Quite suddenly, at about six o’clock this evening, a wave of sadness cut through me. I was walking down the river, past empty rowing clubs and football fields. The sadness came in like a bludgeon. It isn’t just my sadness, although that’s present, mixed up with uncertainty about the future. But this is me in my capacity as sponge. I’ve long considered it to be an unspoken part of my job, to try to convert negative energy into something positive. I can soak up quite a lot of it and convert it before I have to spit the flies out. But today, suddenly, just now, it crept up on me. It’s everywhere, at the moment, clinging to people’s shoulders as they walk, steaming in puddles where their heavy feet have trodden, swirling from the edges of their eyes in dark and muddled tendrils. Discomfort. Rage. Pain. Fear.
I’ve been totally open since I got back from the woods. Wide open, feeling and observing. And I’m remembering why that’s difficult in this town at the best of times. So many stories, so much tightly pushed in pain. The simmering rage of fragile egos and of victims. Entitlement crashing against resentment. Messes of jumbled emotion. All stirred up with masks thrown in for good measure. And we in theatre are not alone in having no idea if there’ll be an industry to come back to – if this murderous uncertainty ever comes to an end. The structures we relied on, the things we took for granted… All gone. Hubris to think there was a structure. That there was longevity. That there was logic or justice.
Dark clouds are rolling in over the river as I walk. The atmosphere is depressurising after the heat of the last few days, bringing the release of wind and rain and of this sadness. I’ve stopped for a moment in an unobserved cornice, the wall of what was once a pub and will be again, but now is just an empty house, loosely sheltered from the wind and the dashes of wet in the air. I’m trying to untie the knots in my stomach that seem to have come from nowhere – a demonbaby of anxiety.
I just phoned my friend and it was clear she’d just been crying. This pressure shift. It’s easy to lose track of how subject we are to basic atmospheric events. The pressure is a huge one – it’s why I fill my house with barometers. We’ve been shoved into our boxes and stifled behind masks as the atmosphere pushed us down. Suddenly it’s lifting again and we can breathe and the sadness is shrieking out of us.
So I went to see an old friend and her dog, who were both nearby when the sadness bomb dropped.
I looked after that dog for a few months of her honeymoon. He is a calm and wise friend, carrying trauma, but filled with that immediate doggy love. We got on very well back then and still now.
It was good to see him again. And very good to see my old friend. The longer you’ve known someone the easier it is to find equilibrium through their eye on you. I feel mended. But watch out for sad bombs.