Friday, 28 February 2014

Alan Rickman

Of course, in my rush to write a profoundly dull blog yesterday night, I forgot to mention Tuesday night... The night we had dinner with Alan Rickman!

Nathan and I had gone to the Print Room to watch the remarkable Sara Kestelman, in Ignis, pulling yet another surprise out of her lexicon of theatrical surprises. I think most people think of Sara as a bit of a grande dame; a classical actress with a rich baritone voice who is most comfortable delivering iambic pentameter. We all know she's also done musicals, very successfully, but what most people don't realise is that she's a published poet, and that, before the acting work started tumbling towards her, she trained as, and only wanted to be, a contemporary dancer.

And there she was, in a beautiful production, delivering her own intriguing poems whilst three astonishing dancers twisted, writhed and undulated around her. What none of us expected was for Sara herself to suddenly start joining in with the choreography, not just in a token manner, but with absolute panache and beauty.

We'd seen that Mr Rickman was in the audience. Nathan spotted him by his voice alone. We'd been impressed by his graciousness. The audience was small, but he'd stayed, with his partner to see the after show talk, and not only that, made it very clear that he thought a post show discussion was a wonderful idea. Whether or not he was aware that he was leading by example, I've no idea, but I expect if he'd made a beeline for the door, many more would have followed.

Of course, it turned out afterwards that he was a friend of Sara's, and a "quick drink" turned into a meal, which he very kindly paid for. We were joined by Belinda Laing (I'm not altogether sure where she popped up from) and the evening became a fest of theatrical anecdotes. Rickman was witty and droll and I finally got to ask him about his 'cello playing in the film Truly, Madly, Deeply. Apparently he did the bowing arm, whilst a pro 'cellist stuck his arm through Rickman's jacket to do the fingering and composer Barrington Phelong pulled Rickman's shoulder up and down! It must have worked. When I first saw the film I wondered if he'd played the 'cello as a youngster. Now, of course, I'm going to have to watch it again to see if I can spot any of the trickery!

Rickman's partner is a wonderful lady called Rima. A long-term member of the Labour Party, she was a local councillor for something like twenty years. There's such an astounding bond between them. They seemed so loving and supportive and have apparently been a team since the year dot. Well, since 1977.

I've been in the Midlands all day at the funeral of my honorary Godmother, Janet. My parents met me from Nuneaton train station and we drove to Kidderminster together, stopping off at services on route for brunch.

Kidderminster is a rather tragic place. The town centre is in disarray. One of the streets we walked down was full of boarded-over shops including an old Woolworths which still had all its signs in the windows. I can only begin to imagine when that closed down. Probably five or so years ago.

The service itself was nice. It was a nice send off. That's about all you can say at a certain point isn't it? My godfather and namesake, David, held himself together. One of their children was stoic, almost casual, but confessed afterwards that he was in absolute denial. The other fell apart completely on entering the church.

We went to a crematorium in the middle of a windswept field, heard a bit of the Lark Ascending, and then the curtains circled the coffin like some curious magic trick. I spoke to David afterwards, and he invited me to go and see him; "it will all be the same; same house, same hospitality... Just without Janet." My heart broke.

We renewed our age-old promise to visit the First World War trenches together, and that, as they say, was that.

We drove back to Nuneaton through the length of Warwickshire, my mother's heart leaping for joy as we drove through the villages, heaths and forests which she'd known intimately as a young woman. The nostalgia-fest was aided by the setting sun; a giant orange glowing ball in the Western sky. We stared at it in awe, all thinking the same thing; "Janet will never see this sunset..."

I'm now on a train now, heading home, cramped in a corner right next to the loo. I am reminded of my last train journey back from the Midlands at the start of February. We'd been in Birmingham holding NYMT auditions  all day and Jeremy had treated us to seats in First Class to celebrate our last out-of-London auditions.

We were served tea and little snacks by a Mancunian lad called Josh, whom, we discovered was also a theatre director. He asked us all about Brass, and the NYMT. You could have blown me down with a feather when he turned up the following week to interview for the post of assistant director on our show... A post we offered and he accepted today. Isn't that a brilliant story? It just goes to show that it's always worth chatting to train guards, and bar staff, and shop keepers. My old friend Vera, a stalwart of the Royal Court Theatre used to say; "ignore the ushers here at your peril. They're the most interesting people in this building..."

I hope she was right. One of those ushers was me!





1 comment:

  1. Always so readable and each time I do I find out a little more of your life.
    Do you realise that next month Liz y I will meet your parents for the first time, sooo looking forward to all of it xxxxx

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