Friday, January 29, 2010

I happened to turn on the tv today and saw a very beautiful film about Sibelius
I knew that Sibelius was, in effect, silent for the last twenty or so years of his life and because I fear silence more that anything, and feel so imperative a command to resist it.. and because I was under the impression Sibelius had chosen silence I was somehow never really drawn to him.
And yet there is so much in him that I can relate to.
The fact he had to pay at the beginning to have his symphonies performed, that he lost money in the process. that he had to struggle against debt.
His ferocious capacity for self criticism. the appalling struggle to resist chaos and to create...
All this moved me so profoundly.
The constant struggle to find expression for what had to be said...
As I struggle, not at all in the same league (but that doesn't matter) struggle to get Every One into the best shape the script can be in for rehearsals...
In the times when I would find myself being sent abroad and put up in international hotels, i would turn on the TV and look in horror at the multiplicity of channels, and the power that represents, and the appalling low quality of the material they were transmitting, and feel so puny and helpless in the face of it all. Struggling to complete my works for tiny theatres...
And I am aware how the works never measure up to the power and the scope of the dreams that inspire them.
And Sibelius burning the movements of his last symphony that he had, after years of struggle, managed to complete...
How important to focus, somehow, on what can and has been achieved.
And try not to be obsessed by what has not.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I went back to the Biodanza class today.
It's been a while. i was very moved to be returning.
Since i was last consistently involved, my Jesus, Queen of Heaven has exposed me to so much hatred... and so much support, so much passionate debate - I get about 346,000 hits when I google the title these days - and it's a strange, quite a lonely feeling.
Without my family and my firends and my lover I am not sure i could have sustained it.
And then now, as I do the final script preparations for Every OneI realise this is a job, also, that only I can do. Even with all the collective energy going into the play that will increase in intensity as the rehearsals begin.
Strangely, too, in the last few days, as I clear out my bookshelves, I have been coming across the diaries i kept during my illness and have been reliving all those times when I was in the most intense suffering. And alone.
So there was something very wonderful about holding hands, dancing in the circle... looking into everyone's eyes.
And feeling part of that worldlwide group again.
I still search for this.
Which must be why I called the play, "Every One"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I saw the set model for Every One at the Lyceum today. It was beautiful.
I was profoundly moved by it, and by the sensitive intelligence of the designer.
There were a lot of people there: the carpenters and the lighting designer, the composer, the sound designer, the choreographer, satge management, production manager, the costume people...
It was one of those moments when I was profoundly moved and excited by the whole busines of working in the theatre, the collectivity of the whole process...
Aware too of an immense responsibility as the writer, the person who came up with the script that is inspiring all these people and bringing out their best thinking and best skills.
It is such a joy.
I had the same feeling last week, in the three days in the studio working on the recording of my new radio play, La princesse de Cleves.
The joy of seeing words coming to life off the page... of my sensitivity and skills being so immeasurably enriched by the sensitivity and skills of everyone else...
I feel a blesed and fortunate person.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

12th January
I phone my mother-in-law each day to check on how she is doing.
She is 84 and has a serious heart condition, and so I wonder each morning if today will be the day when she is simply not able to answer the phone.
My experience of loved ones dying has led me always to expect the worse: and I can feel my muscles tightening and the phone keeps on ringing.
this negative expectation has been made worse by the fact she really was very ill in November and December. She became horribly aware of the beating of her heart, tormented by it, really, and it was beating irregularly and sometimes stopping altogether.
This would happen day and night: sometimes when i was with her I would notice she was somehow absent, in an uncanny kind of way, and as if in suspension... and then it would thump back in again and she would be OK.
At night she would sometimes report waking up and feeling "as if I was away" and having to breathe deeply and deliberately until, thump, it came back again.
She now takes a total of twenty pills every day and must be a strong as an ox for not only does she survive them and their side effects but is also managing to get stronger.
She takes the intensest interest and delight in her surroundings and I think this must be her secret.
Today it was the thrush. She feeds the robin and the blackbirds and carries on the liveliest conversations with them: delighted today by the appearance of a thrush on a rowan tree outside her window.
The delight she takes is so infectious: and she becomes a delight to be with always.

