Monday, February 04, 2013

Great Expectations. Strong memories.

On the train to London for the opening of GREAT EXPECTATIONS.
And I keep remembering.
Remembering the process of its creation, 25 years ago; and remembering further back still.
To the time when I was maybe 14 and an older boy came up to me and "Clifford", as we did in those days, first names being forbidden and somehow dangerous, "Clifford, would you like to be in the house play?".
He wanted me to play Sylvia in ONE WAY PENDULUM and I was really amazed. I was shy and solitary and being in a play was not something it had ever occurred to me to do.
I had never really been able to recognise myself in the mirror and had an attraction to girls' toys and girls' clothes all my life. I knew this was dangerous and should never be admitted to or spoken of; and the chance of being allowed to be a girl in a play attracted me.
I hated that school. Its aim seemed to be to impose a brutal conformity built on bullying. The surroundings were ugly and the discipline as harsh.
And I had to live there. My mother was dead and there was no-one I could turn to.
We would rehearse in the library; and that improvised rehearsal room was the one place where I felt safe and at home.
When I look back on those years I wonder how I survived. One reason is because of the happiness of those hours in the rehearsal room.
The following year I was Lizzie in NEXT TIME I'LL SING TO YOU, and I so loved that. I wore a purple trouser suit and somehow I wasn't shy any more. I felt I had a place in the world.
But then my father came to see the show, and that frightened me. I felt ashamed of enjoying being the girl so much. I knew if anyone found out they would make my life a misery.
This was in the early sixties and words like 'transsexual' were not in common use. They were completely unknown to me. As far as I could tell, who I was was unspeakable.
All I could do was suppress the girl in me and try to be normal.
I still wanted to act; but when I went for male parts I was embarrassed and shy and couldn't act at all.
And then theatre became a place of shame and terror.
It took me fifteen years to find my way back to theatre, and another five years after that before I found my voice as a writer.
And then another ten years until I realised that this voice inside me, speaking with such strength and passion, was the actress inside me I had tried so hard to suppress.
But although so deeply buried she somehow never died. And it's her instincts that allow me to write good dialogue.
And I owe them to the boy who invited me to be in his play, all those years ago.
I managed to get in touch with him recently and there's a chance we'll be able to meet.
I do hope so. I'd like to say thank you.
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