Thursday, July 23, 2015

invaded by old distress

Director Susan needs to be very patient with me. 

One of the hazards about trying to perform my own work is that I’m never satisfied with it. 

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JESUS QUEEN OF HEAVEN has been rewritten for this year’s performance, but in spite of all the changes and all the work I’ve put into it there are still lines that I feel are not quite right.

And I tend to rewrite them as I go along. Which is a bit of a problem for poor St Claire and her lighting cues. 

And my attention wanders off from my performance.

And director Susan notices this, of course. And then we have to deal with it.

And then I can so easily get invaded by the past…

We can’t afford to rehearse in the performance space all the time. So the Archangel Annabel has found us somewhere else.

It’s a lecture theatre in the University’s Law Faculty, a really beautiful room that she has chosen because it’s similar, at least in feel, to Summerhall’s Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre.

Except it’s very much grander. It’s part of the University;s Old College and exudes an air of incredible self confidence. A sense that whoever teaches and studies here belongs to an intellectual and political elite. .

It reminded me so strongly of the public school in which I was interned as an adolescent, and of the Oxford College where, as a scared boy of 16, I was interviewed for admission.

Both institutions possessed an unquestioned air of masculine superiority and a total arrogance that intimidated me profoundly and which I learnt to loathe.

I had ended up firmly turning my back on all that, because I so feared and detested it, and in my twenties had abandoned my thesis and all the middle class expectations it represented to work on the buses and train as a nurse.

It was as if all the fear and shame associated with these monstrous institutions, and the wrenching pain of rejecting their demands, had descended on me as I was rehearsing there.

I couldn’t figure out quite what to do with myself and began to forget my lines.

I felt self-conscious and useless and realised I was not in the present moment at all.

I was a scared schoolboy in a classroom. I was with my shocked and dismayed Dad trying to explain the direction my life was taking. I was feeling ashamed and lonely and afraid in my boarding school. I was feeling agonisingly self-conscious about my voice, which had not broken, as I was being interviewed for the Oxford College. And I was being humiliated by some pompous man for daring to walk on the grass in its quadrangle.

And who knows what else besides….

I can’t be the only actor to be invaded by such feelings in rehearsals. Thinking of it makes me realise that I’ve never really spoken to actors about it. Rehearsals are rarely safe enough spaces in which to disclose such things. Everyone is driven far too often by the brutal demands of deadlines and by the fear of failure.

“ I tell you everything that’s been hid must come to light” says Queen Jesus.

Dear love, she’s so uncomfortably right.

It helps to be able to identify the memories; it helps immeasurably to have the good fortune to be working with someone like director Susan who understands.

And so the work goes on…

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