This afternoon I went to see an encore performance of the Royal Ballet production of Frankenstein at our local cinema. Yesterday I seriously doubted that I would make it, having woken at 6am with incredible leg pain and worsening dizziness as the day went on. Every time I moved my head the room seemed to move at double speed! But today was a new day, with better weather and better pain control.
After a morning spent doing the run of the mill mundane – you know, washing school uniform, peeling spuds etc. – and even managing some weeding (a slightly pathetic looking patch in view of what is left to do – but Duncan really can’t get his head around the need to pull out weeds!), I was looking forward to an afternoon of culture with mum. Going to the theatre proper, particularly an old theatre such as the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, as a disabled person can be almost impossible. It is fantastic that many theatres now run schemes whereby the disabled person can take a free carer with them, but this doesn’t negate the difficulties encountered in negotiating public transport (I could fill a whole post with my trials and tribulations on escalators) or the stairs in an old building or the discomfort of old seats for a body in pain. So to be able to visit the “theatre” close to home, by car, in the relative comfort of the local cinema and yet still feel a part of the whole staged experience is fantastic.
Frankenstein is a new ballet choreographed by the very young, and very gifted Liam Scarlett. To watch such talented dancers telling a story so movingly with their bodies and the music was something very special. For me, as someone with a disability and a painful disability at that, this piece provided several hours of escapism, a reminder of just how beautiful the human body can be. Please understand that I don’t mean how “pretty” a person is, but rather how through a series of movements the human body can show tenderness to anger to grace to pain in a matter of minutes. The dancers on that stage gave me the opportunity to forget my own limitations and to watch bodies at the the peak of physical fitness perform the impossible. Of course I know that these athletes have suffered for their art – aching muscles, bleeding toes, painful joints, psychological frailty and rejection – but for those couple of hours they glide, leap, caress, and interlace their limbs with such grace and ease that it is easy to believe that their performance is effortless. I have to admit to a touch of jealousy that their bodies will allow them to train hard enough to be able to perform with such guile and passion….
The Creature, played brilliantly by Steven McRae, was portrayed as a hideous imitation of a human, so deformed that even his creator could not love him. Scarlett has focused upon the love stories in this dramatisation of Shelley’s classic – not just the love story between Frankenstein and his lover, Elizabeth, but also the Creature’s need to be loved and his complete bewilderment that he is unloved, and his realisation that he is “different”. This has got me thinking about how when we find ourselves at our lowest ebb, and this isn’t necessarily due to a physical issue, it can be difficult to see ourselves as lovable. Equally how often do we hold preconceived ideas based upon imperfection – the never judge a book by its cover analogy? Does physical or mental difference make us less lovable? This is getting a bit deep for a Sunday night now……maybe another blog post in the making!
So ahead of a week of exams – the final two for the uni student and end of year week for the “lovely, untidy” girl – revising for the sixth former, and Grandma’s birthday (won’t tell them your age, mum!) – I will spend a few more hours dreaming that I too can glide across a stage…..until I wake up tomorrow morning, my body telling me that I never have been able to!