I Am My Own Way Home

In the summer of 2018 I performed in the National Theatre production Pericles. Below is a reflection of my time rehearsing for, and performing in the play... 

If I could make it happen backwards, and play it out again, we would begin on the Olivier stage. Chanting, You Are Your Own Way Home, in layers of language, lanterns tucked into our chests like dreams. We glitter like a thousand stars in the sea. The audience squealing, standing so loud it feels like thunder. And on ‘I thought I’d lost you’ I’d unscan the stalls, we would step back, back, backstage.

A saltwater tear would pull gently up my face and audience astonishment return to awe. The heavy black shutters would reverse their way down to closet the cast of children and candles. Squeezed together, giggling together, cherishing the last time we are hushed. The last time the choir will accent our breathless lungs with silk; our last song together. Pericles would uncross the ocean as if he would never find Marina, as if it never brought them their soft, saltwater lullaby.

I would run to the fingertips of our dresser to re-tie my ruff for Mytilene. My legs glide backwards as I catwalk back on stage. My hips sway to the other side, into a sea like fantasy city; a carnival of emerald and turquoise, dance crews and our leader, Boult. Unhanding Marina and untangling ourselves from broadway lines while he strides in thigh high heels, a bleach blonde wig and eyelashes reaching the roof. Running back to my dresser, into my jumpsuit, my hair up for my last scene.

And I, alone, would trace up the steps. Back onto stage to tell (for the fourth night in a row) the wicked lie that his daughter is dead. The wicked lie that wends its way over oceans. The lie that pierced his harbour walls and flood his peace with blackness. The audience unwatch me, the spotlight unfollows me, I reverse slowly into my backstage cove. Prayer book in hand.

Brass wails pull back into the youth bands horns. Marina in Tarsus, un-captured by pirates, cold fingers wrapped around her throat, water rising, tempest-tossed. Her step-parents revel in the riches of the King. Our daughter of the seas growing young in their cruel care, until the ocean pulls her back, for the first time, into the shaking hands of King Pericles. The hands that give her away. With thunders signal and wet cheeks she wails along to the most beautiful lullaby a father ever sang his daughter.


In a land bursting with flowers and candid smiles, a party is prepared for Thaisa. I and five other girls tease her with mystical naivety. Tempting her to the rosy ocean, to sail out a little further. Coming together like muses in song: harmonising into mirrors, petals and perfumes, finger clicking and hip swinging, creating boat sails with wash cloths. We do not know that she will trip and slip into loves daze, into Pericles. She does not know that she will give a devastating birth or that her boat will split and she will end at the sea; where little Marina will start. All she knows is the feeling of the stars in her stomach. The joy that me, Ray, Hannah, Amina, Malunga and Michelle bring her. A joy that is as true every Wednesday evening in rehearsal as it is on our last night on stage.

But before any of that, when backstage is a riot, and Pericles embraced by the tough children with flowers in their hair, I catch myself in the mirror. Pericles laughing in the face of fate, takes to sail again as if for sport. And we squeeze and fuss and breathe our way to our stage entrances to morph like magic into the sea. All 200 of us, mirrors in hand, rippling and surging as violently as the lesson we are teaching. I remind myself I am not skinny, I tell myself I am the sea.

And prior Pericles finds himself in Tarsus: where real mothers and children sing together on stage. A declaration of love so public yet intimate. Oh Pericles. Not knowing that it is here that he will return to give away his daughter. Yet to discover what he leaves behind.

And so it starts in Tyre, the land of his birth. The first thread in this delicate tapestry of a story. Pericles bored and boasty. Introduced for the last first time by a sliver of our cast on the Olivier stage, a fiesta of stars in the sea, lanterns tucked into their chests like dreams. Not yet knowing that the treasure he seeks is in the lullaby, over before it began. Yet to learn that no matter how many crosses he marks on a map, home will call him like a siren from across the seas. If I could wrap it around my finger, and play it out again, it would begin with home in hundreds of tongues, in a dozen different hearts, ending where it would start.


Not the country of your birth 
Or the house you grew up in
Home is the one who leaves the light on
Who won't sleep until they hear the door click 
Its the hand you reach for when you feel the water rising

It's us. 

Hand in hand. 
Fingers spanning oceans 
Crossing continents
Reaching beyond the grave
Hands that hold me up
Hands that say:

Vous êtes votre propre chemin à la maison.
Eres tu propio camino a casa.
You are your own way home.

