A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Nicola Cavendish & My First Valentine With Joy
Sunday, March 08, 2009

Listening to a relatively obscure Brahms piano sonata on the radio while driving, some years ago, made me stop the car. I parked it. I had never heard it before. It was exquisite. I found the need to call someone who understood. I called my VSO pianist friend Linda Lee Thomas. Her husband, Vancouver Chamber Orchestra director, Jon Washburn answered the phone. So I told him of my sonic "on my road to Damascus" adventure. He commented:

"Ah, Alex, I envy you for being able to listen to something for the first time."

I had a similar sonic (but also visual) experience of the sort last night. I was invited by my friend Abraham Rogatnick to a performance at PAL last night. PAL stands for Performing Arts Lodge, (see below). It is a beautiful new building with a roof garden that sits not far from the Bayshore Hotel on Cardero. The lodge houses many of BC's finest retired actors and musicians. They have started a series called Solo Series where one actor or actress gives a performance in PAL's intimate and small theatre while one drinks good wines and eats well in a most civilized manner.

In one of those strange circumstances where although I have photographed many prominent BC actors and actresses I had never photographed Nicola Cavendish. And I am ashamed (but also delighted, read on!) to admit I had never seen her in performance until last night. I had never seen her in Willie Russell's Shirley Valentine. I was perplexed that they were serving us Greek food. It was Rogatnick who explained that the play had a lot to do with Greece.

The play, as it was explained to us by the delightful Cavendish, usually features actual cooking in a real kitchen. In this production she made the gestures of cooking eggs and chips. It was after her remarkable performance that she confessed, "There are so many things happening in this play but here, for the first time, I have been left alone with all the words. And what words..."

Shirley Valentine has become a signature play for Cavendish and she has finally, as she told us, "Let it go." But she made an exception for us last night and I felt again as if I were listening to that Brahms piano sonata for the first time. What a wonder! What a delight! And what despair as I thought that could not write about it here. I have no picture of Cavendish. But it was Cavendish who gave me a pleasant solution when:

She mentioned that her first acting teacher had been the gracious Joy Coghill (PAL resident and advisor to the Solo Series). Some 15 years ago I had photographed Coghill (above, left) for a brochure for that years's YWCA Women of Distinction. Another PAL resident is David Y. H. Lui (left) founder of Ballet British Columbia. He was a dashing young man when I photographed him by the wall of the old Grayhound Bus Station.

The next in the Solo Series is on Friday April 17 and Saturday April 18. It will feature Rosy Fire-Dryden in her tour de force performance of Martin Sherman's Rose - A moving journey through 20th Century Jewish life. To reserve: solo @shaw.ca


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