This week I have been struggling to put it better.
We spent last weekend under a magnificent hill.
A hill that rose out of a valley like a great, green knee in a great, green bubble bath.
A hill that hung above us like a magnificent, green, full-breasted moon.
Under this hill we performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream on grass, on stone and wood, clouds of insects and stars. Most of it in a little theatre-round made of willow that strained for the sky, growing and whispering along with us. I am not making this up. I really don’t know where to begin. I am struggling not to write about the battery in my car giving up on us and the four hour journey to Wales stretching to nine.
Halfords in Greenford.
That after nine hours there was this hill.
The morning after the Dream I sat outside that little theatre with my notebook, catching drifts of the Elizabethan Communion service through the conversation of distant sheep and a scattered community of very happy birds and the rustling of those willows. It was drizzly, actually, or there was an insistent mist which made me feel like I was beautifully positioned in a slightly melancholic sepia photo. I forced myself to write, trying to forgive the lavish lists of adjectives. I think the AA guy was Italian – he knew the area well, he really did: a mate of his with 3-year-old in tow, hailed him (in Italian) in the Halfords car park.
The vicar asked the congregation to stand and a lone recorder piped the first line of a hymn. The group took up the melody, warbling and lowing with real joy. I went to a grammar school so I would also be able to follow a few notes’ prompt into nearly any hymn in the hymnal. My children probably won’t. There are lots of inheritance glitches between me and my children. Some of them regrettable and some wonderful.
I am trying to understand something: how this magnificent hill is, let’s express this loosely, the innuendo of the earth’s unrest. And our idea of time, the time it takes for a hill to rise above a valley and then slowly, slowly deflate and spread and join again the valley floor, even as it in turn rises, takes us somewhere near the terrible and perfect idea of infinity.
The hill says it better.
When we did this Dream in our small but happy Factory way – truly, as usual, not knowing how it might end – it became – why is it surprising – a play a man wrote, not part of a canon or a curriculum or a tradition – a play meant for an audience ready to hear it, on an evening beautifully made for it.