(Inspired by Kim Moore’s ‘Boxer’)

NT PUBLIC ACTS Ashley Zhangazha in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 11




Ray, Malunga, Naana (Thaisa), Me, Hannah



NT PUBLIC ACTS Ashley Zhangazha as Pericles in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 24

NT PUBLIC ACTS Garry Robson as Cleon (r) with cast member in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 16

NT PUBLIC ACTS Audrey Brisson (l) as Marina with cast in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 27

NT PUBLIC ACTS Cast in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 26

NT PUBLIC ACTS Kevin Harvey as Boult in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 30

NT PUBLIC ACTS Kevin Harvey as Boult with cast in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 32

NT PUBLIC ACTS Cast in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 1

NT PUBLIC ACTS Audrey Brisson as Marina and Naana Agyei-Ampadu as Thaisa in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 34

NT PUBLIC ACTS Cast in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 6

NT PUBLIC ACTS Cast in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 8

2NT PUBLIC ACTS Cast in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 41

1NT PUBLIC ACTS Cast in Pericles at National Theatre (c) James Bellorini 42

Pericles, 2018.

Start there

I wanted to stop writing.

What is the point?

I wring words from my wrists every month and I am still here. Half a dozen followers and enough writing to fill bottles of ink. So I tried. Hours later I find my knees pressed against my chest, notebook in my right hand, pen in left. I cannot stop. Incantations and rhymes dance across my mind at the stickiest times.

So often I am afraid to write what I feel. From fear follows a soft voice that says; start there. Start with your heart bleeding for the friend you lost. Start with resentment for a father who lives, but hovers like a corpse in your mind. Start with pockets filled with dust. Start with insomnia at 5am in the morning when the rubbish men whistle you into sunrise. Start there. 

When it all feels too much, I am viciously good at making myself wrong. But when I fall back I realise that being self sufficient in a rapid, tantalising city like London takes profound resolve. To deny what I truly feel while I am here would be to tighten rope around my wings.

Life is devastating. It lures me towards gorgeous turquoise and glittery volcanic lakes to fall in love with my silhouette. Lurking beneath my veneer is a pain as vast as the water, and the only way out is in. I have learned though, that suffering is not an end but a passageway. There is so much love to be made here. Oysters sit in the deepest shadowy pockets of the lake bursting with invitation. When I flow with the strokes of pressure, catastrophe becomes a slow, enticing dance. Perhaps I just need to relax my spine, curl my fingers and wind my waist.

In 2018 I am to focus on what is in front of me. As I think of it, I am not sure any of my deepest desires can be seen or touched. There are no goals, but clear intentions. Life will outrun me a million times over, so I will do what I can do now and relax into her teasing rhythm. And perhaps If I move about this effortlessly I will fall into the arms of the people who write my favourite songs. Perhaps like magic I will find myself in the sky, making my way to new places for exciting new work, perhaps money will just slip into my fingers and dreams will just naturally express themselves, the way the Jasmine just happens to blossom. Mystery is the elixir of growth.

One of the most beautiful things about being in the canal of suffering is that you learn who has the heart to hold you. You learn to speak because if you don’t the world will grind you down to dust. This process does something beyond sharing words online. Something deeply healing and satisfying. So here I am. In the bath, scribbling diagonally across the page. I have completely forgotten time and it is the sweetest emancipation. I think I will start here.


Wishing you a Happy Valentines day and (because I’m late) a Happy New Year,

Nadège x


Once upon a December

Today is my birthday. The clock is freezing over the passing year and the concrete is budding with the promise of a sunrise. December is a piercing time. When phones become mirrors and we are so viscerally reminded of what we do not have. I am musing on the past.

I have failed a few things this year. I was due to take my driving test last month. When the day came I hadn’t the money to hire my instructors car. I had hardly taken lessons in months; when I had money I was sick and when I wasn’t sick I hadn’t the money (or was working). In July I had a little but my brother asked me to go away with him and of course, I said yes, always yes.

A few months ago I entered into a poetry competition. The prize money £10,000. I had it all planned out. I would buy a camera to take pictures properly for my blog, I would use my winnings to pay off debts. I would buy a chest of drawers, ironing board and plants for my home. I would change my Instagram bio to ‘Manchester Poetry Prize Winner’ and watch my career burst into confetti. I would sprinkle money on my friends who had held me so tightly these past couple of years. I would travel.

My auntie calls me to wish me a Happy Birthday. ‘What are you doing?’ She says. ‘I am writing in my journal’ I tell her. ‘Write in there that your auntie rang, she’s 56 and she’s on the shelf.’ I laugh. ‘You know this is going on the internet Auntie J?’ ‘Thats fine, the first person that can whisk me away on holiday can have me.’

I guess I am not the only one who preys on stars.

