Last night I got the train home from the theatre and was feeling emotional. I'm staying in Dalston, and my old neighbourhood Wapping is just a few stops south on the tube. A few stops and about a hundred years away, or feels like. I didn't have it in me to go down and see what's changed. I plain old didn't care, to be honest. It was nice to think of the shift, all these years later. Something that was such a defining and important part of my life now felt very distant and separate. The memories don't have that same ache or pull; they're just a lovely time I once had.
I was emotional because I'd just been to see King Lear on St Martins Lane. King Lear with Sir Ian McKellen as Lear. I've read the play quite a few times, but never seen it live. And to see it with such a cast, in what is being called McKellen's 'swan song' of Shakespeare. It was, of course, magnificent. I'd always thought of it as a 'cheerless, dark and deadly' tragedy, and never went in for the idea of Lear as a man 'more sinned against than sinning'. His redemption felt false or inadequate in my readings, but last night changed that. He's as flawed and arrogant as ever, but it seems less the point. McKellen was perfection, the balance between frailty and madness with that resounding power was beautiful to watch. But it was his inherent kindness, what I believe to be the emotional heart of him as a person that shone through for me. I was so moved. And the very feminine integrity and good sense Sinead Cusack brought to Kent felt testament to Lear's character too, in a way I hadn't considered. I cried throughout the last act, very heavily during the standing ovation, then again on the train on the way home thinking about it. I find theatre has a way of moving you like nothing else, and it was wonderful to be reminded of that.
The picture is from Persephone, a bookshop near Holborn that my friend Georgia told me about. They re-print neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-twentieth century women writers, which is exactly my cup of tea. I stayed nearly an hour.