The glory and grunge of an actor's weekend
ESSAY AND MOVIE
Four performances really this last weekend. Crawled out of bed on Sunday morning after Saturday’s two performances of Antigone, and by 10.40 a.m. was on the stage of the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells in a run-through of Coco, which we hadn’t performed for a fortnight. Then, after a sandwich and probiotic drink from Pret A Manger at The Angel (and buying new black socks from M&S and life-enhancing capsules from Holland & Barrett), did the 4 p.m. performance which was introduced by Alan Jay Lerner’s widow. She gave the kind of fresh extempore, effervescent talk that only a confident and practised ‘old pro’ can give. She was about to see Coco for the first time ever, and I shall relish for a long time her picture of Katharine Hepburn outside the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway, sitting on a girder, which was about to be craned up to the top of an unfinished building, and successfully begging the builders not to use their drills so that the audience could hear her voice at the matinée.
Under the London Bridge viaducts we have no power to stop the trains, but the basso profundo rumble is good underscoring for Greek tragedy in a way that the penetrating insistent high tenor yakyakyakyak of drills could never be (somehow I managed to rehearse O’Neill’s Strange Interlude through it years ago). The trains are the least of it: deep in the warren of tunnels beyond the foyer and the auditoria (two of them) there seems to be a microclimate. Arriving hot and slightly bothered by our flaming start to June last week, at first one was relieved by the dank chill, only to find that the costumes had been invaded by the damp, even though they are kept in the white plastic tent we have been upgraded to now that Priestley’s They Came to a City has closed. There is a small convector heater, but the atmosphere is more surreal than it is dank, as if, in the dark of the tunnel outside there is taking place some silent midnight garden fête – a fête worse than death.
Lifting my cloak to avoid a particular puddle, I approach the ‘wings’ for my eight-minute spot as Tiresias, my bare feet treading gingerly on the ancient, uneven concrete – I believe the Ancients invented concrete, but I find myself longing for the heat of the Ancient Greek sun in the floor and in the walls as I perch on a rickety chair in the, dare I call it an ante room’s gloom amongst the detritus of past productions – lighting stand and nameless brick-a-brac. The chorus chants and I imagine myself in a mask at Delphi or Athens with an audience understanding the tunes and lyrics as well as an elderly C of E congregation responds to the resonances of Hymns Ancient and Modern. And yet, as ever, it is the great NOW the actor has to create, and indeed the play demonstrates that, for all out trains and Shards (that unfinished marvel is hard by), for all the proud announcements that Antimatter has been observed, we are the same race, the same flawed people we were 2,500 years ago. And so, even as I talk of the gods being unable to receive our prayers or the fire from the burning of meats, I am aware that this is a tragedy that gets under our modern guard and inspires us with pity and horror. Horror such as the queues of punters outside the neighbouring tourist trap, the London Dungeon, will never have the privilege to luxuriate in.
Peth’s Staging Post, Edward’s official website, has undergone several ‘renovations’ and updates in recent weeks. The updates include the addition of an iPhone Gallery (with examples of Edward’s paintings executed with the ‘Brushes’ app). AND signed copies of Slim Chances are now available in the Merchandise section, along with a limited-edition pack of postcards and greeting cards featuring Edward’s paintings and photographs.