The Tempest

It’s been a difficult week so far. Any week that’s ushered in by sirens, flashing lights, hours of uncontrollable jerking and an injection of powerful drugs in the thigh is off to a rocky start. And again I was awake early this morning as the lamp-post came off duty. I don’t feel sorry for myself but I do feel tired – not just physically but emotionally as well.

Though I’m being superficially sensible now – taking it easy, working from home where I’m being looked after with the same sensitivity and care as ever – I’m not always great at listening to my body or to the advice of my friends. I went into work on Sunday when I knew I wasn’t up to it and had been told as much by my friends. Whether my seven-hour fit that evening would’ve happened regardless is anyone’s guess, but what’s not guesswork is that working that day was foolish.

Tonight I made another decision that could have been considered unwise. I went with Bunny to see a performance by poet Kate Tempest. Her new play – Brand New Ancients – is on at Battersea Arts Centre.

I took a gamble that the strain of going out, the effort of trying to be quiet, and the worry of how people would react to me would be outweighed by the value of what I heard and what it made me feel. It turned out to be a safe bet.

Bunny and I saw Kate a few weeks ago at Shambala, in an overcrowded tent. We’d both been blown away by her performance. Tonight’s show was different but no less mesmerising and thought provoking. Brand New Ancients is an hour-long story narrated over a live music score. It tells a tale of two tangled families. It’s epic and everyday, beautiful and ugly. It’s exciting, unnerving, angry and funny. The story, the feeling behind it, and how it was told was completely absorbing.

Kate frequently stopped telling the story with words and let the musicians take over. This worked well for the narrative, and for my tics as well. I did the old stuff-a-glove-in-my-mouth trick for the quiet bits, but let myself tic more freely during the musical interludes. This made it less uncomfortable than other live shows I’ve been to. I was also made to feel extremely welcome and comfortable by the staff at Battersea Arts Centre. From the moment we booked to the moment we left, their attitude and arrangements were spot on.

I saw Kate’s play in the middle of a week when I’ve felt terrified and tired. But its message helped me remember I’ve also felt loved. I was glad I’d made the second unsound decision of the week and gone out against all the advice to the contrary. This time the outcome hasn’t been a seven-hour fit – instead, it’s left me feeling fitter for the days to come.

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