I’m wandering through the monolith of Canary Wharf. It’s half past eleven. There’s nobody here but the cleaners driving around on their hoover buggies. All the lights will be on all night as always. All the big screen adverts lining the route to the head office of these companies that have the words “committed to the environment” front and centre on the website. They’ll be flashing away. All night.
I’ve been to the theatre. Surprise surprise. A two hander in the Isle of Dogs at a place called The Space. “Space” is an overused word in our job. You start to think of anywhere with a floor as a “space”. You walk into an aircraft hangar and almost without thinking say “what a fantastic space.” Because you’re always thinking about what you might be able to make in it.
The Space space is a good space. It’s an old church, very close to the marbled corridors of Canary Wharf. They’ve lit it well with loads of smoke (smoke makes nice!) and played a piece in the round. A major theme of the play included liver cirrhosis, which I found hard having watched someone close to me die of it. It was a two hander, a little over two hours long, about dying, loving and friendship. And homelessness and society. It was about a great deal. The cast had worked exceptionally hard over a very short time to get it on. I love watching shows like that. They’re the nuts and bolts. Two actors gushing sweat through every pore, right on top of us, fourth walling it for England, bleeding for us for 2 consistent hours with no interval. For them, it’s a way of serving their obsession, finding joy and getting fit.
For the first time ever in my theatregoing life, someone answered their phone in the seat after it rang lots at a sensitive moment. “Oh er sorry Roger I’m watching a play at the moment. I’ll call in a bit.” Bearing in mind I could easily have stuck my finger into both of the actor’s ears simultaneously without leaving my seat, the call was so egregious as to be almost wonderful. Only in Canary Wharf.
It’s the first time I’ve seen cirrhosis of the liver portrayed on stage. I was glad to, as it’s a horrible slow way to go, and it happens to a lot more people than we care to admit. It’s pretty heavily stigmatised so we don’t realise how prevalent it is. The actor, working on hints in the text, made a good shift of embodying it, even though he was in good shape himself. I found myself thinking back to the old “Surely there’s something I could have done” spiral where my loved one was concerned.
I drink a fair amount even if though I frequently get a handle on it and stop entirely. I sometimes think I’ll just draw a line under it for good and not miss it so much. It’s not as if my existence lacks stimulus. But drinking despite a cirrhotic liver? I can’t fathom it. Most of us assume we’re immortal when we’re kids. But as adults? Life is precious and intensely fragile. Death is a whisper away from all of us, always. And that’s brilliant surely. That’s the best thing ever! We’re breakable and one day we’ll break. But right now we ain’t broken. Right now we’re a mess of ambitions and hormones and hopes and frustrations and joys. And we’re all surrounded by each other, trying to make joy and comfort. All these pictures with sunsets that say crap like “live every day as if it was your last.” They’re clichés because they’re right.
Which reminds me. I’m out the other end of the tube now, and the moon looks almost full behind The Royal Hospital. Phone down eyes up.
Here’s Anne-May and I with the poster…