After Lear, walking unfamiliar streets in search of a pub, we found that we had circled back behind the theatre. There was a crowd bunching in a passageway, gathered around a small, white-haired man in a trim blue blazer; he was smiling politely, responding affably, signing programs proffered mostly by aged hands.

Not twenty minutes before, we had seen him die on the stage beside his hanged daughter, in the great existential boomerang of their earlier, rapturous reunion.”No cause, no cause,” she had said then, as her hands sought his ravaged face – the shattering scene, the heart of the oeuvre, the enacted ritual of transcendent forgiveness, so much harder-striking, deeper-delving than any seen in the cathedral up the street.

Was this wiped out by the double deaths, by the whispered roar of nothingness – its mocking laughter – that brings down the curtain? Or does the moment of enactment engender its own truth, incarnated, which survives independently of the onrush and backwash of time? The small old man, now returned to our common contingency, and strangely gnomish here with his sprightly manner, gave no hint of an answer, or of the slightest awareness that an answer might even exist.

Or were the gentleness, kindness and show of interest he displayed, in each moment of flickering encounter, themselves the enactment of an answer?

9 April 2011, Bath, England

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