Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Edinburgh diary 2010: #2

Tuesday 3rd August: A hard day, but good, good enough. Most of it spent in the depths of the Traverse, doing a dressing-room line-run, then a tech, then a dress rehearsal with an audience of 40 or more, and a photocall as a little coda. It's lovely being back at the Trav (we actors say Trav instead of Traverse like we say Trev instead of [Sir] Trevor, it's the law), but after a few hours rattling around its innards, it's as if the complete lack of little bars indicating zero reception on your mobile phone might also refer somehow to your joie de vivre. Andy and Karl had it worse and more extendedly than we did, and our splendid production manager Mark too: they did a great, an amazing, job of staying sane and keeping things moving, though I think everyone felt that our distinctive way of working got a little squished under the weight of time pressure and various other considerations of logistics and resource. We are human. I'm glad we are human. That's what we came here for.

To narrate in too detailed a fashion the challenges of the day would be to pointlessly amplify and solidify them, but, y'know, it's exactly what you'd expect: first day in a brand new space, one we're sharing with others, one that the show hasn't specifically been created around. Aspects of the configuration and the spatial relationships it implies are more difficult at this moment than they've been heretofore. Not surprisingly, but perhaps a very little disappointingly, I feel far from at home during the run and certainly never quite find the lightness that made last Friday's public rehearsal feel so pleasurable. The task seems heavy, the sides of the room feel steep, the words are lardy, fudgey, in my mouth. Everyone I speak to afterwards is very nice and very encouraging, and I do know that this will get easier, but the moment-to-moment experience of the run is a bit arduous and I don't enjoy it at all. Talking afterwards with the wonderful Debbie Pearson and Andy Field of Forest Fringe (etc.) is a lovely way to be transported out of those post-show doldrums, but, man, the pair of them!, they're both so beautiful and their thinking is so incredibly agile and generous and light, I feel like an old crock sitting with them. Walking home I fantasize about having someone walk up and down on my spine -- more for the restorative than the erotic benefits. I realise how much tension I've been holding in my body all day. (The achiness might have something to do with sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, too, I guess.)

But we reconverge at home, there is toast and tea and we have all survived and a good night's sleep will reboot us all perfectly, I'm sure. I'm downloading some music Andy F told me about; I'm missing Jonny, who is not at his Skype-post (though why should he be?); I'm looking forward to tomorrow, and a day of greater ease and expansiveness (I hope).

Walking down Princes St this evening -- no Cage today, but loads of Yoko -- I suddenly remember something that seems pertinent, although initially I'm too tired to figure out how or why. I had a drink with some pals at the Founders Arms near Tate Modern last Friday, and at a point where I was alone at the table, I started to eavesdrop on an adjacent conversation. A group of what I suppose we'd say were Essex lads, of the early-middle-aged variety, having quite a merry, prankish time with each other -- you could imagine they'd all been friends since school and their interactions were still exactly the same twenty years on. One of them had gone to the toilet, and in his absence, another was telling the rest that the currently-missing guy had recently had a threesome with two women. Expressions of envious delight ping-pong across the table. Then the subject of this tittle-tattle returns to the table and they can't resist bringing the subject up. He laughs, and then he stops laughing, they all stop laughing, presumably seeing something in his face (I can't quite see him myself). Quietly he says the threesome wasn't with two women, it was with a woman and a man. And then he says -- and I don't know why, but this breaks my heart -- he says: "I ended up doing something I didn't expect to do." A pause. "But that's how it goes, isn't it?"

I'm about to open in a play at the Traverse, Edinburgh, as an actor! Not just a play: an amazing play, bigger than any one reading of it, bigger than all the readings of it, bigger than any of us can hope to be except in the boldest reaches of our togetherness. It's a play that prompts walkouts and expressions of -- thankfully suppressed -- violent response (both happened tonight), and does so by refusing sensationalism, refusing crass shock tactics, but also, by refusing dishonesty and by refusing to ask less of its audience than it asks of itself. A play that contains and honours that pitch of response, that is made all the more humane by its scrupulous safeguarding of the space in which those responses are seen as honourable, in which every intelligent response is supported, held up in the light of our best wishes for each other. That's what I've signed up for, day after day over the next month, and over the next four months. I ended up doing something I didn't expect to do. But that's how it goes, isn't it?

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