He was one of those people you see every day and start to believe you know when in fact you don’t. You have the arrogance to believe they’re part of the fabric of your day because you exchange a glance or a smile. You feel they have somehow become part of your life when in fact you have almost nothing to do with them and know nothing about them and haven’t made any particular effort with them at all.
He had close-cropped hair. He had black eyes. There was a kind of fluidity to them. They were bright, alert, mobile eyes.
He swept our floor each day. Before the company rehearsed he swept the floor meticulously – I might even say with love. It was part of the ritual of the day to thoroughly clean the working space. It was part of our company ethic and of the notion we had of discipline. We believed that discipline must matter in the kind of theatre we were hoping to create. We didn’t think you could just rock up to rehearsal. Preparing the space was as important as the rehearsal itself.
He swept our floor. He swept it with such love that we stopped sweeping. Before, the task had always been shared. It was part of our ethic that it should be shared. Each actor would be pleased to sweep because each actor knew that sweeping was part of the process of approaching any piece of theatre: the preparation of the space and the readiness for work.
It was because he loved to sweep that we stopped sweeping. It seemed impossibly rude to insist on our right to sweep when he was doing it with so much love. And I’m not being ironic.
I am trying to remember how he came to us. I think he came with the space. We rented the rehearsal room, of course. It was in the very centre of the city, near the Berwick Street market where they sell the bread with herbs and olives and those scoops of avocados and plums and whatever’s left over at the end of the day for a pound. It was a beautiful space. High up with the rooftops. It must have been a warehouse conversion. It was a broad expanse to work in as an actor. There was enough room to really hurl yourself about. It was so broad that you could create whatever stage space you needed. And up above you it was all skylights – this incredible glass-panelled roof. Like a huge greenhouse. And because you could almost be overwhelmed by the light up there – I mean, if it was sunny it could be intensely bright and hot – there were these expanses of creamy cheesecloth suspended beneath the glass to filter the light. And this cloth would billow like sails – it was like being on a tall ship or something – it was quite wonderful when the breeze came through from the skylights and filled the cloth out. The light would filter through and make the whole place glow, with just the odd shaft of bright light cutting through a gap somewhere and hitting the floor. We were very lucky with this space.