Washington DC Part Three

First performance today. The morning show will be peppered with some quite young students. We may even have some 10-12 year olds. It’s a baptism of fire for my American leg but a sure-fire way of knowing what works and what doesn’t with the toughest critics.

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Well, that went better than I had hoped. Apart from accidentally skipping a page of text! The start of the show was pretty raucous but that is part of the charm of the beginning. I open it up for the audience to react and reply and they jumped in with both feet like young people do. After the initial fear, understandable on my part, that they might not settle down to listen in detail, I was pleasantly surprised by their focus and attention. The Q&A post show was excellent with pertinent questions that confirmed that they had been with me all the way.

Two interesting things came out of that session today. One was that out of the approximately 375 spectators present this morning only 10 put their hands up when I asked how many knew anything of a Black England. Fascinating, and encouraging in some ways. It means that what the show represents for many is their first glimpse of a world they’d never heard about.

The other point is related. One teacher asked if people in England and students in particular had heard about or been taught about Sancho in school. The answer left me feeling sad and a little ashamed of the UK school system. ‘No, I’m afraid. And we still don’t teach our young people about Sancho even though he is such an important figure for Black Britons”.

So, we have much work to do. But as Sancho says, “Today, perhaps, today it may begin…”

Washington DC Part Two

Thursday 22nd October

 

Yesterday afternoon, I walked into the Kennedy Center to be greeted by a massive advertising screen featuring the poster for ‘Sancho’ and my mug besides it. The fact that this mighty institution that sits on the edge of the Potomac River and a stones throw away from Capitol Hill is housing my little play moved me greatly. Because here, at last, is Sancho, a man who hoped one day to try his fortune in America. Here he is at the very place where decisions to separate from England were taken; decisions that broke his heart. I was a bit teary, frankly. But never mind all that emotional stuff; this morning after my ‘Rocky Run’ up the steps of the Lincoln memorial in the glorious sunshine, I am now washing my running gear in the sink of the hotel.

 

As Tim Smith, my producer suggested, this blog should now be renamed, ‘Washing My Smalls in The Sink. The Story of Paterson Joseph.’

 

My friend Finbar Lynch, I discovered yesterday, is in the big theatre space here performing with Juliette Binoche. Antigone happens to be on tour here so we will meet for a brunch in a few minutes. Haven’t seen Fin socially for about 7 years! Appropriate then that we should forgo meeting in London, where we both live, to meet here in Washington. The actor’s life in a nutshell.

 

Then it’s on to a tech rehearsal, lunch and a dress rehearsal. The theatre is beautiful. It’s about to be renovated, I’m told, so I may be one of the last shows to play this old space. We’re expecting a three-quarter full house, I think. Out of 400 seats that’s not a bad return for a show no-one here has seen, and with an actor and subject no-one has really heard of.

 

My hopes are that the students coming tomorrow for the morning show will ‘get’ the language. They’re between the ages of 14 and late teens. Let’s hope they like it.

Washington DC Part One

Washington, DC

Wednesday, 21st October.

I’m on board an Amtrak train bound for Washington D.C. We’re just crossing a railway bridge over a broad expanse of water after Trenton Station. The Delaware River is resonant with American War of Independence stories, half remembered from a hundred films I’d seen over the years. 

That’s America all over for me. Someone says, Trenton and I know it’s in New Jersey. Portland, I know that’s in Oregon. Whereas if I said to an American, Bolton, they’d have to be an expert to say, Lancashire. Brighton, Sussex? Few would know that. The cultural propaganda that the U.S. have so successfully pulled off has made experts on American geography of us all.

I arrived from London on Saturday and have been walking around Manhattan and seeing friends and business acquaintances since then. The highlights were a sunny, Sunday afternoon walk with a friend in Central Park and seeing Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera last night. The mini highlight of which was being ‘spotted’ by a Peep Show fan in the foyer! That reminds me of a strange incident the day before.

I was grabbing a cab downtown after buying some thermals at Macy’s to combat the chilly weather. I’d hailed a cab and was just approaching it when a voice, seemingly in my head, said, “You’re a great actor…” I thought, delusional again, Mr Joseph? But just as I put my hand on the door handle of the cab a man stepped out of the blue and repeated, “Hey, you’re a great actor. I just saw you last night in ‘You, Me and The Apocalypse! And I’ve seen you in a bunch o’ stuff.” “Wow”, I said, “That’s really kind of you to say…but hang on, that’s only being shown in the UK…how come you…?” To which he reacted rather sheepishly, sidling away with a, “Er, yea…there was this online thing…” and ‘with that was gone. Pwiff!’ To quote Sancho.