Friday, January 31, 2003

Friday, 31 January 2003

Yesterday I was watching the news.
I hadn't meant to watch the news; I wanted to watch 'The Simpsons' but they have gaelic programmes on Thursdays. The headlines were the usual horrors, the items the usual lies.
I think they had got to a point where they were telling about Tony Blair being in Madrid and his involvement in a humiliating, disgraceful, and utterly immoral letter of support to President Bush for the war.
And then I began crying. I cried all through Mrs Simpson cheating on Edward VIII with a used car salesman and all through the heartwarming story about old computers being sent to schoolchildren in Soweto. All through the football news, too: except that very quickly I couldn't bear it any longer and turned it all off. But kept crying.
I couldn't stop myself.
Everywhere, perhaps, were people crying. It is one of those nightmares we are living through: one of those nightmares in which there is something monstrous and deeply horrible in the room, getting closer, getting closer, and there is nothing it feels can be done to prevent it.
Writing this feels futile.
But we have to try to speak.

In a week or so, I was due to be working on dramatising Orwell's HOMAGE TO CATALONIA. It is due to be a co-production. Northern Stage, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Teatre Romea of Barcelona, all involved in negotiations to set it up. And commission me and Pablo Ley, a lovely writer in Barcelona, to work with Josep Galindo, a Catalan director and assistant to Calixto Bieito.
Everything Orwell saw coming in that book, and in 1984 is happening. The degradation of political language, the constant climate of lies. The tampering with the past: the creation of an utterly false picture of the present.
I so wanted to write it, I guess just now, to try to make some kind of protest against what is happening.

So now I must concentrate on GOD'S NEW FROCK instead. Maybe that makes more sense anyway.
Trying to explore, trying to discover, trying to express different ways of being a man seems more important than ever just now. As Blair and Bush and Hussein plunge all of us into war: at least partly because they are living out an idea of manhood that is profoundly ridiculous. And profoundly dangerous.

Something happened a couple of weeks ago in a singing lesson. I meant to post it here, but there was not time, or else I forgot. Just now I stumbled across the notes I wrote down in a notebook:
Singing in a different room. In a studio on the top floor of the acting school in which I work. I was nervous of singing there: I have only just found the courage to stop practising my singing in the bathroom, behind a locked door, where I hope no-one can hear.
But something very special happened.
It began the moment I entered the room. A large, bright, airy studio with a good feel to it. Something I had not noticed before: but then this was the first time I had entered this particular room with a view to performing in it, and there was something in that that seemed to lift my spirits in a most unexpected way.
Before I have always entered this particular room to watch other people performing, sometimes with a kind of envious sadness I have always done my best to repress.
I remember a similar moment I had a lesson in a theatre in my singing teacher's home town, and she said: Imagine! John Clifford on stage! And I felt a great sadness. As if this was the place I had always truly wanted to be: and had lost so many years out of fear and guilt.
In fact it occurs to me that as achild I must have really badly wanted to perform but that the message must have come through to me with incredible strength that this was something we were not supposed to do, for some reason, and so I suppressed it.
This must happen to so many children.

But then stepping into this studio, it felt so oddly like coming home.
I loved the size of the place, I loved the freedom it gave me to move about and make a loud noise in it. The sound of it: my voice felt good and strong and safe in there. At home somehow.

And happy in all its registers. On my practice tape Marion says at one point, talking of the face and cheek bones, "find a happy space up there". And there it was, somehow. The happy space. Where I could relax, and expand, and give myself to the note and soar with it, somehow. I've never had that sensation before.

And then the songs… the delight of giving myself to those beautiful songs. And not to care, really, whether |I was singing them tight or wrong, or sounding bad or good, just so long as I could stay in touch with the beautiful songs….

Although at the same time getting it right seemed to matter, somehow. I remember getting frustrated with myself at the end of "The River" for so consistently running out of air and not being able to sustain the final note as long as I wanted to.
But that wasn't about me so much as about the song. It was because I really wanted to do justice to the song.

I hope I never forget that day.
It so surprised me because I had been so stressed at the time and singing seemed to be an activity absolutely foreign and distant and absurd.
But that's why it's especially important to remember it now: remember always to sing.

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