Monday, 25 May 2015

Flash: Today is Lion Day

Today is Lion Day. I put on the costume I’ve made and go into town. There is every type of lion. I see a cowardly one, arms linked with Dorothy. There is a green parsley one and a woman dressed as a tin of golden syrup. I even see Aslan, accompanied by a walking wardrobe. Some are professional and fancy-dress hired, many are Primark onesies; we all sweat in the sun.  
The air is filled with candyfloss and frying onions. People sing and drink but then there is a wave of whispering and we squash to the edges of the square to make way for the main event. First of all come children dressed as cubs, jumping through flaming hoops. Next is a float with the Lion Queen on; the most popular girl in her school, I assume. She waves nervously at the crowds. And finally, the real Lion.  
He is led by the Mayor and covered in chains. The Tamer walks behind the Lion, whipping him along. The Lion Queen is dragged down from her float and tied to a stake. Then the Tamer slowly unbinds the Lion’s chains. The Mayor backs away, as far as the crowd will allow. The Lion is unleashed, everyone is silent, the only noise now are the Queen’s sobs.  
He pads up and sniffs the hem of her cat skin dress, his claws are massive and pointed. Then he turns and in one leap topples the Tamer. There are shrieks and people run into each other. Then two shots. I don’t want to be trampled; I push forward. The lion is dead in front of me, twitching on the ground. The other shot was for the Lion Queen; blood trickles from her pretty mouth.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

One Woman Wonderful

This weekend in Brighton I went to see the one-woman play; Stalin’s Daughter by Blue Brook Productions. It was intense, moving and energetic.

I’d have been impressed anyway, but I was more so, because earlier in the day we’d sat on the beach with the actor, Kirsty Cox, so I knew she was a real person. And she was lovely, and actually Scottish, not Russian. Talking to her made us consider the intensity and isolation of a one-person performance. Up there on stage on your own, nobody to fudge a line with, nobody to have adrenalined chatter with, nobody to lament an unresponsive audience with. Her collaboration had been solely with the writer and the director. The show was all on her shoulders. 

The writing was excellent (I notice that now) and Kirsty was incredible. She gave real pathos to Svetlana, played multiple parts and I was completely absorbed in her funny-sad-harrowing journey. Despite being an ex-thesp, these days my attention often drifts in the theatre, but not here. Here, I worried, I cared, I connected.

Photo by Zuleika Henry
I’m rather in awe of good actors. When they step off the stage I still think of them as their characters. My excitement and enthusiasm sometimes is hidden behind shyness and sometimes comes out sounding sycophantic and insincere.

Maybe because we’d met her before, maybe because I’d had half a Longman, I managed to talk to Kirsty like a human being and ask her more about the story. Stalin’s daughter really did live in Bristol for twenty years, she really did find out her mother didn't die of appendicitis but committed suicide by reading it a newspaper, she really did abandon her children. A story waiting to be written, to be told.

Seeing Kirsty perform was inspiring. The people I was with were too. Drama therapy, counselling, acting. These are creative and worthwhile; jobs and passions. And I am part of this party too now.

Writing can be isolating. Reading to others is always a performance. This trip into the dramatic arts fed my pen-scratched soul.