Days 5 and 6: All the World’s a Stage

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

Early morning Facebook post:

I'm lying here on the couch while Christian, over in his twin bed, tries to sleep a little longer.
  Last evening's opening performance of Romeo and Juliet was a success and there were smiles on everyone's faces.

The hours really flew by.

Two more performances to go. Today’s is a matinée. Tonight we plan to see the second group do Julius Caesar.

The show must go on!

Night, Facebook post:

Day Five's end.
I saw the matinée of Romeo and Juliet which was a success!
Tight and entertaining.

Then, at 7:30 in the evening, Christian and I returned to see an all female cast perform Julius Caesar, which I hadn’t read or seen before.
It was a bloodbath, of course.
We even got slightly splashed.
Bravo to all of the actors! Well Done!

Thursday, September 17th 2015

Morning Facebook post:

Day 6 in London.

This is a day that puts me in mind of the two audition trips Christian and I took together (to New York and Toronto, in early 2014), because those two 48-hour trips were about managing energy and time, and staying relaxed and focused, just like today.

Christian has two tutorials (feedback sessions) to attend (one down, one to go), and then a final performance (call at 18:00 London time) with opening curtain at 19:30.

I’m mostly in a holding pattern…Being there seems the most meaningful way for me to live out this day.

Facebook post at day's end:
It's done! Final performances are now over. Bravo! Brava! All of your hard 
work was pure pleasure for the lucky ones in the audience.

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The Boys from Verona Cast members of Romeo and Juliet, at the Linbury Theatre, LAMDA September 18th 2015
The Boys from Verona
Cast members of Romeo and Juliet, at the Linbury Theatre, LAMDA
September 18th 2015
Goodnight all.

"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages (...)"

William Shakespeare, As You Like It,  Act II, Scene VII

Day 4, Part two: Darwin and Drama

Tuesday, September 15th 2015

Daytime:

Overlooking Hintze Hall, in the Museum of Natural History, London
Overlooking Hintze Hall, in the Museum of Natural History, London

When I left Montreal, it was with one overriding purpose: to be there for Christian’s final performances at LAMDA and for his graduation ceremony.

I went alone, but I was carrying with me the best wishes, the break-a-legs, the excited anticipation and the love of a great many.

For the first part of the day, I was on my own again, in a kind of maternal limbo. But Ifigured that what worked the day before would probably work again, so I set out for South Kensington, this time to visit the Museum of Natural History, which is across the street from the V&A.

I’m so happy that I did. The MNH is a wonder.

The entrance at the Museum of Natural History.
The entrance at the Museum of Natural History.

IMG_1255And a temple of scientific tradition and most especially, a shrine to Darwin and to his legacy, where I found everything I expected including, of course, the fossils of giant dinosaurs.

But what I knew nothing about, and almost missed (it needs to be advertised much more vigorously!) was Cocoon, the monumental new scientific research center/curated biological archive: a dazzling, giant ovoid structure and exhibit.

I was so moved by the beauty of Cocoon. And by its optimism. And because of the magic of cell phones, I was able to share it all with Simon, another of my sons who is a biology professor at a college in Montreal, with whom I messaged my way through it all.

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Evening: 

And then it was evening. I made my way to LAMDA’s Linbury Studio on Talgarth Road, to see the D’s production of Romeo and Juliet (the D’s are the students enrolled in the Masters in Classical Acting program), and especially, of course, to see Christian play Tybalt.

I’ve developed such a love for theatre, living alongside Christian. He has taught me so much…

About the alchemy of performance and the generation of an energy so electric and immediate that it makes everyone’s heart race;

About the beauty of text and its embodiment;

About  fearlessness and abandonment;

About the discipline and hard work required to create the illusion of effortlessness;

About risk taking and creative collaboration.

About the universality and timelessness of the dramatic arts.

“I’ll have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.”

Hamlet Act 2, scene 2, 603–605

Opening curtain, Romeo and Juliet at the Linbury Studio, September 2015
Opening curtain, Romeo and Juliet at the Linbury Studio, September 2015

(Note: All photographs are mine)

Day 4 Part One: Man on Wire

Christian relaxing pre-performance on his final day at LAMDA
Christian relaxing pre-performance on his final day at LAMDA

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 Facebook post:

As he left this morning, Christian said “Well, here’s to my stage debut in London” (half of his class opened last night in Julius Caesar, while Romeo and Juliet opens today), grabbed his bag and went out.

After everything that he’s lived this year at LAMDA and on his own in this small, spartan room (which I presently share with him) in this huge and glorious city, it seemed like such a quiet and unexceptional thing to say.

No ferocious “trac” (as we call stage fright in French Quebec), no problems sleeping…just the outcome of a year living removed from everything that came before.

A year of living like a man on wire.

Funambulist Philippe Petit
                 Funambulist Philippe Petit

Day 3: The Tube and its destinations

Monday, September 14th, 2015

Day 3 in London: 

Christian had a full day of dress rehearsal at LAMDA, so off I went to the Victoria and Albert museum on my own, with my Oyster pass, like a big girl.

The Tube is the great vascular system of London and a daunting prospect for a Montrealer.

Look at it this way:

Population of Greater London (2014)= 8.5 million

Population of greater Montreal (2014) =3.8 million

Their respective subway systems, the Tube and the Metro=

London-Underground  XX3z5Nr

After navigating the Tube, getting lost on Montreal’s Metro would be embarrassing!

Fortunately, the journey from North Kensington to the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington is just a few stops, and I did just fine, in spite of the fact that my inner gyroscope was thrown off for days.

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Angel in the stairwell of the V&A museum.

