Caryl Churchill is too good at this. I no longer have to imagine the bullet that shatters the back of my skull at Sound Queue 7, by performance three I have to imagine the Starbucks upstairs to remind myself that the unseen gun is disarmed and my fall is chosen. Enacting death. ‘Heart’s Desire’ is the most technical production I’ve been part of and feels as intellectually vain and narratively vague as an actor could hope for. How easily I respond to the not quite physicalised violence still concerns me. We still don’t know what this play’s about.
My pupils sit inside the the rounds of your name. The black marble forces me to consider my increasing androgyny in the reflection of men who paid America’s ultimate price in some corner of a foreign jungle. I try to create a face for each name I fall on, a life, an end. Did he die hating, was he killed with the name of a boy on his lips his buddies had never heard before, could he imagine what was next? Soggy flowers for Veterans Day keep a closeness to the memorial – these are not distant relatives noted in the highest branches of a family tree but loved ones for whom the discovery of their loss is still burnt behind the eyes of their siblings, lovers and children.
The White House seems small compared to the snipers on its roof; Belittled by its roadblocks, temporary bollards and primed triggers. There’s a small crowd peering over the police tape and through the bars towards this symbol of American might. A woman with a “You’re Fired” sign draws a defiantly supportive crowd ready to photograph this (German) manifestation of American freedom. “Make America Great Again” caps swing weighed by their own stiff slogans, fillerbustering the other merchandise into the sidelines.
New York has a funny way of making you love it. For every dirty subway platform and overpriced sandwich there is another wrought-iron fire escape and melting pot park. Down Christopher Street and through the Village, I walk through a film set. Real people live behind each painted door and bay window but until they emerge, baby in their stroller, Trader Joe’s bag balanced on their hips, they don’t seem real. New York never quite feels tangible and yet assaults me from every side.
Opera was never something I thought I’d enjoy. It was alongside polo and Claridges as things that I was never likely, or wanted, to be a part of and yet I write this looking out over the New York skyline listening to Mozart’s ‘Clemenza di Tito’. In classrooms and music rooms, the scenes take shape: glances are counted, steps measured. My understanding of Italian and German has not improved but the standard of musicianship surprises me through every system and measure making directing feel the most natural thing.
Finally arrived, ochre, burgundy-brown and crunchy leaves settle everywhere. Gorgeously crisp and then mulch they crackle and slop under foot confirming that the season may have finally changed. At the edge of interstates and next to aggregate mounds are they most perfect. Banished from the memorials, they block drains and make paths uncomfortable for the elderly. After months of overly close subway cars and reading on the steps of Lowe Library, my imagined New York is slowly taking shape: huge coats and steam rising from the grated pavement as clear as a postcard.