I didn’t win. I was sad, but when I read the shortlisted poems I could see that they were chosen because they were gorgeous. I wanted my younger cousin and student to see me win because they had seen me work, they too are lost in the rhythm of the journey and I want them to see that hustle is heard. But maybe they need to see me fail. Maybe they need to see overcoming to overcome.

My failure is so dear to me. I tell myself I will do better, but I am doing the best I can. I tell myself I will try harder but I am trying as hard as I can. All that is left to do is relax. Looking back I realise that I took on too much, now here I am in the middle of it all and the only way out is through.

Shared below is one of the poems I entered into the competition. I began writing it (as part of my novel) last year in the mountains of Andalusia and kept adding to it through the year, it is now the poem you see below. I hope you enjoy…

Running (Inspired by Kissing by Dorianne Laux)

She is running  
on a wet path 
on the edge of nirvana,       
after she leaves her home               
in London. 
Running at 3pm 
when red double deckers                
fill with teenagers 
rocking the bus side to side. 
Running as bees and black butterflies     
as big as birds spiral around her. 

Running through centuries     
of forest under Jupiter and Mars    
as men with black fingernails 
sit outside McDonald’s singing                
‘spare some change please’   
as women are crushed under 
big bellied men and their hearts 
careen towards the sky,
her sisters hugs grow 
fragrant with distance.             

She is running 
to lose her mind 
to loosen grip 
on sour words she spit to   
explore the long deep space      
between each thought.             

She is running to forget time.   
To forget her mothers 
flesh on the floor. 
She is still running when 
children desperately scratch the air   
as they are pulled 
from their fathers  
running because her 
tongue can’t save her. 
She is running to narrow 
the galaxy between them 
once filled with words 
running because silence 
is her siren.  

She is running 
as if it would  heal the world     
as if it were the next right thing 
and the only right thing                  
running when it is too early 
when it is too late.             
She will stop at nothing.
She will run until her legs cramp, 
her sides burn with stitches laughter ricochets 
in her lungs her clenched stomach brings up blood she is running.

Nadège René



FullSizeRender 22
December 2017, The London Wetland Centre


Falling Apart


September to November has been hard. Hard. A dark light lurked on the back end of my 2015 and dropped blossoms all over 2016. This year has been better. Better because I have learned to mine, I have become a much more artful navigator. Still, I find myself standing in the velvet smoke of the horizon, palms out, stretching for more.

September to November has been hard because rent came around three times (and I was barely paid enough to make one payment). Three times in the last few months I looked at my bank account and saw ‘Nil’. Nothing. Nothing became hour long walks to work, dinner for breakfast and dozens of sorries ‘I can’t make it’. At times I am so slick I can make a little last long (I can find boxes of limes and plantains and cucumber for just 50p and make dishes with rice that’ll last days) but with every shrinking pay check the walk becomes longer, the dream slipping through the tips of my fingers.

At times I fear that I place too much weight on my struggles, but it is so important to me to share my stories of both sorrow and strength. I believe in magic. I believe miracles tantalise us till we surrender and I am so sure that my circumstances will change. But so often I look into the eyes of people in the pits of their pain, who tell me everyday that they want to die. There is an alchemy that occurs when I tell them where i’m hurting. When they see that I am falling but getting up, afraid but pushing. Maybe, somewhere in this icy online galaxy, someone will see themselves in one of the fine lines of my story, and perhaps they will keep pushing too.

My job is brutiful. I have lost count of mornings where I wake up and feel as though I can’t make it through the day. My diary bursting at its seams with lessons, commitments, promises and I am falling apart although everything looks pretty. At some point sadness sneaks between all of our sheets and who is to say how long she will stay. But how beautiful is it that glistening between each broken piece I find my friends? Friends who come get me at 3 in the morning to help me pack up my things when i am moving. That sneak home cooked food in my fridge when I am not looking to make sure I eat. That put money in my bank account without my knowing or asking. That drive me three hours across England just to watch the sun set on that corner of the earth. That leave bags of shopping outside my door. That put money on my electric meter. Tenners under my pillow. Surprise me with tickets to see my favourite artists in concert. That pray for me, are honest with me. Good friends glow like fireflies in the dark for me.

I am so grateful to have a space like this. Space to tease through sticky emotions. A silky web of compassion that runs like thread through the words of my allies. If there is anything I can tell you about relationships that bloom, it is that they are built in the toughest of times. My friends and I do not speak everyday, and our love at times outshines our like for each other but this translates into scared commitment. Commitment to assume the most generous thing about the others intentions. A commitment to seeing in the safety of non-judgement. And at best, they will hold my wild crimson heart and let in burn like gold in their hands.

