I was there again last night. It looked a bit like old Sydney as I remember it from the fifties, before they pulled it down in the name of progress. But wasn’t it more like the badlands of San Francisco, that once beautiful city that is infested by beggars and muggers and is sadly now past redemption? It was only vaguely familiar, yet the neighbourhood was strange and inimical. In my dream, I am always in an unknown part of town, well off the beaten track, a no-go area of half-demolished buildings and menacing tatterdemalions. I am very frightened.
Then a stranger approaches me and whispers, ‘Haven’t you got a show tonight?’
Of course I have! It hits me like a thunderbolt.
But what time is it? And how far away is my theatre?
I rush out into the street, brushing aside those clawing hands of the canallas which want to keep me there. Taxis slow down, then at the sight of me speed off. I look down at my clothes. My feet are bare and I am wearing filthy rags. But at last I hitch a ride and ultimately, at the slow pace of nightmare, I reach the theatre.
But it’s unfamiliar. Moreover, it’s being demolished. There are workmen on scaffolds hammering at the remaining masonry, exposing what was once the stage and half a stuccoed proscenium.
A man up a ladder in a yellow hard hat (for a change, not Boris) calls out to me, ‘Where were you? We waited!’
And then, covered with sweat, I wake.
We don’t need what Nabokov called ‘that Viennese quack’ to help interpret this nightmare.
I have it every night, always with small variations.
I find myself in what used to be called ‘the stews’ of a great city. The inhabitants are progressively becoming less threatening, more friendly. I recognise some of them from previous nightmares – as one does repertory players – but although they are as horribly malevolent as before, they greet me as one of them; they regard me with expressions of lewd complicity. That’s even more terrifying.
I might easily have told you about this dream before because I have related it to quite a few people, but it doesn’t matter; after all, it is a recurring dream.
Last night I went to the theatre for the first time in a couple of years. It was the magnificent Lisa Dwan in Beckett’s Happy Days at the Riverside. This is theatre as it’s meant to be and so rarely is. I sat in the socially distanced audience, watching a play about isolation (among other things), and gazed longingly at the stage I might never again inhabit. If lockdown didn’t exist, and COVID were merely a nightmare, would I ever again step fearlessly before an audience?
Losing one’s nerve is the actor’s greatest fear.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
What is... a nail house?
Don’t confuse a nail house with a nail parlour. A nail house is an old house that survives as new building development goes on all around it.
Kent's stairway to heaven
Walter Barton May’s Hadlow Castle is the ultimate Gothic folly
The book that changed the world
On Marcel Proust’s 150th anniversary, A N Wilson praises his masterpiece, an exquisite comedy with no parallel
RIP the playboys of the western world
Charlie Methven mourns his dashing former father-in-law, Luis ‘the Bounder’ Basualdo, last of a dying breed
My film family's greatest hits
Downton Abbey producer Gareth Neame follows in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandmother, a silent-movie star
A lifetime of pin-ups
Barry Humphries still has nightmares about going on stage. He’s always admired the stars who kept battling on
Travel: Retreat From The World
For his new book, Nat Segnit visited Britain’s quietest monasteries and islands to talk to monks, hermits and recluses
“Covid Zero” kept Australia safe, if isolated, for 18 months. Now its states are split over how to move on
Sidney – Catch the Wave
Business meets beach culture in sun-splashed Sydney.
Khloe & Tristan: BETRAYED AGAIN!
KHLOÉ KARDASHIAN IS LIVID AFTER AN INSTA MODEL CLAIMS TRISTAN THOMPSON IS BACK TO HIS CHEATING WAYS.
5 completely honest confessions from Ruth Righi
You know Ruth Righi best as Sydney Reynolds on Disney’s Sydney to the Max (back on Disney Channel for a third season starting March 19). And while the 15-year-old actually has a lot in common with her onscreen alter ego (to start, they're both biracial and amazing bass players), we decided it was time to dig even deeper. Below are five brutally honest, real-life confessions straight from Ruth herself.
BRAD & JEN'S SECRET DAUGHTER!
Stars dote on look-alike as she graduates college
Hustle and Heart
Monica Peraza O’Quigley loves the challenge of creating new companies. With her latest, the Etho, she’s zeroing in on her goal to empower women worldwide.
Scene & Heard
BEHIND the SCENES!
My pets are my own true loves.
Slice Of Sydney
As the smoke clears, the draw of Australia’s largest city for both business and leisure comes into focus
Describe yourself in three words