Saturday, May 23, 2009

Tonight the Church of Scotland has voted to accept gay ministers in the church.
I feel a certain thankfulness that for once a church body has made the correct decision.
I could have gone to a "pray-in" outside the Assembly Hall, but went to see friends instead.
Two extraordinary brave and loving-hearted women.
I don't know what happened, but I have come back home again with a deep sense of compassion for everyone.
A profound awareness that everyone has their story.
That generally this is a story of deep suffering.
And that everyone, however misguided or irritating or evil they might appear is doing what they can to get through that suffering.
And that none of us has the right to judge our fellow human beings.
All stumbling through this life. On the way to death.
Perhaps it's been my work on LEAVE TO REMAIN that has left me with this feeling.
We performed it on Thursday at the Byre in St Andrews: after such a happy day preparing the theatre, and rehearsing, and then performing.
A tiring day, though: by Friday I was utterly exhausted.
I was sitting in my chair, looking at the clouds passing: and quite painfully aware of the rapid beating of my heart.
On the radio they were playing Sibelius' arrangement of "Come away death" for baritone and orchestra, a beautiful work he wrote just before his death.
And I couldn't help reflecting on the coincidence that made me turn on the radio precisely as this piece was being played...
And I thought: what if it happened now?
And that awareness of life's fragility seems to make it all the sweeter...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

LEAVE TO REMAIN ended last night.
Each of the nights was so different.
I feel i should describe them, record them somehow, but it feels impossible to do them justice.
The first night was full of fear; the second worked beautifully, with an astonishing discussion to follow.
the third i was a little too relaxed about, perhaps, and then panicked about 20 minutes in, thinking we were losing it..
It's made me aware of how utterly variable each experience is.. and how that perception i used to have that the main mountain to climb was getting the show on, and then somehow things would look after themselves.. how naive and misguided I was.
We have just climbed one mountain: and another huge one stretches ahead.
And me so horribly tired...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A rather wonderful day...
Dear Tom McGrath died this week. He helped me so much in my difficult days. A wonderful and inspiring man. I wanted to write to his partner, Ella Wildridge.
Then I went to the co-op to shop for Susie's mum. Just before I left my mobile phone rang. I picked it up.
Voice: "Is Sue there?"
Me (scarcely breathing): "What?"
Voice: "Is Sue there?"
Me: "Who is this?"
Voice: "Jill from mobile services".
Me: "Sue died in 2005."
Voice (without a hint of regret): "I must have got the wrong number then"
Me: (hangs up).
How strange, on the day I do a dress for a show inspired by her death...
I take the shopping to Jean's house. She is 84, as far as I can tell in pretty constant pain. Always interested in the world: ij the doings of the birds on her lawn, the pancakes she's going to make for the activity class, the salmon she had for lunch yesterday...
I so hope I retain her positive spirit and her courage.
Left, refreshed from the encounter.
Quickly changed, put on my make-up, did my hair, caught the bus to the Lyceum Press Conference.
To announce the 2010 season. Every One will open in March. Pleasant talks with Matthew Lenton (of Vanishing Point), the Lyceum staff, whom I'm so fond of, a very twinkly John Byrne on leaving.
And then to the dress.
Even though I'm wearing my own clothes, I made a little ritual of changing into them.. how strange the space felt. Ambushed, again, by grief.
What a pleasure to have such a grounded, such a creative day..,

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

5th May

There's a line in our show where I say: "We chose to keep our scripts"

and Suzanne says: "In case we get ambushed by grief".

Which is exactly true because it is such a risk in this script which touches so closely our grief. And most days in rehearsals it happens at least once that one of us is overtook by weeping.

This morning it happened to me. I wasn't in rehearsal, as it happened. I was alone at home. I can't remember what i was doing, or where it came from. In that sense it was a classic ambush: and suddenly i was helpless with weeping.

The memory was not of Susie, or of my mum. But strangely enough of myself.

