It seems fewer and fewer people are making New Year resolutions. All that business about I’m never going to have chips again, or I’m going to go to the gym at least five times a week has gone out of the window.  Instead we get dry January or Veganuary – all very worthwhile.  But I can’t help thinking there is something much deeper underpinning these movements, something that has been recently enshrined in law.

‘Judge Robin Postle gave a short summary judgement at the tribunal on Friday, ruling that ethical veganism satisfies the tests required for it to be a philosophical belief and is therefore protected under the 2010 Equality Act.’ The Independent.

Fair enough – but it’s a far cry from my only two successful new year resolutions. The first one being many years ago now and it was simply I resolved to stop smoking. I’d tried a number of times using different, what I thought, would be fool proof methods.  I’d tried gradually cutting down – failed. I tried only smoking cigars, but only when I went to the pub.  I found myself at the pub every spare minute I had, dragging on a Castella – failed. Then there was the ‘I’ll only smoke cigarettes when I smoked dope’ phase. Before explaining how this failed, I should add I never particularly liked dope. I had done it a bit at college, but it always made me sleepy, so I wasn’t sure where the fun was. By being asleep or at least in a semi-conscious state, meant I missed everything, and missing everything isn’t my idea of having a good time. The only occasion I found it beneficial was when I was filming on the war movie A Bridge Too Far.  We were out in Holland working very long hours and, along with various other actors, I found myself trying to relax after a day’s filming by drinking in the local bars until the early hours of the morning. Before you knew where you were, you were getting a wakeup call and you were back on the set for another day’s work, having had two hours sleep. Holland being Holland and dope being readily available, I decided to utilise this easy access and spend some of my per diems on a quantity of dope, facilitating me being able to hit the sack and fall fast asleep. When, back in England, I tried the ‘I’m only smoking cigarettes when I smoke dope’ phase, I suddenly found myself mixing with some fairly dubious individuals, but probably more disappointing they were generally boring. And to top it all I wasn’t really interested in the dope; I just wanted the nicotine shot – so failed.  I tried not smoking until the evening, with the idea this was one small step for non-smoking, but one huge step for me. This came to an abrupt full stop one morning on Beaconsfield station. Along with my wife we were travelling into the West End and I was tense.  No smoking equalled major tension.  That morning I fully understood the phrase ‘You only hurt the ones you love.’ I was taking out my frustration and my need for a cigarette on my family, because I felt I could. The result was my wife, having had her fill of me moaning and complaining about everything and anything, in full view of the Beaconsfield commuter crowd, lashed out with the palm of her hand, slapping the side of my head so hard it reeled backwards. The commuters stared in horror as she marched off down the platform to the kiosk and bought me a pack of cigarettes and a box of matches, those were the days you could buy cigarettes absolutely everywhere, and you could also smoke on the trains, which I happily did with my ears still ringing from the slap – so another attempt failed. But this was only shortly before all this effort became worthwhile.    

Pantomime in Eastbourne, so I was working with a lot of people, some I knew better than others, but none were family, so there was no one I could moan or complain to. I decided I would make a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, and at five minutes to midnight I had my last cigarette. It’s so long ago now, I can’t remember what year it was.  But since that night I’ve never so much as taken a drag on a cigarette – success.  But success came because I wanted success, I wanted to stop smoking. I believe to quit any addiction you have to want to.  At the time I felt my life was revolving around cigarettes and I was smoking so many it was making me lethargic – hey, I might as well have been smoking dope. I really wanted to quit; I wanted my life back.  A New Year’s resolution that worked.  

The second successful resolution was when I decided to stop drinking – alcohol, that is. This was because I was beginning to worry my drinking was getting out of control, so to prove that I could control it, I decided to stop drinking for six months.  I felt stopping for a week, or month, proved nothing, but six months – that was a definite statement. I was never going to stop forever; this was about proving something to myself.  So New Year’s Eve again many years later, five minutes to midnight, I had my last drink for six months. And strangely it was not really problem.  I didn’t miss it like I thought I would. So in no time at all the 1stJuly came round and the one thing I was really looking forward to was a glass of wine with a meal. A restaurant had been booked for 8pm, but around 3pm a friend turned up with a bottle of champagne to celebrate the end of my sobriety,  by 4pm a few more people had turned up with various bottles of alcohol and by 6pm the place was heaving with all manner of drunks and infidels. By the time we actually went out for the meal and for that much dreamed of glass of wine, I could have been drinking paraffin. However, the resolution was a success.

But now resolutions, such as becoming a vegan, have been deemed in law as a philosophical belief, which is exactly what a religion is.  This is no longer about trying to eat healthy or even trying to have a humane approach to animals, or not getting drunk for six months – this is a religion. And that’s what people are hankering after.  The more liberated we become, the more people look for guidance and guidance it seems, can often be found within a group. Football fans, Beliebers, Remainers and F1 petrolheads are all fanatical about their particular penchant. As organised religion slowly dies then other types of worship replace it.

It might sound like I’m against these new ‘religious’ movements, but not at all. I’m all for it. Merchandising, a way of displaying your allegiance to a cause, a belief, a performer or even a show, is growing on all fronts. Lion King’s merchandising is huge and last year when we were in Orlando, I was more than surprised to see the merchandising around Harry Potter.  From grandchildren to grandparents, there they were, walking around, wands in hand and wearing long Harry Potter style cloaks or as they are more accurately called – Gryffindor Capes.  This merchandising was everywhere and there were no cheap bargains kicking around.  JK Rowling can sleep soundly tonight.

When I did All or Nothing, the musical about the 60s band the Small Faces, we did have many of the audience arriving dressed as mods. But for hard core fans, the one I loved the most was Bloodbath the Musical.  We had people coming night after night, many dressed in cheerleader outfits, they just loved the experience.  Now if you’re one of those people that like dressing up, we’re working hard to relaunch Bloodbath the Musical again this year. And even if you don’t like dressing up, but just love a great night out you should come along, enjoy the vibe and experience a rock musical with a difference.

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