It was Michael’s birthday last week and the entire Van Eck family came to stay for the weekend, and as Michael is the eldest of five children, (four brothers and a sister) and as they now have children and grand-children it was quite a gathering! I counted 35 people at one point and know I missed a few, and his youngest brother and one of his nieces were unable to attend so it wasn’t quite the entire family! I’ve met them all several times now and have become very fond of them. They’re quite a formidable family as they’re all highly intelligent, and gifted creatively, but so kind, open and loving that they’re a pleasure to be with.
Because it was Michael’s birthday and Michael is someone I hold in the highest esteem, I wanted to give him a present that reflected that. But what to give? I thought and thought and then I had a ‘light bulb’ moment! What is the one thing I can do that all these highly intelligent and creatively gifted men and women can’t do? I can act (a bit) and what could be more fitting than to recite that wonderful seven ages of man speech delivered by Jacques in ‘As you like it’? Sorted I thought, and diligently committed myself to the task of learning the text.
Come the night and as the time to perform the piece grew ever closer, I knew that deciding to play this speech in front of an audience of Afrikaners whose passion for Shakespeare may not match my own seemed like less and less of a good idea. I longed not to do it, but knew that I would never forgive myself if I bottled out! I was between a rock and a hard place! (Not for the first time in my life!!!) So when Michael’s sister called the company together the die was cast. I first told the audience why I had chosen that particular speech and then proceeded to play it. I was more nervous than on an opening night! But I learned something very useful that evening. I am able to improvise in iambic pentameter! For those who may not know, that is how Shakespeare wrote his prose; iambic pentameter, which is ten beats to a line and is responsible for creating the rhythm of the verse. I had that moment which every actor (and actress!) dreads; I could feel a ‘dry’ looming up. I could either stop, gather myself together, and then continue, which I didn’t consider a valid option, or I could improvise. Which I did! And I thank the patron saint of actors (whose name I can never recall) for coming to the rescue of an elderly thespian giving her all in the heart of the African bush!
The comments I received afterwards were very kind and I chose to believe them! I’m not sure I’ll make a habit of it but I’m seriously glad that I didn’t bottle it and was able to give a unique man a unique gift! I never thought for a moment when I went to RADA that one day I would deliver a speech to a dear friend in the depths of the African bush! But that’s one of the things I love about life: you never, ever know what’s around the corner. You may think you do, but trust me, you don’t!
I apologize once again for the lateness of this blog, but writing my book has taken up most of my writing time. Had I mentioned that I’m writing another book? I don’t think I had: well I am or at least I think I am! I’m certainly writing, on a daily basis, but what started out to be a collection of amusing theatrical anecdotes has morphed into a diary which I cannot allow to be published until after I’ve pegged it! Love to you all, xxx