Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

I spent last weekend in Edinburgh taking part in a small celebration of a friend's eventful life. Fred was dazzlingly intelligent and witty and kind, and though I hadn't seen him in years, the news of his death came as an awful shock. Poignantly, I first heard the news from Cary, one of my best friends.

After getting off the phone, I was mugged by a young man I'm guessing couldn't appreciate the grim irony: I was already feeling so bereft that I couldn't care less. Oddly, I spent a good deal of time thinking about my assailant. What led him to become a crook, and would he wind up in some grim, miserable prison, leaving a weeping mother behind, and perhaps a child? Perhaps I'm taking compassionate conservatism too far.

It was obvious to everyone that Fred was, as they say, destined for great things. But of course there's something faintly indecent about dwelling on that, as though his death would be somehow less tragic if he hadn't been so bright and charismatic. As a kid, Fred fell in love with the theatre, and he was a ringleader of a small but ambitious theatre troupe that performed at the Fringe every August. After leaving England for Harvard, he brought some of his American classmates, myself included, into the fold. The summers I spent in Edinburgh - the first was interrupted by a bout of tropical disease, and the second involved me dancing around in a nappy and a fez in an abandoned, dank, mould-infested warehouse - were easily the most memorable of my life, not just because of the deep-fried Mars bars and the heartbreaking beauties who shared our venue.

It's hard to explain how much I've missed acting. Or rather how much I've missed having an audience. Despite having appeared in about a dozen productions as an undergraduate, I was never really an actor.

I'd normally be brought in to behave like a madman or to do some kind of sensuous, knife-wielding dance to comic effect, which comes naturally to me. My sisters and I would occasionally belt out songs alternately to torment and amuse our mother while she prepared meals. While some of my comrades have gone on to become professional actors, the only performing I do is as an occasional talking head. I enjoy it, but it's nowhere near as thrilling as making a fool of yourself on stage. I hope I'll have another chance to perform, perhaps in my future nursing home where I will once again be called upon to don a nappy, albeit under less happy circumstances.

After returning home to Washington, I took a short nap before heading to see District 9, Neill Blomkamp's brilliant science-fiction film about an extraterrestrial refugee crisis. …

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