I was at school and playing Lizzie in "Next Time I'll Sing To You" by James Saunders, which was the house play. I loved being Lizzie. And I loved her costume, which was a trouser suit in a bright colour. Maybe purplish... and I remember after a dress rehearsal somehow being free to wear it for a little while afterwards and feeling relaxed and happy and confident and at ease with myself.

It can't have lasted more than half an hour: and I was weeping at the briefness of it, of the loss of that confident person, that happy actor who loved what she was doing and felt so at home doing it...

She was destroyed by the bullying at that terrible place, and the profound fear it instilled in me.

And then I remembered a boy called Bull who was the constant butt of the most vicious bullying all the time he was at school. And I never really helped him or befriended him because I was so afraid.

I felt such acute sorrow for him, and such remorse because I did not help.

There was nothing much else I could do this morning, really, but weep, and I struggled reluctantly out to the lunchtime meditation group.

I'm so glad I did, because when it came to the walking meditation Jon told us something that happened to him at Plum Village. How a particularly lovely monk suggested to them that they take someone with them in their imagination as they walked.

So i took Bull, not even knowing his christian name, gently round the church twice.

Dear man. I hope his life was not altogether ruined and he has found some happiness.


Monday, May 04, 2009

4th May
Spent the afternoon in the technical rehearsal for "Leave to Remain", which opens in Thursday.

As a writer, I always find the tech a bit dull. Obviously, because there's no role for the writer at all. And I always feel so deeply illiterate visually. So I tend to avoid them.

But as a performer, it's such a different thing. You can relax, in a strange kind of way, while others look after things. And there's a kind of pleasure in that.

And try to get back at home in the script that suddenly feels so unfamiliar all over again in these new surroundings.

We are blessed to have Charlie Nowolskielski, of Theatre Alba, designing the lights. There is something very comforting about his passionate presence, his fierce desire to have the stage looking its best.

And the stage does, in fact, look gorgeous.

All we paid for were the tea lights... someone was interviewing me over the phone this morning to compile a profile of me for Creative Scotland. These are the people organising the business course me and Suzanne are attending, that have us thiunking about cash flows and profit margins.

I thought this morning we were clearly a model company in terms of cutting costs: spending nothing on a director, nothing on design, nothing on costume, nothing on the set.. and performing, book in hand to cut down on rehearsal time.

But we'd still have to fill the theatre at £20 a ticket for at least a fortnight to have any hope of recouping the costs of our labour.

The interview went well; the journalist seemed a lovely person, really well informed, up on this blog and the website, full of admiration for what I have achieved.

And then a little later this morning along came someone else, again really positive about what i am doing, willing to help set up more writing groups.

And on saturday a really lovely young woman appeared to give me a makeover, of all things, for a lovely photographer coming to do head shots of me for an interview carried out last week by two, and I need a synonym for lovely at this moment, young women wishing to interview me. Because they, too, are really impressed by all I am and what i have achieved.

This is all wonderful and gratifying, of course, but a bit of me, fortified by old habits of (what? modesty? self-depreciation?) makes me quite surprised and even suspicious of it all.

It's as if many years of guarding myself against disappointment has left me unable to appreciate success...

And I found myself wondering, as I walked up the High St. to the theatre for rehearsal, why it is people seem to be noticing me all of a sudden.

In a bad way, as well as a good: yesterday on the way back from church another someone in a group outside a pub said "Excuse me" very loudly to me as I passed.

And suddenly I couldn't bear to have it pointed out to me yet again that I'm a "bloke" and so walked on.

This kind of thing hasn't happened to me for years, and I don't understand why it's starting again. Do I look different? Is there something in the air?

And I felt cross this morning, walking up to rehearsal, to find myself feeling wary and guarded as groups of people approached me. Reflecting, a little ruefully, on all the years when I was younger and so desperately longed to be invisible.

I've obviously made a very bad job of that...


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