Cousin-outlaw

My cousin-outlaw Charlotte once said that my flat is the only London flat she can think of where the door is constantly revolving. People are always staying over for a few nights. I wish I had a spare room. Or six. There’d be constant delight. They bring what they bring, the motley crowd of people who stay here. Some bring music, some bring food, some bring money, some just bring their company. The latest guest has left for Paris but I still don’t get to sleep in my bed because now I have that same cousin-outlaw staying, with her daughter, and Alfie the dog. All three of them slept in my room last night, to the discombobulation of Pickle, who spent most of the morning hiding behind things and glaring at Alfie, and most of the previous night trying to burrow through me as I slept on the sofa.

Cousin outlaw? Well she married my cousin while I was in a painfully awkward teenage phase. Georgia was born, but now they’re divorced. So we’ve settled on cousin outlaw as a descriptor. I stay with her when I’m in Manchester, and she’s always welcome here. She’s the only family I’ve got in my industry. It’s good to have someone to share the struggle with that’s related to me, however loosely. 

She’s a playwright, and her first play went global and was a terrifically changing piece of writing in the mid eighties. When I was that awkward teenager I didn’t get it at all. It was about women and the North. I was living in London and at an all boys school. The first time we met, I opened with: “I read your play. It didn’t do anything for me.” Twat. It’s a miracle we’re still friends, let alone that we get on so well. But I’ve been on a journey. I look back on that boy and don’t really remember how I was him. I still have his diaries though, and it seems I was thinking similarly. I was just riddled with insecurity and a social misfit. I’m still a social misfit, but I’m cool with that as I have loads of social misfit friends and we hang out and it’s normal.

Anyway, since that big play she’s written a load of gorgeous lavish poetic epic plays and far too few of them have been produced. Before long one of them will fly. But for now she’s just writing, living, consuming, loving and pushing forwards. She’s great, and a hugely positive part of my world.

We went to see Road tonight at The Royal Court. Jim Cartwright’s masterpiece. It first played that stage 3 years before Charlotte’s debut there in the 80’s. It’s the second show I’ve been to in two nights where the actors have been in a fishtank. I was happy to get the chance to see it finally, having been aware of it for ages. I’ve seen sections of it being beaten to death in small studios by hopeful young people trying to get a place at drama school. I’ve seen cut versions of scenes at showcases. I’ve never seen the whole show by a consistent company. It’s another very thought provoking piece, and a hymn to resilience in desperate circumstances.

I barely knew the eighties but it felt very much like an eighties I could believe. Despite my saying about Yerma that I was glad of the modernisation, I was equally glad to see Road in context. Clearly I just find something to like and then justify the reasons I like it later. On that basis I probably should never review theatre. I’d be like The Stage in the early 2000’s, where virtually every review was “yay theatre I love theatre it’s great 5 stars!!!”

It’s coming up to 2am, they’re asleep in my room. Time for me to turn in, so the cat can try to burrow into me again as I sleep. Here she is simultaneously hiding from and glaring at the hound.

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Yerma

I love Lorca. A beautiful poetic agitator, writing for women at a time when that rarely happened, poking holes in lazy assumptions, questioning things. My grandfather was of his generation in Spain and got the hell out before the firing squads. Lorca wasn’t so lucky, and was shot. By idiots. At 38. His plays remain. (And the idiots are coming back.)

I went to a cinema to watch some theatre. No way I’d have got a ticket to the theatre it was playing, but watching it live on screen was good enough. I saw Simon Stone’s brilliant modernisation of Lorca’s great Yerma. Bringing this tale of a life ripped apart by longing into a modern frame. God it’s good. No wonder it got all those awards. Billie Piper is a powerhouse of an actress, and gives so much in the title role. Afterwards we were wondering how she puts herself back together every night.

It’s an epic play about a woman trying to conceive. Grand domestic theatre. Right now so many of my friends are reaching a time where they are either struggling to make a baby, resolutely denouncing the very idea of a baby, playing the host body for a baby, or sleep deprived and wondering why they went to all that effort to have the fucking baby.

My best friend is heavy with child. My ex just had her second. Loads of my friends are in the early stages of a new life twining round their own. There’s nothing like that proximity to make you aware of your own choices. I’m thinking and talking a lot about babies right now.

I doubt I’ll end up with a kitchen knife in my belly if I don’t have kids. (It’s a modernisation, oh Lorca enthusiast.) I like other people’s kids – as they say, you can give them back. But my own? You’ve seen how I exist. I can barely book something a week in advance. My brother asked me to babysit on Monday, and I was so uncertain about whether I could or not he retracted the offer mid conversation and said he’d send them to a sleepover with one of their friends.

I don’t have the biological imperative, but I still hear the ticking of a clock. I was basically still a kid when dad died, and he was very sick for a long time. I didn’t know him in the way you know people when all that growing up bollocks is out of the way. If I’m going to make a person I’d like to have a sense of how they turn out before I pop off. Coupled with the fact that it’s valuable for them to have parental role models. I guess I want to be there for any notional children I might end up with, because I lost my parents before I was 30 and the older I get the more I understand the things I never got to talk about with them.

So, yeah. Simon Stone’s Yerma has sent me off into a happy sort of melancholia as I stand at a bus stop and feel the cold air of winter blowing in. Lorca’s original is important, and probably contributed to the fascists shooting him, since he was picking at institutions like patriarchy and Catholicism. This adaptation resonates hard with me now – (she’s even a blogger). It’s done with compassion skill and humour. And theatre exists as a trigger for thought. Even on a cinema screen. Catch it if you can. I’m glad I did at last.

It was weird watching the curtain call in a cinema. Nobody clapped. In America, they clapped at the end of Get Out…