01 November 2009

Drawing Nighy

I realise that I forgot to mention that I went to see Arcadia again. I went back in September, and I went with S. This was a lovely experience: it turns out to be great to go to the theatre with an actor, because they pay a good deal of attention to the acting choices that have been made and how they do or do not work. So I got a whole different view of the play. I shall try to go see more with him.

The best sight, however, was neither S, nor Arcadia, but rather Bill Nighy, whom I saw walking down Piccadilly an hour or two before I went to the play. Now, as it happens I love Bill Nighy in any case (dry wit! angular looks! cool glasses! weird disease!), but what makes this sighting cool is that Bill Nighy starred in the original production of Arcadia! And what makes it even cooler is that while he was starring in that production he twinkled at me in a lift!! I was temping at the National for two days, and when I was coming back from lunch in the theatre canteen I got into a lift with many people. What I remember second-most vividly about that encounter was that I was wearing a really nice skirt: a gathered circle skirt (gathered at the waist, but as a result very wide at the bottom) in olive green with paler green and yellow stripes; it buttoned at the front of the waistband, which was about four or so inches wide and rested slightly below the natural waist (which is why it looked good on me, because normally circle skirts, with a thin waistband at the natural base, make me look hippy and dumpy). ANYhoo (BUEno), there I was in the front of this lift, by the button panel, and when I looked up this tall blond man twinkled at me (this is a curious facial expression that only the English know how to make. It defies explanation). It made my day. I had no idea who he was, since I knew nothing about Arcadia or Bill Nighy: it was only a few months later when the play got famous that I realised who that lift-twinkler had been. Thinking about it now, I realise that Rufus Sewell might have been in that lift, too, but I never kick myself over having missed him. I'm just always pleased that I got twinkled at in a lift by Bill Nighy (actually, now that I think about it I saw Rufus Sewell a few months later, anyway, on the street. He was wearing a very nice overcoat: navy blue slouchy wool). This time, though, Bill Nighy did not twinkle at me: in fact, he didn't even see me, although I did try to catch his eye on the off chance that he might twinkle at me again.

As if the coincidence of seeing the star of a play, whom you'd first seen while he was starring in the play, while you were in the process of preparing to see the revival of that play, were not excellent enough, the excellence is increased by the fact that there is an echo of this in Arcadia itself. In the second half of the play, Lord Byron has returned from his visit to the Levant and has become colossally famous as a result of Childe Harold. In the house that he visited in the first half of the play, three years before, Thomasina is very puzzled that he has not contacted her. "Why should he contact you?" her brother asks. "We exchanged many significant glances when he was here," she says. "I do wonder that he has been home almost a year from his adventures and has not written to me once." "It is indeed improbable, my lady," says her tutor Septimus. Well, I exchanged a significant glance in a lift with Bill Nighy, and it seems to me indeed improbable that sixteen years later he should encounter me walking down Piccadilly and have no memory of me. Or, indeed, notice me at all. But thus it was.

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