I Am My Own Way Home

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.

Home.

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.

Home.

Not the country of you 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

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

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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.

 

 

The In-Between Place

As I walk to work in the mornings my hair is wrapped in a ponytail, my work boots on and my fingertips between the pages of a book. The last few years have darted me with knives, tearing my confidence like skin from my flesh. You cannot can see my wounds, yet still I feel like I am glowing with malaise. I am uncomfortable, uncertain, I feel un-pretty and it shows. 

Dazed and distracted as I often am, I always notice the blind man at the bus stop. He will know when the bus is coming because he will know the sound. He will call out ‘what number is this?’ and I will say ’12’ or ’63’. He will wish the driver good morning and take a seat. And I can’t help but be nearly moved to tears by his powerful sense of trust. His knowing that the bus will come, the seat will be there, and when he calls, even whispers into the air, he will be met with a response.

I have a student who glows when we talk Science, so we’ve been studying the Universe. We learned that the sun is large enough to hold thousands of earths, that we only see seasons because earth sits ever so slightly at an angle (the reason we have dusk and dawn). That there is one day in the year when this rule does not apply, from Albania to Fiji to Zanzibar, day is equal to night, the hours of daylight and darkness are balanced, the Equinox.

It is mystifying to me how earth spirals around the sun passing planets that are millions of kilometres away. How we sit in an endless system of stars that have distances between them millions of times greater than the distance between the planets, and this is just our galaxy. How the distance from one galaxy to another we suspect is millions of times more than the distance between stars. How my students, living what they love, have brought me into new worlds, and things once laced in mystery, that never interested me, today make me feel complete: 

Cycles, sequences, how numbers coincide with nature. Seashells and sunflowers spiral perfectly like the tips of our fingers. How a tiny prick from a pin, in a little black box we made, can project images when we allow light into the darkness, creating classically beautiful black and white photos. The light spectrum, parallels and prisms in physics. How an electromagnetic wave of light when shone through a glass prism reveals the colours of each chakra, and God, dropping rainbows to hint to us the magnitude of all that is beyond what our eyes can see. I am in awe. In awe of how my student and I have been studying women throughout history. How the alchemy of the prism is that it clarifies the light that shines through it. Like women do. Like light, healing moves in waves. And women heal the earth, and men, by seducing them to their senses. And healers are nearly always wounded. I am reminded of this when I read my book ‘Pussy’. Reminded that although we are entangled in a crippling system of patriarchy, it is choking itself to death, I am in awe of the serendipity and synchronicity between pussy and the folds of a fragrant flower that blooms into sweet medicinal nectar. It is all too much and not enough and my mind is just twisted. 

***

I feel as though I am in a waiting room, sitting aching and anchorless at the edges of my past, knowing full well that the messy middle is where I meet all the other broken people, they hold my hands and pull me gently into myself, into the dust covered corners of my mind to conquer the mountains that sit there, only then can I step into a life of beauty too intricate to have been designed all by myself. Because they know too, that not having can give you so much, and not getting can teach you even more. But God, it feels like I am burning. It feels like I am sat still in this in-between place, fire raging from the sweet crack between my heart and stomach, burning through me as if I am a city filled with second and third chances, sin filled pages flying through the air. And I take it. I sit with snatched breath, still as I burn. 

But this in-between place feels like a meeting place. A place of mesmerising paradox. This place where science and spirit, physics and magic meet, where I am both teacher and student. This dark vacuum between who I am and who I know I can be,  but from which I see, very slowly, that each detailed desire of my heart is crystallised. How silly I have been to try to predict what is going to happen, to try to comprehend something so tantalisingly vast. And the blind man doesn’t even try to, he just trusts. 

Slowly I am seeing the synergy between my self-esteem and confidence. Self-esteem is a seed that dwells within, it grows  with my radical commitment to health, healing and hope. It is the birthplace of confidence and there is no true confidence without trust. What is confidence anyway, when it is skin and not flesh?

I do not agree with the sentiment that women must be shiny. That we must perform the function of drawing in the world with our shoes and skirts and other little things that adorn our body. A dazzle may catch your attention but radiance is a holy encounter. It will cause a deep rupture from your core. It will disorient you, anger you, unearth you, and should you surrender, it will rebirth you. Beauty transcends and has nothing to do with symmetry or ratio’s. And if I had to choose on any day, I would choose being a prism over being gold.

 

 

 

 

Meeting Jessie Reyez

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26.07.17

It is 12.48pm and I am at home nestled beneath my cotton blanket, school is out for summer. I have long lusted days like this; home alone drinking tea next to my honeysuckle and cedar scented candle, hot water bottle pressed against my stomach. Work dates for my summer role are yet to be confirmed so I am enjoying my time off.

Yesterday was so much more than I expected. I had my driving lesson in the morning and I am surely improving. I went to the library straight after to write, read, work. I met with Christian, the poet in residence at my school, we spoke poetry and art and teaching. When he read my poem I saw his eyes change, he told me to read it at a poetry night. I am shy, but I accepted the offer.

I am still unearthing Fire and Joy. As I sit here musing on Nirrimi’s words, I can’t understand why creative subjects are squeezed out of schools when there is such an acute connection between art and the overcoming of sadness, anxiety, depression. Or why parents push imaginative children away from their dreams, I have seen so many talented children loved all the way into dead ends. Photography, drawing, rap; when a child has a means to make sense of the world, they will surely fly.

Remember I told you I would focus intensely on my goals? Your girl wasn’t playing, I searched online and found a writers group on Brick lane. After leaving Christian I rushed to this inspiring little book store to read and critique the work of other writers. In an hour I slipped in and out worlds of sci-fi and machines, future and past. In weeks to come I will share my own work. I left early to meet Michael and we went on our way to see Jessie Reyez sing at Hoxton Square Bar, I was enamoured.

I have changed my mind about some things I thought I knew. I thought love was acceptance, and I thought acceptance looked a little bit like turning the other cheek. I was wrong. I found myself being passive in situations where something said caused me discomfort or someone stretched too far into one of my boundaries. In my world, kindness has been a moving swirl of affection and passivity and this isn’t always healthy. Love is saying no when a no is needed, holding people accountable, and without trying to diminish the other person, simply telling them about their clart.

When it comes down to it, every choice I make is one between love and regret, whether I realise it or not.

Jessie Reyez has a voice like honey, she brings worlds together like a horizon, like Damian Escobar blends classical violin and hip hop. Anger is the earth and femininity is the sky. I found dreams I thought I had lost in her runs. Dreams of singing, time expanding. She covered Cocoa Butter Kisses and ScHoolboy Q’s ‘That Part’. We were high and just before our come down she’d say ‘You good?’ in a voice sweet and childlike. Her crazy and power and innocence reminded me that it is okay to feel it all. Sometimes I feel bitter, sometimes I feel ecstasy, sometimes I feel cheerful and sometimes I feel naughty. I think I would make a perfect hurricane. And while I must be honest with my words, I must be careful not to trap others inside my storm.

Michael and I got to talk to Jessie after the show. We spoke about the blurred lines between London and Toronto, how Jessie sounds Trini, speaking Spanish and her being from Colombia. My favourite song of Jessie’s is Gatekeeper, she illustrates her story of sexual intimidation in the music industry and I have shared it below because the world needs to hear it.

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