Easter Bank Holiday Part 2
The Bank Holiday weekend started for me on Good Friday, pretending to be back in the employ of the civil service in the days when we got half a day off for Maunday Thursday too! Heavens those were heady days albeit the holidays were only a minor compensation, at least for me!
Friend with benefits popped round to collect the Easter egg he didn’t know I’d bought him; by the time he left some four hours later there was zilch to take with him! A pleasurable few hours passed with conversation interrupted with my helping to find a way through the stresses of two weeks working at a new site in Gloucester ~ apparently psychologically much further than Bristol. New work colleagues having grassed him up to his boss for checking his text messages too often!
The life of a private contractor is a curious one; always an interloper; brought into fire fight or trouble shoot; and always universally resented. Still the pays good and if one doesn’t moisturise too often enabling a thick skin to be maintained its fine. Most of the time! Listening to him did bring the expression don’t get even get evil to mind!
Reminded of how underestimated the value of the post coital cuddle is; the sweat smeared flesh, slightly raised breath (or the Labrador style panting in the older angina challenged gentleman) and a fatigued imbued heaviness. The sign of being comfortable with your fellow participant is surely a mild amusement as the waves of sleepiness waft over you knowing that to give into a snooze will be acceptable. Not a sign of failure, more of success or another little triumph perhaps.
Unpacking the dishwasher is such a personal affair, we all have our preferred sequence of emptying; drying the tops of upside down vessels – unless you have one of the sophisticated self drying versions; I do not! When someone else does it, helpfully, for you the next week or few days (depending on the routine of usage), is or are a frustrating, nay irritating, journey of discovery! Why have you put it here for heaven’s sake? What perverse logic made you put the Tupperware cup in the with the misc items cupboard (measuring jugs, grater, surplus coffee pots waiting for replacement seals to be sourced etc)? Oh bring back the tea towel and the draining board!
Easter has for the last 10 odd years reminded me of one of the cruellest tricks played out at my expense by an ex-person. By ex-person I mean someone with whom I had shared more than passing acquaintance but not got as far as a permanent entanglement. As it turned out I was being lured into a most unpleasant scenario; one from which it took me some time to recover.
The thing that still draws me back to this event is the Easter gift he gave me that year. That and the unfortunate coincidence that brought one of his names together with one of the names of another highish class waster I briefly played with. Together these two names form the Christian and surname of radio journalist who has recently had a new series on my channel of choice. Every time I hear the show, I never seem to be able to turn it off in time, partly because the subject matter interests me; or does it?
That Easter I was given a cardboard Easter egg filled with small chocolate eggs. I noticed a small plastic bag and when I looked at it there was a gold egg with a silver band round it. It looked tacky and like something from a cracker. I felt insulted and bemused at the same time. I thought nothing of it and put it on one side. Something stopped me throwing the contents of the plastic bag away.
Next time I saw the giver of the gift he asked if I had liked the present. I said thank you again and thought he was behaving strangely. He asked about the non chocolate item. Had I liked it? It turns out that it was not an imitation Faberge egg – it had the word Faberge etched around the silver band – but I genuine one. He gave me the presentation box and authentication certificate. It was all a bit odd; something controlling about the way he had given it to me as if to test me. I had no idea how right I was.
A few weeks down the line our conversation came round to marriage; he lived with his mother and we had late night extended exchanges on his mobile phone. When I think back now the whole thing was odd and disturbing. He asked if I would marry him and I was a little taken aback as it came from nowhere. I said could I think about it as marriage was not something I had ever entertained (with anyone although this was the third proposal I had received – at least one angles for immigration status). He said he would give me 24 hours.
I spent a sleepless night thinking about the proposal; turning it round in my mind and torturing myself. At the end of the 24 hours I had persuaded myself that this was the right thing; that I should gracefully accept. When I saw him and told him my decision he looked straight at me and laughed. Shaking his head and clasping his hands; looking very smug, pleased with himself as it triumphant.
He said ‘I was only testing you to see what you’d say. I could never marry anyone like you. Surely you didn’t think I was serious?’ But I had and I did; I was devastated. To this day I think this was one of the cruellest tricks you could play on someone. How could I have been so naive, so trusting and so believing? I felt utterly humiliated. It took me a long time to overcome the shame I felt at being so taken in.
So caution sophisticated ladies; be careful, be aware and always be a tad cautious. The Passion (National Theatre Wales) in Port Talbot this weekend was on the other hand completely real and genuine. The reworking of the Passion story of Easter was so intricately, sensitively and beautifully done. The Owen Sheers text resonated with contemporary conflict, of power struggle and of strong and weak.
The Creative front man was Port Talbot boy Michael Sheen who along with Wild Works and the NTW team all complimented by 1000s of community group members made the 72 hour event an utter triumph! The way that an atmosphere was created across the whole town was incredible. People from all areas of the community from young dancers and brass musicians to local bands and people sitting outside their houses with family photos proudly displayed. You genuinely felt a real sense of community engagement and a real affection for the project.
The two elements, of the day I attended, that stand out for me were the washing of the broken body of ‘Christ/Jesus figure and the concluding crucifixion on the roundabout by the beach. The bathing of the body was accompanied by choral groups as if paying respects at the viewing of a body. The event was in the closed shopping centre where all shop fronts has been swathed in plastic to obscure all imagery; the whole effect was reminiscent of my time in Russian when the snow/ice obliterated all signs of life. It was serene in spite of the hundreds of people watching the ritual.
The body was on a raised platform surrounded by a circle of women washing clothes out in turn, dipping in the water; wringing them out; smoothing them gently; passing them to the next woman. Two women were by the body washing away the blood; moistening his mouth; stroking his arms; and fanning his face. One of these two women was his (Michael Sheen) mother. (His father played one of the dignitaries on the balcony with the Mayor.
This performance was so sensitively done that it touched many people observing. I don’t know how to express the sense of ‘occasion’ that was created but it was, or felt, real. Given the quiet in the crowd, the glares directed at people who spoke too loudly or failed to control their offspring, this really touched people individually. We were both silently in our own worlds as we stood outside in the sun.
This display of kindness gently administered reminded us of the thousands of mothers around the world who never get the chance to say good bye to their loved ones. The Passion may be biblical in its origins but the stories are still so current. The conflict across the Middle East, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Israel the list is endless. Will this story ever end? A sadness flutters cobweb like descending down its well flown current whenever I reflect like this.
But my sophistication readers we must never give in to this sadness; never allow ourselves to wallow too long in solemn pastures; but we must keep our sense of outrage alive and never forget!
The long day ended at 10 plus pm when the Sheenmeister (direct quotation from a DJ we passed on our long walk to the beach) arrive dragging his own cross. As reported in the press today he was nailed to the cross albeit briefly; and he gave a valedictory speech directed to a local audience as he remembered places no longer standing in the town. Following a short series of steps where he was redeemed (or sorts in the form of the ICA leaving the town); taken down from the cross; and returned in the garb worn earlier by ‘John the Baptist’! Hurrah long live Port Talbot perhaps you too will rise again one day!
The Passion was a fitting end to the first year of the National Theatre Wales. It’s been a long year with highs (some very) and some lows but overall for me a diverse and balanced programme of theatre in its broadest sense has been achieved. Well done Team NTW!
So I shall sign off for the second time and once again remind you to keep the 23 May and 4 July free for the next two Salons.