December has been better, turns out the tax man had been taking too much and I received the biggest cheque I had received all year. But September to November taught me the most beautiful lesson: struggle bears the sweetest fruit.



Work in worth II

After work I go to the place I like by the river. I have spent hours here, thoughts softening to the sound of the waves. The sky is indigo tonight. I have admired this sunset nearly everyday for the last six years, only now am I sharing the view.

It has been so important to me to speak on this topic, I know my experience is shared with many, women especially. I am sitting on the edge of the concrete wall thinking, bats circling in the sky. You know your girly has to find the meaning of this. So here it is, the symbolic meaning of bats:

‘Prepare for rebirth! Use your own power and be flexible. The time is now!’

Here is what I will do. I will accept the role, hand in my notice for my weekend job, and use all the extra time I will now have to focus intensely on my goals. I will develop my artistic skills and talents, invest in my own growth and learning, establish myself as an entrepreneur. One thing I have done in my life thus far is overcome. And I will continue to overcome. And I will overcome and I will overcome.




Dear Self,

Go easy on you. There will be days when you feel you have failed. Where you didn’t get it right. Where you didn’t say it right. Why be afraid of what you feel? Anxiety can be a beautiful thing. It means there is a sensitivity in you that you can play with, and your sensitivity is your superpower.


Nadège x

I am about to start my day, and I am feeling soo good.


In my prayers (23.06.17)

I work near Latimer Road Station, close to where the Grenfell high rise went up in flames. My view on the weekend is of the heart-breaking charcoal tower. I am due to start work at 2pm today, and I just want to run. It feels like London is burning and we are paralysed by the sun. The first property I lived in was on a council estate. Not a tower block, but an equally unloved block of flats, and some of my earliest memories were of being burgled.
‘What a palaver’ my mother would say.
Some of the people whom I love the most have lived in such towers, and what I know about these kinds of properties is this: a large proportion of tenants here (if not all) are the recipients of what we call in London ‘social housing’. Rent is subsidised for people on lesser incomes and they are mostly given to those who are considered in priority need of housing. The council, therefore, is the landlord, and owes its tenants a certain duty of care. In the case of Grenfell Tower, the landlord is The ‘Royal’ borough of Kensington and Chelsea. One of the richest boroughs in the United Kingdom, and probably in all of Europe. A five minute walk from Grenfell, you will find ivory mansions with cellars; steps that cascade onto streets adorned by trees with butterfly pink blossoms. And if you stand in just the right place, you can see the tower from there too. It is a scary irony to walk through.
My experience is this: I left home when I was 16, lived in hostels in Birmingham three years prior to getting into University and moving into student halls of residence in London. It was very apparent to me by the way these properties were kept that we were not in the thoughts or heart of the council. I remember the week I moved in, a girl screaming at the manager because her fridge had been broken for three months. And lifts out of service for weeks in an 80 bed building. In another hostel I lived, in an area with a strong influx of drugs and all of the trimmings that come with, the hostel gates were kicked open and I don’t recall them ever properly being fixed. Hostels, for young people who would otherwise be homeless, many of whom young people leaving the care system, open for all to access. Just a few months ago my friend was offered a flat in a similar tower, she was pregnant at the time. The walls were embossed with mould and the sink was on the floor.
I am angry. What happened a week and a half ago does not surprise me. The council cuts corners all the way to crises. This isn’t new. Many people have died due to the negligence of the council, the only difference is that they usually burn slowly. Young children develop asthma for living in homes infested with mould. Young people with no parents or postcode are homeless because every council rejects the duty of housing them. Adults with disabilities present themselves persistently to doctors who prescribe them medication to keep them at bay, only to find out that they had pneumonia or leukaemia and by which time it is too late.
Grenfell Tower has given London a new view. A view that contradicts the romantic image of immigrants and benefit recipients (exploiting the welfare state) that the media artfully paint. Yes, there are a few who have lovely homes and maybe receive more than they might need. But a large majority get put in unliveable properties vulnerable to mould, rodents, flooding, and in the case of those at Grenfell Tower, get left in an inferno to burn.
Grenfell Tower is in my prayers. The children I used to see playing on the grass in front of the tower are in my prayers. The young boys riding mopeds from the block to the road, chilling and listening to music on their phones are in my prayers. The Latimer Road community is in my prayers and everyone at the Kensington Leisure Centre. Students at Avondale Park school are in my prayers.
London is in my prayers.
Nadège x

