Monday morning. Sitting in Ed the physio’s waiting room. He is theatreland’s go-to man for fractured bones and torn muscles — essentially, an MOT garage for weary actors. A herd of cast members from The Lion King hobble in; the expression ‘suffering for your art’ comes to mind. I hurt my knee playing on all fours, but as a dog rather than a big cat. Since training at Laban, I had always wanted to do absurdist theatre, and when a role in Auden and Isherwood’s The Dog Beneath the Skin came up, I thought my prayers had been answered. But what a challenge! On stage for two hours every night, wearing a boiler suit, dog head, and gas mask. No more dog parts for me. I was apprehensive about the reviews, but Matthew, my brother-in-law, pointed out: ‘It’s really none of your business what they write, Cressida.’ Fair enough, I suppose.
I have a phone conversation with my friend Claudia Legge, the talented underwater photographer. We talk about collaborating. Here’s the idea: we make a short video, she films and I dance underwater. What could go wrong? Lots, but I am thrilled by the idea. I am happiest when dancing. Spending a day twirling underwater sounds like heaven.
Breakfast at the Electric on Portobello with the family has become a weekly occurrence. This includes my three sisters, my brother and my mother. Being the youngest of five, I find myself fighting for air time. Still, it is my favourite hour of the week. There is, however, always drama. Tears may spring from any set of eyes at any given time, brought on by some crisis or other. This week it’s the death of my mother’s beloved Pekingese, Pocket: 13, blind, deaf and, most recently, incontinent. They were inseparable. She says no one understood him like her: in him she saw a kindred old soul and a steadfast listener. The waiter, Otto, thinks we are talking about a relative. Pouring the coffee, he looks uncomfortable as my mother discusses Pocket’s place of burial.
After breakfast, the family wish me luck and I dash off to an audition. Walking down the street reciting my lines out loud, just avoiding collisions with lampposts, I receive a few puzzled looks. I arrive at the meeting and come face-to-face with an exhausted-looking casting director. Keep calm and collected is my mantra. I do the audition, it goes OK. The next day I find out from my agent, Chloë, I have a recall. Hooray!
Friends are starting to get married, which means the dilemma of British wedding attire. Hats. Why do I find hats so tricky? Tricky to wear, tricky to look at, and extremely tricky for the poor soul sitting in the pew behind. Most of the time I avoid headgear. This can prompt disapproving looks from the older generations. Last weekend I attended the royal wedding. The invitation clearly stated that guests must wear hats. Yikes. I opted for a minimal feathered number — and can only hope I got it right.
My sister Pandora is the only person I know who can pull off wearing a hat. I ask my mother why this is. She tells me: ‘Your sister wears the hat, the hat doesn’t wear your sister.’ I get the train home to Norfolk in a new summer dress. My father picks me up from the station. I ask him if he likes my dress. He says it looks like something knitted by the Women’s Institute. Typical.
Back from a few days in Norfolk, I’m lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s dinner with a rather interesting set of guests. I sit opposite Mark Rylance, the actor, as well as a former prime minister. Both are very charming and the lively conversation is anything but conservative.
Sunday is spent at the Tate’s Picasso 1932 exhibition, ‘Love, Fame, Tragedy’. Having eagerly anticipated this for a while, I’m struck by the tenderness of the work and the intimate insights into his life and loves. The other gallery goers seem to feel exactly the same. As Picasso says, ‘Essentially there is only love. Whatever it may be.’
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