The Roles I Play
As a child growing up in the south of Spain my favourite pastimes were those spent playing make-believe games with my friends. Julia, still a close friend, and myself had three favourites, which we liked to share with anyone interested; bike detectives, librarians, and baptism organisers. The latter was a bit risky, as it involved sneaking into the church with our friends’ dolls and performing a ceremony by the holy water font. I don’t remember ever getting caught by Father Quintero, but I do remember a member of the group wetting herself in fear at the thought of it.
I left Spain with my mother and came to live in England aged nine. It was a complex departure. I was leaving my sister and brother, my close extended family and all my friends to join my recently emigrated father in London. I was excited beyond words, nervous, sad and apprehensive. The awareness of a new beginning, a new sense of responsibility filled me. I was no longer the youngest child; I would have to fulfil a new role, and this role would be significant. Stepping on the plane I began to shed the first skin of childhood and create the first layer of the confident young adult.
What the role would entail began to unfold as we landed in England and were held up in emigration. My mother and I were not English speakers, we could not understand the customs official’s words but I began to understand their gestures, we were going to be sent back, we were not welcomed. A sudden flurry of doors, the emergence of my father with an English speaking friend and a handful of papers soothed the situation and before I knew it we were on our way to a new home. I had made a mental note – learn the language quickly. Within three months I was fluent and the new role had come to fruition; that of interpreter and rent manager for a small Spanish community living in a run down house in Bayswater.
It seems clear to me now how at the age of eighteen the decision was made to embark on a career of continual role-play. The foray into drama clubs and the school plays had awaken what by now had become a natural pastime, that of inhabiting qualities other than my own and placing myself in difficult situations. In comparison to real life scenarios this was much more manageable, and the discovery of these characters through others words an absolute joy and relief.
I can look back at the Shakespeare heroines, the exotic foreigners, the lovers the mothers, the adulteresses, the political activists I have played with the realisation that their light would have been duller without the full beam of life experience running beneath them and now, in my 50’s, along with the portfolio of roles that life has graced me with, (mother, lover, counsellor, coach, teacher, friend, nurse, etc.) I look forward with optimism to the many parts being written at this very moment for me to play. For one thing is sure, the older I get the younger the child in me becomes and the more I long to play.
November 5th 1960
What are you reading? Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, recommended and passed on to me by my daughter
What are you seeing? Grey Gardens both the documentary and film. I discovered them of late and am now obsessed!!
Good for the soul? Silence
Good for the body? Dancing
Good for the heart? Family and friends
What fictional character have you most enjoyed playing? I played Gertrude in Spain, in Spanish, last year and it was a great challenge, but the first character that came to mind was Leni in Altona by Sartre.
What fictional character do you hope to play in the future? There’s a long wish list but at the moment if I could play anything written by David Greig I would be estatic. I’ve loved everything of his I’ve seen.
Shawl and Peineta are from my mother; they are used in the south of Spain on special holidays- religious processions and fairs.
Black vintage dress comes from a second hand clothes stall on the Prince of Wales Road, which no longer exists. I befriended the owners while I was at drama school and they would leave things they thought I liked to the side so that the dealers didn’t get them first. I once had a collection of 30′s 40′s and 50′s clothes, which through time have been given away or disintegrated. Bought in 1979.
Black fishing mac: Given by old friend
Bird necklace: was given to me by my sister, it’s a wooden dove representing peace and freedom.
Dungarees: Left by my brother in law ten years ago and confiscated by me.
Beaded handbag, jumper, blanket etc – all either given by family and friends or bought in charity shops. I love recycled clothes, especially those handed down by people I know and love. It makes me feel close to them.