This week began for me like most with little to do on Monday until the evening. Then I had to teach at Warwick Uni Buddhist Society and immediately after our Monday evening group at The Forest Hermitage, for which I’m afraid I was rather late. For the last few Mondays Ajahn Manapo has been away at Bradford on Avon, so I’ve been on my own here. Tuesday was out to prisons as usual but then Wednesday was rather different – I had to go to London.
That meant an early start and an early meal. I had to be at the MoJ building in Petty France by 1:30. The reason was a meeting of the Prison Service’s Chaplaincy Council. That sounds rather grand but the reality was an assorted group of people of different religions crammed round a table in a sort of glorified and airless cupboard, which I believe they call a meeting room. I was stuck in there for three hours and I wasn’t in the best of shape by the time I escaped. It’s this strange addiction to air and breathing that I have that was the trouble! And the content of the meeting didn’t help. I suppose it was all necessary stuff – some people seemed to be able to get quite enthusiastic about it – but you could never have called it creative.
Once I’d escaped, Luke appeared to pick me up and run me over to Soho, to Dean Street. Had you been strolling through the heart of Soho on Wednesday evening you might have glimpsed this Buddhist monk, quick as a flash, disappearing down a darkened alley next to Quo Vardis. Had you followed you would have found yourself in a little Court and seen me disappear into a studio run by Giles Forman. Until that evening I had never met Giles, although we had spoken a few times over the phone. His studio is where he trains young actors and Giles himself was taught at Drama Centre where I went fifty years ago. I was received by Giles with great courtesy and introduced to some of his young students as having been in Group One at Drama Centre – they all seemed to know what that meant. And for anyone reading this who doesn’t know what it meant, well there are previous entries to this blog that will inform you. Coincidentally, Christopher Fettes, who taught me at Drama Centre, was there that evening and still teaching at eighty-four. The purpose of my going there had been to meet Giles and to talk about how we might in this fiftieth anniversary year of the founding of Drama Centre honour it and the teachers who taught there and especially the great and wonderful Yat, who died eleven years ago. So Giles, Christopher and I had a brief discussion until Giles had to go off and take a class.
I’ve never forgotten how one day, around fifty years ago, I heard Christopher describing Yat as a creative man. I suppose I knew that already but I hadn’t heard it said. I don’t think I’d ever heard anyone called that before and it struck me then as such a wonderful thing to be, to be a creative person. It’s stayed with me. And that evening with those two people and their young students I was reminded of that and the contrast between what I sensed there and what I’d been through that afternoon was almost overwhelming.
What is done in that studio and what I used to do over forty odd years ago and what I do now is all linked. Yat’s work is described as the Psychology of Movement and what I learnt as a student and as an actor with Yat and Christopher and all the rest has a great deal to do with what I do now, and with what Buddhism has to say about the human condition, our suffering and the cause of our suffering. Life and living and dealing with our difficulties has to be a creative process. You must try to be a creative person. I do and if ever I’m called that it will be for me one of the greatest of compliments.