To all the students in the place, with style and grace

…because why not quote Biggie during exam season?
 ‘Nadège, I wanna create dope things and live off of my creations.’ My friend said to me the other night. ‘I’m not sure,’ I said. ‘I don’t think it’s about getting paid off your creations, I think it’s about getting paid off your vibration.’
Abundance is effortless. What you do can bring in money, but the way you are attracts wealth. Through clumsy money errors, I have learnt a lot about money in the last year; I have learned that it’s not so much about how much you have, it’s about how you use what you have. When it comes to studying, like money and many things, it’s about the way you do it. Which is why my approach to education is inherently playful.
On weekdays I tutor young women who have fallen through the cracks of mainstream education. Currently, I guide them through GCSE’s in English (language and literature), Maths, Science, Art (design and photography) and Spanish.I wrote tips for my student to help her prepare for her English Literature exams she will sit in a fortnight and I’d like to share what I wrote with you…
1. Post-it. Everywhere
 Those small sheets of paper that find themselves everywhere? Plain at front, sticky at back? Use them. Find quotes from all of the texts you are studying (for example, Macbeth, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Christmas Carol, your poetry anthology). On the side facing you, write the quote (something short enough to roll of your tongue), on the sticky side write the name of the speaker and where it is found in the text.
Here’s the crucial part; write a minimum of 10 quotes per text (one quote per poem in your anthology) and stick them everywhere. Yes. Everywhere. What objects do you use frequently? Post-it In-line with your face on your mirror, maybe. Or wrapped around the handle of your comb. What place do you run to when you come home, and where do your eyes first wander when you wake up? Drop post-its there like you are dropping blossoms. Each time you go to this place or pick this object, consciously read the quote out loud, until it is crystallised in your subconscious mind.
Note: My students have found it useful to colour co-ordinate their post-it notes and pens according to the text in question (for example, Macbeth quotes written in red, A Christmas Carol quotes written in blue, so on and so forth). Imagine it’s a game and you are shooting targets. See if you can guess what post it is located where, who the speaker of the quote is, and where it is located in the text.
2. Re-read
Find a chapter, scene or poem that you feel less confident about. Read it over, when doing so underline and highlight. Make notes on what occurred, who was in it, and interesting language features. What semantic field was used? How was the protagonist and other characters in the scene or stave portrayed? If poetry or Shakespeare, what metre was it written in? Does the poem comprise of rhyming couplets? Quatrains? Octaves? Find out, make note.
3. Seek new poetry:
In the UK AQA GCSE English Literature syllabus, students must compare a poem they have already studied with an ‘unseen poem’. Consequently, your inference and analysis game needs to be sharp. Poets are alluring, and they say a lot by not saying very much. Do background checks on the authors in your anthology, search for more of their work, it will give you a sense of their style and who they are, this will help you write more fluently about them in your exam.
4. Use your resources:
The tools are that you have at the tips of your fingers? Unparalleled. Your smartphone, the internet, books, apps, libraries. If you dig deep enough, you will find questions similar to the ones you will be asked in your exam. Find them and do them. Again and again, and again and again, and when you think you’ve done enough, do one more- for luck.
5. Spelling, grammar and structure:
Some of us struggle a little more with spelling and grammar and for those of us who are dyslexic, I know it can be difficult to wrap your head around the formalities of punctuation, so you’ve got to be slick. If the question is:
 ‘Some readers consider the final scene in which both Romeo and Juliet die to be triumphant. In addition to the families being reconciled, how is the final scene triumphant?’
An examiner will not forgive you if you spell the word ‘triumphant’ incorrectly. If there is a word, phrase or sentence that you are unsure of and it is already spelt out for you on your question paper, copy it! If you forget to plan your essay before you start (as my students often do) write it out when you remember- the examiner will never know.
6. Have fun with it!
When you wrap your study inside a creative activity it feels different. What I often do with my students to help them familiarise themselves with characters is play ‘Guess Who’. We each choose a character (this can be from a novel, play or even a poem) write the character down on a piece of paper, place it on the others forehead, and we have to guess by asking questions that can only be answered with the words yes or no. Ask the kind of questions that require your opponent to understand the character intimately.
And that’s all I got. Wishing students all over every success in their exams.
Dège x




To what extent is your self-worth tied to others?

I think relatively loosely. But now I think of it, I don’t really know what others truly think of me. I would say probably more than I realise. But one thing I do know for certain is this: when I am loving me, so is the rest of the world. When I am deeply dissatisfied within myself, my relationships are intensely uncomfortable.

Dear Self,

I know you are feeling so stuck, knowing that you need to move on, make changes, something needs to shift, but how? And to what? The next right thing. One thing at a time. What is the next right thing just this moment? To buy some food for the house and cook breakfast.

Get it girl…