The huge concrete edifice loomed dark and forbidding. I looked up at the sign that I had been dreading seeing for so long: The State Theatre.
I took a gulp and I moved forward, into the building.
The doors closed behind me.
I hadn’t been to The State Theatre since my accident twenty-five years ago. I had fallen eighteen metres off the Opera Stage and the consequences had been life changing. I did not have the desire to return but I knew that I had to. Absa’s wish for me to perform i thank you God on the Opera Stage enabled me to seek a belated closure of some sort. I had unfinished business there. The demon that could turn my dreams into nightmares must be confronted. I needed to look it in the eye and deprive it of the malicious hold it still had of me.
“This way, Gaynor,” Hennie’s voice roused me and I hurried after him. He was the director of this film we were making for Absa. Through door after door, down corridors, around corners and suddenly I stopped. We were backstage, opposite the dressing rooms. Twenty-five years on, I remembered these dressing rooms. Kate Normington and I had shared one at the very end of the corridor.
“We’ll use this,” Hennie pushed open one at the opposite end. I was glad of that. I put down my things and looked around. I remembered the dressing roomss perfectly. Isn’t it odd how some memories are crystal clear and others are foggy, dense and almost a smoky black?
“When you’ve had a cup of coffee with the crew, I’ll take you onto the Opera Stage.”
My heart lurched. The Opera Stage! The place where my life had changed. It had suddenly swerved into a new direction for which I was totally unprepared. I needed more than a cup of coffee. Neat whiskey would do far better, I thought.
While chatting with the crew, I was introduced to two men, Madela and Abel. They both worked backstage at the theatre.
“Were you here when…”, I began.
“I was off sick that night, but my friend, Abel, was here when you had your fall,” Madela replied.
My eyes flew to Abel’s face. “You were here?”
“I have worked at The State Theatre for 37 years and that is a night I will not forget.” He took my hand in both of his. “Ai, Gaynor!” he exclaimed, “Your screams will always live deep in my heart.” He patted my hands.
Half laughing but with tears pricking my eyes, I said to him: “And look Abel, here I am!” I wriggled my bottom and did a shuffley kind of dance.
He looked at me with a smile in his eyes and said: “Isn’t God great?”
“Oh, Abel, isn’t He just!” I said giving him a hug.
Hennie called and I said to them: “Before I go home, I would love a picture of the two of you.”
“We will find you, don’t worry,” Madela reassured me.
Hennie and I walked onto The Opera Stage. Hennie pointed to a spot stage left towards the back. “Here is where you fell, Gaynor. You can see where it opens.”
I peered at the floor. It was clear that this part could open, raise and lower. I had fallen right there. It was on that spot that my life had changed forever. I walked hesitantly towards it. With my eyes tightly shut, I stepped onto that ‘plank’ of the stage. Where twenty-five years ago, Gaynor, the actress had fallen and been killed, this Gaynor stood there breathing deeply. Then I raised my foot and…stamped. I stamped again. And again. I opened my eyes, looked at Hennie and said: “It is just a board on the floor.” Stamp, stamp, stamp.”That’s all it is, Hennie, just a board!”
I moved away from the partition and stood next to him. “Are you alright?” he asked. I looked at him and smiled broadly.
“I am totally fine. In fact, I don’t know why I didn’t come her before this. I feel…” A huge sob racked my body as tears spurted from my eyes. “Glory be, what is going on? Why on earth am I crying? This is so stupid!” Another sob was wrenched from me. “I don’t know why I’m crying Hennie, I can’t explain this. I’m not feeling sad at all…I don’t know what is going on….” I sobbed and sobbed as the tears fell like rain in a much needed desert. Hennie was great. He didn’t come and put an arm around me. He let me cry myself out.
The ‘demon’ that had been lodged inside me for the past twenty-five years, took to the air and flew out of my life once and for all. Standing there on that stage that had taken so much from me, I realised that I was bigger than what had happened to me. God had wanted me back there so that I could realise that. “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.”
Hennie had said that he envisaged me performing in this red, shimmering dress. He sent me photographs of this incredibly glamorous red dress. If that was what he wanted, okay – so be it! My neighbour, Carlene Blom and I bought this beautiful red sequinned material that was simply glorious. She said she knew just the kind of thing that would suit me. Carlene’s nimble fingers soon had her sewing machine purring up seams as my transformation began to take place.
In the dressing room I had a makeup artist . I wasn’t used to this. As a performer I had always done my own makeup. What a genius she was! When she finished, in the mirror this good looking stranger looked back at me! My magnificent red dress slathered it’s way onto me. I looked just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, although my thick ankles gave the game away!
Hennie had me standing centre stage saying my poem. I love that poem. If I didn’t know better, I would swear e.e. cummings had written that poem specifically for me. I said it over and over as I was filmed from every conceivable angle.
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
I wanted to add: now the heart of my heart rejoices
in it’s peace
We finally finished.
“I must get a photo of Madela and Abel.” As if from nowhere they appeared at my side. They had changed. Gone were their dirty overalls. They had on beautifully pressed shirts and smiles as wide as the sun.
“You must take a photo,” Abel said, “a photo of Gaynor who died, but now is living!”
You have said it all, Abel, you have said it all!
To view my ‘Gaynor has Risen- Absa film click here!