“Danger? Hah! I laugh in the face of danger!” – Simba, The Lion King
Have you ever felt just completely numb? I don’t mean in the sort of numb that occurs when you’re cold or if you’ve been given a dead leg. I mean numb as in… well, that’s exactly it. I don’t know. There are no words to describe it.
I think there’s a lot of people who are feeling like that now, and a lot more who will when they wake up.
For the past three or four hours I’ve gradually seen the news spread of Matt Dunkley’s death. And as the news has spread, tributes, messages and pictures have been slowly filling up every corner of my news feed. This isn’t one of those times when the person being mourned is someone we have never met and were never likely to meet but we were sad because of who they were and what they did. A lot of people knew Matt Dunkley. A lot of people cared about him. A lot of people will miss him.
I’m not even sure I should be writing this post. I hadn’t known him since we were kids. I hadn’t gone to school with him. I wasn’t even one of his closest friends at University… but he was still a friend and, in some strange sort of way, a mentor.
The first time I met Matt was during Introduction to Performance. My first class on the first Monday of my first year at University. He was loud, cocky and slightly annoying, but full of life. I believe the last time I saw him was not long after his play – a collaboration with TJ Choongh called Forever Young – was performed. He was loud, cocky and still slightly annoying, but full of life: I guess some things never change.
And I suppose that was his most redeeming quality. He never changed, not really. You always knew what you were going to get with him, Whether that be him getting naked because he felt like it or him leaving you in fits of laughter. Maybe it was a sympathetic arm around the shoulder or even, as it was for me, offering you advice and encouragement along every step of the way. I want to say thank you for that. For helping me. Even when you had everything piling on top of you after Christmas this year you still offered to step away and spend time helping me with my own work. That’s just who you were.
Matt was kind and always wanted others to be laughing and having fun. I guess I was one of the lucky ones. I knew Matt for three years, I performed with him twice, directed him once and collaborated with him and TJ on their final project. He’d also get me a drink whenever I saw him on a night out.
Death is always difficult, and it never gets easier. But you know that some deaths are likely to happen earlier in your life than others; grandparents, great-grandparents, even the generation above. The death of someone your age – especially when you are all only in your early twenties – is something you don’t expect. Ever. You were too young Matt, now you’ll be forever young.
So here’s to you, for never being anyone but yourself. We all will miss you.