Monday, January 11, 2010

11th january
I've been looking through old photographs to hand some over for an interview in a magazine.
I'm struck by the incredible richness of our life as a family: and all its manifold opportunities for happiness and pleasure.
Opportunities I never really made the most of. Because I was tormented by this feeling of being in "the wrong body" in ways I could neither control or understand.
I look at my old masculine, suffering self, with increasing liking and compassion.
Almost physical attraction. I can't help but notice what a handsome charismatic fellow this John could be.
And yet I never knew it while I was that person.
This fills me with sadness.
Yes, and compassion: because whatever that feeling was about, I could simply do nothing about it.
Except what i have done now.

A woman called Iris Robinson is hugely in the news just now. Her husband is leader of the Democratic Unionist party and First Minister of Northern Ireland.
She is 59, my age exactly, and fell in love with a young man 40 years younger than her. And lent him a considerable amount of money to set up his own business.

Neither her husband or herself declared any of this when they were suoposed to declare their business interests as ministers.
More importantly for her, adultery is severely frowned upon in the unforgiving fundamentalist church to which she belongs.
Adultery is condemned as fiercely as homosexuality; and she made some vile public statements about homosexuality being an abomination as she took office.
For she is a senior politician herself.

So it's understandable that many LGBT commentators feel a quiet kind of satisfaction at her downfall.
I feel sorry for her myself, in my usual way. She might as well get some compassion from me, as she will get none from the vile god she worships and serves.
I suppose also I can't help noticing how similar in her way is her case to mine. Like me, he became uncontrollably gripped by a passion she simply could not resist.

Apparently she is in a mental hospital just now. I hope she emerges safely from it: and with a little more humility and compassion.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

This cold reminds me of a time when i was just starting out seriously to be a playwright. It was a freezing winter the year after our first daughter was born, and we lived in a very beautifully placed cottage just by Rosslynn Chapel.
It was so lovely. And so intensely cold.
Primitive too. Our daughter was wearing terry nappies (we couldn’t afford disposable ones) and we didn’t even have an automatic washing machine to wash them in.
I was getting the occasional review for The Scotsman (which paid £13 a review. Which was taken off my social security money) and trying to finish my thesis with a typewriter on the kitchen table. Susie was getting the occasional article, or bit of layout.
We fitted the stereotype of struggling artists with uncomfortable accuracy.
And then the pipes froze.
The plumber’s name was George. He saved our lives. He was also totally reliable, very skilled, very conscientious. he was sympathetic and humourous and always a real pleasure to talk to. And he didn’t charge an unreasonable amount of money.
Round about that time I remember passing a plaque on the Royal Mile (and I still pass it most days) that was dedicated to “George Chalmers, plumber” by the grateful citizens of the Canongate.
I so understood why they were so grateful.
And looking back on things, it occurs to me that a good theatre artist is a bit like a good plumber.
Part of the skill is being able to judge how long a job will take and then knowing how much to price it. And being able to hand the work in, or deliver it, on time.
Pleasantly, without fuss, getting on with your fellow workers. And your customers too.
And of course getting out there so your face is known and you get a reputation for being good to work with and reliable.
Not to mention also being incredibly highly skilled.
The difference is that the market is shrinking, the competition huge, and there’s an amazing reluctance to pay you anything like properly for the work you do.
Which is also quite dangerous, in its way, and certainly can take its toll on your nerves and self esteem.
So it’s probably not a bad idea to take on a sideline.
And then you have to juggle the demands of both jobs: but think, also, which one makes you happier. Really makes you happier.
Because there’s no point in being an artist, or a plumber, if it doesn’t make you happy and enable you to help people.
And after a bit, obviously, the analogy breaks down. But its a good one to stay with for a while.
It cuts down pretension and makes you think about whether what you do really is useful and serves people.
I always thought my role models were people like Lorca and Calderon.
But maybe it was George the plumber all along.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]