Bean has snuggled on the sofa beside me and is happy to let me stroke her head, from her nose, between her eyes, up over her head and down the back of her neck. She has no idea that she has featured in a number of my weekly postings, is a key figure in one of my paintings and even in my book, no less than in a chapter on acting in Shakespeare and in another on Euripides’ Bacchae.

Detail from my self-potrait with Harlequin and Pierrot.
Acrylic on canvas, 2011.
When I talk to Bean she invariably puts her head on one side as if trying to interpret my words. I in turn interpret this as the equivalent of us humans trying to fathom the meaning of the universe or the will of God. But then I also try to imagine what it is like to be her – is she, with her head on one side, trying to imagine what it is like to be me?

Bean on Hampstead Heath.

I can cup her little skull easily in my hand, but it is not easy to conceive of what it is in her ‘mind’ and what it’s like to live in the moment as completely as she does – ‘rich in the simple worship of a day’ as Keats put it one May Day nearly 200 years ago. I suppose that Pavlov’s cruel experiments made his dogs remember the dangerous past and fear the future, turning them into neurotics.
I set out to write a short rehearsal diary this evening and don’t quite know how I got onto this, unless it is to do with the mysterious state of being one enters, or hopes to enter, in rehearsal and performance. One remembers the painter J. B. Yeats describing Isadora Duncan dancing on stage:

I saw her (from her own box) dancing in the biggest theatre, and on the biggest stage in N. York – a figure dancing all alone on this immense stage – and there again you felt the charm of the self-contained woman. Several people said: Is it not like watching a kitten playing for itself? We watched as if we were each of us hidden in ambush. (In a letter to his son, W. B. Yeats, in 1908.)

To come to the privilege of rehearsing a Greek tragedy and a Broadway musical in tandem, I have been struck that in the one rehearsal I have had of the blind prophet Teiresias, as I got ever so slightly into my stride, I had a tendency to ‘sing’ the verse of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s translation, whereas in singing Alan Jay Lerner’s lyrics in Coco, I have often had the urge to speak.
The tower of St Martin’s, Gospel Oak.
Coco is being rehearsed in a chilly, fully operational 1865 gothic Church of England church in Gospel Oak, and Antigone in a converted warehouse in an industrial estate in Bermondsey. Stanislavski wrote a book called Building a Character: without denigrating the Russian master, I feel that what’s required is not the construction of two beings different from me, but rather two different aspects, perhaps wildly different aspects, of myself.
What I believe I have to do is what Bean does whenever she comes back into the house so eagerly, or goes out of the house – greeting the familiar street and sniffing the air for evidence with febrile anticipation. Yes, that level of enthusiasm and living for the moment, but with no hint of how slavishly, doggedly I have had to work for hours to get the blind prophet’s lines into my ageing brain!
In Memoriam
Roy King, husband of Hilary King and co-creator of the Red Pear Theatre Company in Antibes, who died on Sunday morning in his sleep.
Red pear blossom from ‘La Timonerie’, Antibes.
Just to let you know that there have been several updates to Edward’s website in recent weeks, including an exciting animated book trailer for Slim Chances and the addition of a News link (marked in red on the menu). Edward’s Latest News blog contains details of his forthcoming concurrent appearances in Coco at Sadler’s Wells and Antigone at Southwark Playhouse.
  • susnyvon

    I like the 'Latest News' addition.I have often wondered how to find where and when you would be performing. Thank you for adding this feature.

  • Christine

    I suppose living in the moment has particular importance for an actor on the stage–the moment being whatever moment the character is in. Of course, there are good reasons to learn from Bean and practice that sort of "presence" on a daily basis. I love the idea of greeting each trip outdoors with "with febrile anticipation"!

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