Yesterday was the anniversary of the day my father was moved from hospital to the care home, where he spent the last four months of his life. My sister and I had coordinated dates with everyone concerned, and arranged time off work to help settle him in. Then, without our knowledge, he was moved a day early. He was told by staff that he was going home. He had his bag packed and would have anticipated the peace of his own room after weeks of a noisy ward. Then he was driven to a strange building, and taken in a lift to a bleak room only just vacated by the last resident. I was told by phone of his despair and rage. The thought of it disturbs me still – the sense of failing him.
And yesterday too, I met Mark Dornford-May for the first time in forty years, at the Young Vic Theatre, where his company, Isango Ensemble previewed A Man of Good Hope. I’m certain this story of Asad Abdullahi, of hope and love in the face of the most harrowing events, will receive great reviews in the weeks to come, so I won’t add my own. Just to say the energy, skill, musicality and physicality of each performer was astounding and uplifting – and the production full of the joy and magic of theatre. We were engrossed. But most heart-warming was hearing Mark talk about my father in the bar beforehand – of how he’d been inspired by him in so many ways, not least his love of theatre, and how rare good teaching is. I am touched both by the play and the encounter. It seemed a fitting way to celebrate my father.