At the moment I'm exhausted. There are no other words to describe it. Rehearsals are in full flight, but, as a one-man-band writer and composer, this is the time at which I start to feel stretched like an old piece of knicker elastic. I have to orchestrate the show but I also need to be on hand to make changes to the script and score. Sometimes all I actually want to do is sit at the back of a rehearsal room and observe Hannah and the team adeptly overseeing the birth of my child. Instead, I suspect I'm going to be spending much of the coming week in the kitchen of our rehearsal space with headphones on. Beyond the Fence flashbacks!
We had a read-through of the script this morning with the full cast. If any of them were angry or sad not to get a particular role, they certainly didn't let it show. Thing is, there's no such thing as a small role in a Hannah Chissick show, and Em is a very ensemble-heavy show, so everyone's gonna have something they can get their teeth into.
This afternoon we watched the seminal 1966 BBC film, Cathy Come Home. Though essentially a piece about homelessness set in the south of England, there are story strands which link it to Em. Ken Loach, who directed the film, is actually a Midlander. In fact, he was one of my father's neighbours in Nuneaton.
Em is a great deal more lighthearted than Cathy Come Home, which, though a masterpiece, is a brutal and relentlessly bleak one. It must have had the most astounding impact when it was aired in the mid 1960s. Hannah and I spent the evening tonight texting each other about haunting images from the film. I learned today that the homeless charity, Shelter, was set up as a result of the film.
What worries me greatly, however, is that I can sense this country heading back to those brutal days. We still have a major housing crisis, and, with the government intent on destroying the NHS and our benefits system, we could well end up with an underclass of people who are helpless to pick themselves up out of the mire. Frankly, there but for the grace of God go we all. I actually spend a lot of time worrying about my old age for this very reason. I just don't think the state will look after me when I've stopped being able to look after myself.