Sun warming fresh ground after rain
Scent of cypress, earth and ancient stone
Above the old city the volcano steams divertedly
While tourists wielding selfie sticks
Search for a piece of the past to place in the present
I am in my head, not feeling
Only the grooves of cartwheels on huge cobbles
The oddly familiar frescoes
Tiled counters and gardens made for beauty and refreshment
Theatres inviting grand gestures
The smell of Autumn fires
And the wind in the tall trees
Tell me that I am human like so many before me
Trying to lead a good life
Enjoying the simple pleasures of light and cool water
Bathing in public
Food, friends, noise, geometry,
Reclining away from the crowds with a lover
In red rooms with painted birds
So soon to grow old
Searching for meaning
Or its absence
In the body of another
Shadowed by green mountains
Temples honour the unseen magic of gods
Pillars piercing sky
Breeding acorns, marble, ivy
And always the faint taste of the sea
Posts from the ‘community’ Category
Sun warming fresh ground after rain
Longing in Berlin
In some strange way, belonging
to my longing
Ich verliere mich
auf den Strassen, am Ufer,
Hey miss, one kiss! Kennst du
was ist bisou?
Yes I know, und ich warte
auf den Kuss eines anderen
Bis dann I am
Running in Berlin
Half an hour, cross the Treptower
Into the Plantenwald
Peace, says the guru,
Cannot be found but through love
Und bei dir hatt’ich beide
Deswegen bin ich hier
Diving in Berlin
Into the deep blue green unknown
of the present moment
Dirty and profound
That’s where I make my home
Thrown out of my own story
Strung out by the search for
Suddenly am Fluss
Wide, wet, open, growing
to the sound of my overflowing
heart, I am singing in Berlin
That’s my thing after all
We are creating, he says,
This world we are living in
Breath by breath by word by step
by look by text by laugh, my love
I am dancing in Berlin
I’ve found a place
I can be myself
Broken open genuine
Living breathing laughing
Crying waking loving dying
Choosing to be here
with everything that brings
The joyful sad belonging
To this endless crazy
Longing in Berlin
Wind shaking the leaves
Bringing cold to my bare legs
Autumn on its way
Missing you deeply
Breath after breath after breath
I am a river
Whenever I dream of Raphael Jago, I know it’s about not giving up. In the sense of not giving up on myself. Mr Jago was one of those people that cut through my bullshit in a really healthy and jovial way. The first time I met him was my first audition at Webber Douglas. All the other auditions I had were pretty standard but this one stood out. It was about waking me up. He re-directed my piece right there in the audition. He called me out on a couple of my tricks. He got me to address the panel directly, as if it was actually happening now. Which it turned out, it was. I left that church feeling exhilarated, like I’d just been run over by a truck, creatively speaking. I loved it.
I was put on the waiting list for a place at the school. Group sizes were small, competition was fierce. I decided to pay him a visit to try and convince him so I took a train to London from Leeds where I was living at the time, and I went to the school unannounced and met him on the stairs. It was a true meeting. He seemed amused and impressed by my nerve. He gave an enigmatic answer with that mischievous smile of his. I knew we had connected.
During my time at Webber Douglas my relationship with authority was, as it very often is, somewhat rocky. Whevever I go, I seem to feel the need to shake things up, to question the way things are run, to point out injustice, to campaign against complacency. It’s not an easy path in life. There were times when we disagreed. But Mr Jago was someone in a position of authority who seemed to admire this spirit in me and in others. I felt he had a talent of really seeing the essence of each person and their potential.
I felt he saw my potential, in a way that I could not at the time. He saw what was unique about me, and he saw the challenges it presented in terms of the industry. He gave me an opportunity to try out for a big scholarship, massive panel audition, terrifying ordeal. We had extra classes together, he reflected on the unique set of qualities I had, that was nevertheless difficult to pin down in terms of casting. When it came to the crunch I crumbled under the pressure. Nerves, clinging, hope and fear – I am frequently crippled by nerves as it turns out. Perhaps this is exactly why I have chosen – or been drawn into – a life of performance. It is where I learn. It is where I burn up ego like a moth in a candle. It is where I die and am reborn in every adrenalin-fuelled moment.
