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.

 

 

Scar to Scar

10.08.18

“Dear Nadège, 

We are sorry to tell you that you haven’t made it through to our 2018 workshops.”

The message I received from the publisher. My mind traces the email over and over, feeling the knots in each word. A hollow and heavy pain claws its way inside my chest, and a piece of me is enveloped and sealed in the nice icy letter.

I must return to the drawing board. It is the time of month where I am clutching on to my last two £20 notes. This month though, I am performing in a play and the notes will take me to and from rehearsals. I pull myself about the city, struggling to keep timings, respond to emails and messages, quietly losing momentum. I stop doing the things I learned to do to keep me afloat, like going to Lewisham market where on my best day I will find four mangos for a pound and 50 limes for 50p. Instead, I let the tide pull me into its wide, curious waters and missing meals becomes a form of financial preservation. I do not know what to do. I truly believed that my application would be successful, that I might be mentored by someone who has been where I would like to go and could maybe show me the way. And that perhaps, this time next year, I would be published by Penguin. I feel the failure in my bones.

15.08.18

In rehearsal we have become so in sync. Between the scenes we become the sea we flow seamlessly between crackling thunder and riotous joy. We are reaching notes in ways we never imagined we could, the room is dripping with talent and every time I perform I enter my prism and let it all go.

I remind myself that this time last year when I wasn’t cradling my sick self in bed I was crying desperately into my pillow, never imagining that who I am now, I could be. The rehearsal room vibrates with a captivating richness. Nine-o-clock rises up like a black wave from the sunset, and on the bus that feeling rises up with it. So heavy it pierces the barricades that keep my mind in tact, the thoughts rush in. Now my mind is on work, on the last show and first day back- I have been offered a salary increase, but still under-earning. I feel bitter and betrayed. I so badly want out.

I could look for a new job. I could train to become a qualified teacher (if I do this I’d move to a mainstream school and immediately earn £8,000 more than I do now). But the frosty formalities of mainstream make me tense, and what sense would it make to invest more time and money, furthering myself in a career that isn’t my end goal? Right now I am singing and dancing and connecting and creating and it feels like I am wrapped in electricity.

I found a university that offers master degrees in novel writing. They would see me through to the completion of my novel, as excruciating and exquisite as that is. But what about the National Theatre? They’ve offered me the opportunity to be in ‘As you Like it’ next year. And what about the promise? Everything is premised on the promise. To Travel.

As I spread out the options before me, life stretches out a hazed map of my past, I run my fingers over the splintered doors and crumbling ceilings that have left me scars. And suddenly, I think, I know where to start.