Shane Meadows putting Nottingham life on the map (even though he's from Staffordshire) with his stunning films, this acted as further catalyst and inspiration that my script, my story, had a place.

Then at the start of 2006 Operating Theatre Company saw something in the text and once again gathered a fine director and bunch of incredible actors to bring it alive in a rehearsed reading. They did a superb job and once again all sorts of industry people showed great interest but, when push came to shove, none of them were willing to produce the show.

I took the false hope very badly at the time but the huge re-write that had occurred for Operating Theatre Company and the vision of what they honed still burned into my retina, I felt that when the moment was right, I could get this play on and it would be utterly spellbinding.

And so we found ourselves in the West End of London in the Spring of 2010 with my dream coming true before my very eyes as Our Style is Legendary (much changed, much better but still essential and truthful) went on to be seen by hundreds of people. The feedback from critics and audience members alike was a fulfilment that the story was worth telling and moving heaven and earth to do so.

But the story still had one final part to play out. The desire to get the show back home, where it belongs, where it all started, in the best city on Earth: Nottingham. The play is many things but a love letter to my home town is most definitely one of them. Thanks to the faith shown by the Arts Council and Giles Croft at the Nottingham Playhouse we now find ourselves coming full circle, back at the theatre that kick started it all, back in the city that gave birth to the idea. Here's to Nottingham and our style being very legendary indeed.