I'm up after the best sleep I've had in eight weeks. No complaints about our Edinburgh digs, but nothing beats waking up at home.
One remarkable thing about the last two months that I never mentioned is the fact that except for the last week on the road, we were all living under the same roof. Full days of rehearsal and then back to Pete and Catherine’s flat. A flat the four of us share with Pete’s son Joe, 17 years old, and Catherine’s daughter Lucy, 12, and more often than not someone else passing through.
Catherine and Pete are Collectivists of the old school; the door is always open. You know this as soon as you arrive. You put your bags down, settle for a moment and then ask if there is an extra set of keys. Pete disappears and is immediately back with a shiny, new set dropped into your open hand. It’s like asking for a glass of water, of course, here you are, what else?
Now this could have been disaster.
Rehearsal is a pressure cooker under any circumstances. We had a hard deadline and no script. We decided to create a comic cabaret about the end of the world, personal extinction, famine, war, a real crowd-pleasing knee-slapper. We had the two foreigners (us) straining to understand simple shifts in conversation and astonished daily at the cost of a pint. And while this is all going on, Pete and Catherine are dealing with all of the everyday domestic crises, kids getting fed, phone calls returned, shopping, bills and all the rest of it. Under the best of circumstances, a little distance is a healthy thing. You work all day and then you go back to your haven, a quiet place away from the show, away from your collaborators. A little room to breathe.
Without getting all Partridge Family about it, it was an extraordinary time.
Up in the morning, jockey for showers in the one bathroom, as much coffee as you can make and drink in one of those European press things (the usefulness, purpose and existence of which completely escapes my blithe American mind), dressed and troop down the road to the rehearsal space. Three hours of existential grappling, occasionally hitting something solid, like boxing a bored kangaroo blindfolded, lunch, back home for a sandwich, another four hours with the kangaroo, now grown restive and surly, home, bruised and wanting another round with the brute, kids pile in, dinner which Catherine or Nancy cook with varying degrees of theatricality and panic, bottles of red wine opened and poured, specifics and overall motivations questioned, debated, defended, more wine, kids to bed, more debate, spirited but miraculously still civil and good-natured, individual retreats to our sleeping quarters, shouted good-nights, five or six hours of silence in the dark filled with fitful dreams and then the kids are up for school, the sound of showers and distant, muffled collisions and conversations from the kitchen, front door closing, another hour of wakeful half-sleep and then we’re all up to do it again.
I’m just saying homicide would have been justified and easily arguable, in a court of law, at some point along the way.
But, no. We survived not only as collaborators but at the end, still as friends.
Simple human decency is an amazing and underrated trait, the greatest lubricant and cooling agent in the friction and pressure of creative collaboration. Just looking in someone’s eyes and saying “good morning”, making more coffee even when you’ve had yours, holding open a door, these small, everyday things support everything else and mark the difference between tolerance and harmony in an ensemble.