‘We were about three metres apart. Between us was Caesar’s dead body’
Hugh Quarshie stood at the front of the stage. His head swivelled, his gaze met mine. Mark Antony threw me the daggers. Cold steel.
We stood about three metres apart. Between us was Caesar’s dead body, flat out on what must have passed for a gurney back in Roman times.
Quarshie continued to stare in disbelief. His face carried a blunt message: ‘What the fuck are you doing here?’
Mark Antony had just ordered a mob of Roman citizens to avenge his mentor’s murder and the mob had shuffled off to locate the perp and do him some damage. But now some scruffy urchin was standing font stage, meeting Mark’s gaze and trying to act. A woman in the audience burst out laughing.
Pretty soon, the mob of departed citizens returned, swallowed the lost urchin back into the fold and Quarshie’s body language softened.
What director Sir Peter Hall made of the incident was never reported. The name of the laughing woman was Angelina.
20 years later…
The art studio I belong to, Submit to Love at Headway East London, was offered an exhibition slot at London’s Southbank Centre during its Summer season. In a display called ‘Making Faces’, tall pillars of cardboard boxes would stand like the ruins of an ancient monument. Visitors would weave through them and gaze up at the “self portraits” our artists had painted onto the sides of cardboard boxes.
The idea of painting my own face was not one I’d ever feel comfortable with. But studio director Michelle insisted I fill the space.
Instead of a picture of my full face, I tried to find some vaguely interesting or attractive things about myself that could be spun into an idea.
I do have blue eyes, and since my brain injury they have been framed by glasses. And I actually did actually appear m in the 1996 RSC production of Julius Caesar at the Barbican directed by Sir Peter Hall and starring Christopher Benjamin, John Nettles, Julian Glover as Cassius and Hugh Quarshie, with whom I had the interesting moment depicted above.
So this cod theatre poster is my attempt to be myself for Southbank visitors. I can’t say with confidence that my strategy worked, but it was a fond memory brought to life in a fun moment in the studio. It tells a small part of my truth.