The cut-throat world of the American high school is something of a second home for the ladies of my generation, having grown up on Saved by the Bell, Clueless and Mean Girls. But for most of us, our initiation into the world of Californian jocks and cheerleaders began in our formative years, with the one and only Grease.
There was therefore something very familiar about Future Cinema’s spectacular and interactive outdoor screening of the classic musical, which saw Barnes Common being completely transformed into the iconic Rydell High for the weekend.
No detail went unnoticed and no expense was spared in the meticulous re-creation of Greaseland. It was all here; the vintage cars, Frenchy’s pyjama party, the school hall dance-off, Frosty’s Place Diner and even a Ferris wheel from which to gleefully shout, ‘I’m not pregnant!’
We were completely immersed in this alternate universe from the moment we walked in and were greeted by an all-American football coach: “Welcome back to Rydell girls, have a good year!”
We were then accosted by the excitable Pattie herself: “Oh my god I LOVE the first day of school, don’t you? Are you coming to cheerleader try outs? Can you spell Caribbean? Oh my god, you CAN? You HAVE to join the spelling team!”
By the time we’d grabbed a quick mac’n’cheese and some popcorn, and been on the receiving end of some killer lines that Danny Zuko himself would have been proud of (“Hey beautiful, I got something else you can put in your mouth...”), I could almost have believed I was genuinely a teenager at a 1950s pep rally.
After a couple of hours soaking up the school spirit, the summer day had drifted away and turned into a very autumnal night - I had chills, and they were multiplying.
Fortunuately, once the film started, we were up on our feet so often that we warmed up in no time. During key musical numbers, Future Cinema's team of actors burst onto the stage in front of the screen and taught the whole audience the moves (I'm proud to say I can now add the Hand Jive to my repertoire).
When the credits rolled, and the excitable crowd of T-Birds and Pink Ladies poured back out into the streets of suburban West London singing 'We Go Together', I felt totally uplifted, nostalgic and, well, young.
Despite appearances, there are unlikely parallels between my experience of a bog-standard Suffolk upper school and the glossier, more glamourous world of '50s Rydell High. Yes, in Hollywood, the kids all look like they’re in their 30s, people randomly burst into song and the school buses are distinctly yellower - but the cliques and geeks, the sadistic sports coaches, the sleepovers, the style faux pas, the crushes, and the unwritten rules of who sits where at lunch, are universal.
I've seen Grease countless times, but never got so much enjoyment from it as I did on that chilly night in Barnes. I can't wait to see what Future Cinema brings to life next.