Standing in the dark, my back against the exposed brick, my hands by my side, palms against the wall. I’m warmed by your touch, the stone holding your body-heat. I breath in the smell of fresh paint and look out into the dim auditorium.
So quiet - you can hear the “tick, tick, tick” of a bold stage light from the fly floor overhead. As the electricity passes through its veins, bringing light to the raked stage. The audience hold their breath, “listening” to the actress, spell-bound by her loss and sadness. The “sound” of an audience “listening” sends a shock through my body, like being caressed by a silent lover. You cradle the auditorium in your arms. I am addicted to your embrace. I want you in my life forever and have pursued you ever since.
We first met when I moved to Edinburgh aged 12. Preview nights were free, under the condition, we the audience, knew that something could and invariably would, go wrong. A stage manager poking their head from behind the curtain or the house lights would spring on. A brief delay. Each new production, I’d line up and receive my free ticket. The first production I saw at the Lyceum was an adaptation of Merlin by Tom McGrath (would love to re do this David, just saying!?) Powerful, dark and sexy, the cast in modern army dress, they fought next to burning braziers and burnt out cars. Live music wooed us from the gods. I strained forward in my free seat and hung on every word, Arthur you fool! A few years later I joined the Lyceum youth theatre, next door, just yards away and almost within touching distance. If I couldn’t be on your stage, at least I’d be next to you. I wanted more and decided to dedicate myself to you, wearing your colours - black trousers and a purple (or was it pink?) shirt. I became an Usher and found myself sitting in the dark once again, admiring my favourite actors and actresses, repeat the lines and rhythms yet always holding me in their power. Matinees were a form of time-travel, an escape from reality, a day spent with you, stopping time and escaping the daylight. It was here, after a shift selling programmes and melted ice cream, I’d sneak back into the plush red warmth and breath you in. Behind the boxes, partly veiled, hidden by the soft light, your gold veined mural winked at me. Alone in the space, I’d dare myself to walk to the stage edge and look into your black mouth. Up to the gods, the lighting desk (no Hamish), stories of the grey lady who haunted the upper circle. I love your side passages, secret stairs and double doors. You had my heart now and I was longer scared.
Months later, our relationship had grown, I found myself now sitting on stage, at the same table as Macbeth (which is not to be recommended!). Banquos ghost appeared, haunting him for the second time that day. Macbeth hurled the fake clay drinking vessel into the wings with fury. The lords at dinner, including myself, were bemused and confused by MacB’s behaviour, whilst secretly sharing an update on the live football game. A member of the youth theatre and aiming to go to Drama school, I was lucky to be cast as “2nd spear-carrier” in several productions at the Lyceum. Macbeth, The Shaughraun and Three Sisters - it was here I would stand in the wings every night and watch Carolyn Devlin prepare herself, then thrill the audience without using a word. As she came off stage, cloaked by the dark, I would hope she would give me a look. Somehow acknowledging the spell she had cast. Electric.
Thinking of you now, sitting there alone and quiet. I know you’re just waiting. Not just for me but for the throng and mass of voices, wet coats and torn tickets. The bell sounding shrill as the laughter and murmur subsides. Passion and warmth filling your empty space. You’re the heart of Edinburgh, for me, beating. I cant wait to be taken in by your darkness again, as you comfort us in your embrace.