Yesterday I twittered ‘ you’ve got to love the national I’m listening to chocolate box jazz next to a 70 year old man putting on what appears to be make up..’
I now feel somewhat guilty for poking fun at the gentleman in question. A few moments later I looked again at the subject of my jibe and as with all the best films for a few brief seconds, to a jazzy gershwin sound track, our eyes met. I smiled my usual meaningless grin but his was something deeper, almost mournful. It was only then I saw the full picture.
This gentlemen was the National’s own Miss Shepherd (appropriate then that RNT are currently playing Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art). The mis-matched clothes, the two bags for life, the layer upon layer. But it was his dignity not his poverty which set him apart from the other, wealthier, patrons sipping their four ninty five Rioja. I’ve no idea what the rouge was for perhaps it was medical, perhaps a mis staken plea to be noticed by Nick Hytner, more likely something else. Still I couldn’t help remembering what people were telling me during the consultation on the Colchester Festivals Project. ‘Art’ one consultee told me ‘ is about the life, health and happiness of the town’. And for the National’s Mr Shepherd I hope Maurice Horhut’s chocolate box jazz piano warmed every aspect of his soul.