On the way to nursery, S and I stopped under a massive tree (don't ask me what kind) in the park. We wanted to catch leaves, but the winds were light and the yellowy things twirling above were clinging to their perches. S watched for a while then joined in, as I implored the tree to loosen its grip and let us have a leaf to make a wish on. Just as my 3 year old son gave up and chose a specimen from the ground, a curly brown thing tumbled and fell, and I caught it. S was impressed, but only so much - his leaf was, after all, more broad and bright. But I wished for him upon my little brown leaf, all the same. He wanted a wish too, but wasn't too sure how to go about it. I suggested he wish for lots of nice things at Christmas.
More leaves and trees at the Hampstead Theatre last night, at Nell Leyshon's Comfort Me With Apples. I'd not been to the theatre before and didn't take to the building much. The thing of being able to see the bowl of the theatre from behind is quite good, and the gang-plank entrances. But my overall feeling is that the place as a whole is designed to say, Come on in if you think you're posh enough. Which made the extraordinary design of the play all the more appealing, as a relief. It's a beautiful, elegant thing that suits the mood of the piece, and serves its purpose perfectly - in the first act the kitchen of a failing farm, in the second, the orchard of the same.
NL's play has been wonderfully well received, and I thought the two pairs of siblings in the family very well drawn, with Peter Hamilton Dyer particularly affecting as the farmer with arrested development, stifled by mother love. The simple-minded aged brother played by Alan Williams is also a thing of wonder, and the writing between him and his sister (Anna Calder-Marshall) is at times so sublime as to reach Beckettian heights of poetic comedy.
Nell will wince, but there are fascinating contrasts with the other recent play set on an ailing farm, Richard Bean's Harvest. In Comfort, we feel the winds of change blow through the farm rendering it barren, bringing dilapidation of the spirit as much as of the outhouses. In Harvest, the march of time seems like an enemy that is taken on, squared up to and ultimately defeated. Different takes, different outcomes. But it was startling to see a moment where the plays collide - in both, a kitchen table is moved from its habitual place, and the characters in both are invigorated by the change.
Before the play, I met Pippa Ellis, who as part of the literary team at Hampstead has been nurturing Comfort - NL has been resident writer there. Then after, a lovely drink with L and S, and a brief hello with Sally P. And I got a lift home! Sometimes you can't beat a lift home.