Two days ago I attended a memorial service for Raphael Jago at the Actors Church in Covent Garden. A church full of former students, all with their own story to tell about this legendary man and what he had meant to their career. Music, words, contemplation and much Anthony Sher, Samantha Spiro, Julian Fellowes, Terence Stamp, Steven Berkoff, Hilary Wood, Alexa Jago and more wonderful people paid touching tribute, through performance or personal recollection. I had not up to this point known that Arthur Miller had been Mr Jago’s favourite playwright. I had always been obsessed with Miller and had written my university dissertation on his plays, which I knew backwards. Death of a Salesman, quoted so movingly by Alexa Jago, was a particular favourite. I often think of Willy Loman’s line, ‘I still feel – kind of temporary about myself’ as a heart-breakingly poetic expression of the experience of living.
What thrilled me most was realising that my experience of Mr Jago had been so similar to that of many others just like me. I felt joyful to reminisce over my time at Webber Douglas, to hear the stories of others, to be part of that blessed tribe. I saw my teachers again with renewed gratitude and love. It wasn’t always easy of course. Nothing in this profession, or indeed in this life, is without challenges. But to know that I belonged to an institution, or rather a community that fostered such a creative and anarchic spirit fills me with inspiration to go on, and never to give up on myself.
Pantless she left the hot yoga class and sauntered jauntily in the direction of the Northern Line, a tubal wind gently tempting her skirt skyward. The zip on her right boot having finally surrendered to the power of her leg, she allowed both shiny vessels to unfurl warrior-style exposing the entire length of her smooth calves.
“Excuse me,” said a gentleman behind her as she embarked the tall escalator at Balham. “Your zip’s undone.”
“Oh yes,” she replied, “my boot – it’s broken.”
“No,” he replied kindly, “your skirt.”
Every time I go on retreat things fall apart a bit more. This is said to be a good thing, although at the time it feels excruciating. The layers continue to peel off and the same questions percolate: what am I doing? where am I heading? what’s behind everything I do? My latest realisation is that what is behind everything I do is love. And what confuses this is fear. When I am connected to myself, my work and my life and the way I manifest in the world become an expression of love.
That’s a good start but it’s hard to pin down what it means exactly. It’s even harder to marry it up with the often painful, frustrating and lonely path of an artist. I have been thinking more and more about the value of what I create and where it fits into this impossibly diverse and hectic kaleidoscope of a planet we share. One piece of work I am really proud of is a song that I wrote last year for the Wilding Festival, called ‘We Will Be Heard.’ I really struggled with this song. I wrote at least seven versions before I came up with this one.
The inspiration that was guiding me at the time was the protests that were going on in Turkey surrounding the prospective demolition of Gezi Park. I was moved and impressed by the way people came together to stand up for themselves and their community. I felt that there was clear evidence of a common human spirit that when ignited will stand against corruptive forces.
There are many other examples of this, before and since. The crisis in Ukraine is now in its third month, and since November has involved many instances of violence by police against peaceful protesters. It’s a complex situation and not one that I intend to attempt to elucidate here, although I have found this article particularly helpful in understanding its genesis. Most recently people kicked back against an anti-protest law which was set to restrict freedom of speech and action against the government.
I am certainly no expert on politics and do not consider myself a political songwriter. If I could offer anything at all to people in times of struggle I would want it to be hope, strength and inspiration to continue manifesting with dignity the basic goodness of humanity. If Nelson Mandela taught us anything then surely it is that.
The song I wrote inspired a close friend of mine to create a video out of a wide range of footage documenting similar protests in Brazil, Turkey, USA and beyond. I was touched to receive messages of thanks and solidarity from people all over the world who had been inspired by this. At the time of producing the song I was entering a period of extreme chaos in my own personal life, which made it difficult for me to do much more than upload it to youtube and watch the view count. My intention for this year however is to give the song a further life and I am now looking for a charity with whom to collaborate on its release.
Snow has been the major topic of conversation this week as it’s quite rare in these parts. Consequently it tends to bring with it various degrees of excitement, panic and chaos.
Snow muffles everything. The silence affords a sense of seclusion. At the weekend much snow fell, and from that stillness arose in me an inspiration. On Sunday I sat down at the piano and found a new song.
Now I need your help for a creative experiment – I’m going to make a community music video for my new song and I need footage! Please send any videos you made in the snow that you would like to share and don’t mind being online to: firstname.lastname@example.org
And invite your friends to do the same!