Friday, July 31, 2015

performing and arthritis


When I look at the films we made before and during the performance last year I tend to wince.

I look at myself, bandy legged and waddling along as old people tend to do when we have sore hips and knees.

I know I’ve no reason to feel ashamed: but I do.

And when I began to come out using a stick for the first time, that is exactly what it felt like. Coming out. Making myself be open and proud of something I’d been made to be ashamed of.

I don’t wholly understand why old people and disabled people are made to feel ashamed of who we are. Perhaps it’s because we remind everybody, starting with ourselves, of human frailty and human decay. 

That, and the unavoidable approach of sister death. And we don’t want to think about that.

I know I was in denial last year and trying to pretend it wasn’t happening.

That’s one thing professional actors have to learn to be good at. Concealment and denial. Because we are supposed to be able to dance, sing, play multiple music instruments, fence, ride horses and motorbikes and never do anything like show weakness or fall ill.

I, on the other hand, often can’t walk properly. And it embarrasses me.

But there it is. The arthritis began in the left knee, and is now in the right knee and hip.

And note how when I write this I say “the” instead of “my”. As if I still want to believe this is all happening to somebody else, and not to me.

But it is happening. I can’t walk any distance, climb stairs with any ease, or stand for any period of time.

It’s hard for us to talk about this, director Susan, archangel Annabel, and me. Or at least it’s hard for me.

But there’s no choice, really. I don’t want to suffer performing and the only way to begin to deal with any pain is to at least acknowledge it is there.

Luckily one of the many things I admire about director Susan’s style of directing is the way she makes use of space.

And the stairs in the Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre in Summerhall have lots of railings.

And the script now acknowledges what is happening and maybe the way I perform does too.

I hope somehow that in the process, in this show that openly acknowledges all our frailty and mortality, something beautiful will be made of it.

And eventually, too, that I’m able to create my new show about old age and death.

But that’s another story. For now it’s this one that has to be told.

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