You see, in my native Montreal which is built at the foot of a small mountain, going North means going uphill, and going south means heading downhill to the Saint-Lawrence river. London, having been built layer upon layer over millenia, is hilly in ways that messed with my inner programming and I often found myself not being sure which way the needle was pointing on my internal compass. It’s crazy how disorienting this kind of brain programming is.

And so, every now and then, I felt a bit forlorn. Until I reached my destination that is. On this day, it was the V&A; a great place to begin my exploration. There’s something about the scale and spatial proportions of museums that really matters, and in this regard, the V&A is just right.

It’s gorgeous, fantastically preserved, never overwhelming, cramped or crammed tight, and beautifully lit. It made such a difference to me.

On the afternoon that I was there, it rained off and on–a familiar pattern in London–and then the sun emerged and offered pretty window pictures like these, in the café at the V&A.

Café et the Victoria and Albert Museum Photo by michellepdaoust
Café et the Victoria and Albert Museum Photo by michellepdaoust

Day 2: Hammersmith, the Thames and tombstones

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Day 2 in London: morning Facebook post

First of all, we slept till 9:30!!!!! (which explains my broad smile in this photo)

To you, that’s nothing.

Me and Christian, together at last, on North End Road, West Kensington, London, UK
Me and Christian, together at last, on North End Road, West Kensington, London, UK

To Christian, it isn’t frequent enough.
To me, it’s A MIRACLE!!!!!!!
(this is where you would insert Handel’s Hallelujah chorus)

We’re off to Hammersmith for a good part of the day, starting with breakfast, and including shops and the Library where Christian found solace and comfort (and WIFI !) during his first weeks here.

Love you all! xo

Mid day in Hammersmith:

With Christian at La Petite Bretagne, Hammmersmith, London,
With Christian at La Petite Bretagne, Hammmersmith, London,

My first breakfast in London was French! We had crêpes at La Petite Bretagne (Christian had apple cinnamon, I had Belle Hélène), followed by a walk along the Thames Path with its riverfront pubs and houseboat islands.

It was my first glimpse of the Thames. Not the touristy Thames, but the one that wraps itself around everyday life, and upon which people live, work, and depend.

Exiting Hammersmith, I was guided by The Ark: not Noah’s, but instead one belonging to General Electric (Real Estate).

The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London
The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London

This strange and beautiful building had an astonishing effect upon me: it whooshed me back home with thoughts of my former students at G.E. Lighting, in Lachine, Québec. I wondered if maybe some of them knew of The Ark, and if so, what they thought of this unconventional and iconic building that sits within sight of LAMDA, which is, incongruously, a global beacon of the dramatic arts.

Such strange bedfellows along Talgarth Road (which is just the A4 in disguise).

The Ark, Hammersmith
                  The Ark, Hammersmith

An afternoon walk in West Brompton Cemetery:

With jet lag still tugging at my energy, and Christian hoping to conserve his for the demands of the week’s worth of performances of Shakespeare that lay just ahead, we ended our day in the deep green quiet of West Brompton Cemetery where I watched the magpies and felt the weight of generations.

Until now, all I knew of this place was that during his year in London, Christian found quietude here (I found it too), and that it appeared in a long scene in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Stained and lopsided, the monuments we sat among spoke of love and loss, but also of their growing irrelevance in a culture rushing into the future.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

On Saint-Patrick’s Day, 2014, the phone rang at our house. It was Rodney Cottier, the Head of the Drama School at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (or LAMDA) on the line.

LAMDA is one of the finest drama schools in the world and a month earlier, my youngest son Christian had auditioned in Toronto for LAMDA’s Masters in Classical Acting program. Rodney’s call was to inform Christian that he had been accepted.

It isn’t always possible to know which of the choices, or which of the curves thrown at us, or which of the harrowing experiences, or successes, or events, or chance encounters will be seminal in our life, and I think that’s a good thing.

Christian waiting for the evening's performance.
Christian waiting for the evening’s performance.

But on that day, Christian knew. We all knew…that his life had just jumped its tracks, that its course had been indelibly altered, that he was going to live an adventure the likes of which he had only daydreamed about.

And so began the saga of Christian’s year in London.

That story is his to tell.

Mine is about how the story ends. It ends with success and immense shared joy. It also ends with a trip to London, which I began on September 11th, because it was unimaginable that I should miss seeing my son on stage performing Shakespeare in the greatest theatrical city in the world; and that he be left to graduate alone, and to pack up and move back to Montreal alone.

I arrived at Heathrow on September 12th. What followed were 15 extraordinary days during which a lifetime of hopes and what-ifs and imaginings about the land of Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Fry and BBC drama were measured against the reality of Great Britain’s capital, and found to be totally up to snuff.

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What I also realized during my time across the pond is that while Christian was at LAMDA, his father, brothers and I were in London with him for a part of every day: with every Skype and Facetime session, with every Facebook post and Message, every story, every experience he shared with us, every problem, every fever or cough.

 

This is the way we love each other. Our London was discovered vicariously, but it had its own reality.

Here begins my LONDON JOURNAL. Bon voyage!

September 11th, 2015

Facebook post from the airport:

Okay! I made it through airport security and here I am at gate 59.

A year ago, I had just walked Christian to his security check point.

There was such strong emotion on that day; such an acute feeling of separation, anticipation and apprehension…in us both! Finally, Christian disappeared behind the wall of security and what was left was the most painful happiness I have ever known.

Now, I go to see who he has become and what he has accomplished in London, at LAMDA which, for me, still feels more like fiction than fact.

“The truth is life is full of joy and full of great sorrow, but you can’t have one without the other. “
Andre Dubus III

The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London
The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London