Bristol 11.2.19

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Back at my perch up in the gods at BOV. The cast of Wise Children are all lying on yoga mats on stage doing Pilates. Curtain up in an hour and s half. Just went backstage and asked if I could help out at all. A guy who looked like a chippy walked past rollie in hand and said ‘When you volunteer are you back stage or front of house?’

’All over.’

Feeling a bit jumpy.

Had another run in with Jamal today, a well built and angry year 11 at Orchard. For whatever reason every time we pass in the corridor he loses it and starts shouting at me. ‘This guy! Why are you always on the wrong side of the corridor? You’re getting too close to me, man. You deliberately trying to get close to me? You want to watch out – I’m a big guy.’ It’s madness. I’m just walking past him in the corridor. I keep wondering if I’ve said something in the past or perhaps he’s had some trauma that creates this problem. Today he really lost it: “You almost collided with me!” “What is wrong with you?” “Come on then!” I couldn’t help it. I just laughed. It’s so absurd. We both ended up going to see Mr Hurran, his head of house, at the same time. He carried on ranting while playing with his hair and looking at the floor. ‘I’ve had enough of this. He’s getting on my nerves..’etc..etc.

I said nothing. Mr Hurran eventually asked me to leave so I’m still none the wiser. I’ll have to speak to him tomorrow and find out what the hell is going on. It was so aggressive it left me feeling a bit shaken. (Note: he’s now been diagnosed with mental health problems).

When I got home I got a phone call from Mary Cleagh MP who gave me a great interview about the 2 teachers who inspired her. Her A level languages teacher was a linguist who drilled into her the importance of languages. He would give up his evenings after school to tutor her and read whole books in foreign languages which they would then analyse or criticise. If it wasn’t for him she wouldn’t have gone to Oxford. The first evening she went to his study he had a book on ‘how to learn Western Samoan’. She reckoned it was put there deliberately to inspire or impress the importance of learning languages. He saw it as a way of exploring people, countries, cultures through the medium of their own language.

Wow, how many teachers are there like that now? They must be out there somewhere.

The cast are now doing other weird and wonderful warmup exercises: standing in a circle and playing ‘keepy uppy’ with a ball. They’re all repeating ‘mastication’ then ‘herbivore, carvinore’. Now whooping, yelling and shouting out into the auditorium just for me. Now they’re singing happy birthday. Don’t know what I’ll do tonight. Probably just point people in the right direction. Hmm..hopefully get to see the performance, though. Curtain up in an hour.

Walking back at 10.15 I felt the exhiliration of being moved by something but not knowing why. Amazing to think of what those people all lying on their yoga mats could be transformed into and what they were capable of. Standing in the shadows, I was a spectator at one of the most extraordinary shows I’ve seen. Dazzling costumes, breathtaking dancing, beautiful actors, funny and filthy lines, amazing music (glockenspiel – what a great sound that is – cello and piano), little touches like butterflies on wires being floated around the stage or flames used to similar effect, an amazing animation projected onto the side of the caravan at the end taking us flying over London into the house where the party takes place. It was absolutely an affirmation of life – a fearless, fun loving knees up of a play celebrating the theatre, its history, eccentric family histories, Englishness, London, gender bending and, of course, love. The power of art. It totally pulled me in, made me forget about my shitty day and dream about love and feel nostalgic about London and want to grip life like that play does and live it like the magical, twinkling sparklestar it is. On the way up Park St my head was up amongst the stars and I wanted to board the Mauretania and sail the seven seas and love, love and love again like it was my very last day on earth. It was a reawakening of that feeling that I felt I had lost on the ferry over to Paxos on my birthday back in July. Yes, it’s more distant sometimes..but it’s still there.

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