The last time I saw Lucy Peacock on stage at The Stratford Festival was in Noel Coward’s quintessentially delicious comedy of manners ‘Private Lives’ in 2019 alongside other notable company members Geraint Wyn Davies, Mike Shara, Sophia Walker, and Sarah Dodd.
Sigh! And it was just several months later before our world completely changed on account of Covid.
Could we ever use that humorous witty banter and repartee from this ‘Private Lives’ cast right now to help us slowly emerge and move forward into a new way of life.
You’ll see some of Lucy’s wit in her responses below that did make me smile. Her candour as well regarding governmental support both provincial and federal for the industry is spot on. I also appreciated how hopeful she remains about the industry and the future of the performing arts.
Lucy is a graduate of Montreal’s National Theatre School. She has appeared in so many wonderful productions at Stratford in so many diverse roles, and I know when I see her name in the playbill that my time will be well spent for the next two to three hours.
She and I conducted our conversation both by email and by telephone. Thank you, Lucy, for adding your voice and your thoughts as we all look ahead in a post-pandemic world:
It’s a harsh reality that the worldwide pandemic of Covid 19 has changed all of us. Describe how your understanding of the world you know and how your perception and experience have changed on a personal level.
I wonder if the planet has actually thrived to a certain extent with the decrease of human movement and consumption. Or perhaps we have had the time to focus our points of reflection. Whether it is on the smallest gift of a spring bud to the grander presence of the sky and the elements. And, of course, the Horizon.
I live on a farm which is located on Treaty 29 territory in Perth County, Ontario. This land has been cared for by the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinabewaki, and the Attiwonderonk (or Neutral) nations.
My husband and I settled here 30 years ago. As a farmer, my husband's day to day life didn't change much except he was tripping over people while he was working…! As I have always worked in the summer and often between my seasons at the Stratford Festival, I realized I hadn’t spent much time here really. I have relished being here to fully witness and rediscover how the 4 seasons are manifested here.
I managed to find the poison ivy, the snakes, (“we have snakes…?!?”), the hundreds of species of birds and bugs (“we have bugs...?!?”), the trees, hundreds of which we planted and are now Huge, (running joke, “I can't see anything for the darn trees…!!!”), the gorgeous skies, the snow, the thunder, sometimes at the same time,(“?!?”), and, of course, the Horizon.
These last 18 months have allowed my husband and I to really See what we have accomplished in our over 40 years together. And to reflect on the later season of our lives and how we might want to nurture it. This has been an unexpected and precious gift of time for us and for our family.
All of that said, I also often found myself lost these last 18 months. The waves of depression, ennui, numbness, listlessness, were coupled with deep anxiety and profound grief. We have lost friends and family; we have witnessed the brutality of our fellow humans to each other, again and again, and yet again. It is so devastating to reflect into ourselves and see who and what we are and the horrors we are capable of and are responsible for.
Our collective foundation, humanity, is forever changed, or actually, Revealed. And then we despair, as we should, the planet despairs of us, as it should, the sky is bleak, as it should be, and the Horizon is murky and lost to us, as it should be.
I am hoping I am changed, and that the latter season of my life is one of renewal and clarity….and that the Horizon will become clear again.
With live indoor theatre shut for one year plus, with it appearing it may not re-open any time soon, how has your understanding and perception as a professional artist of the live theatre industry been altered and changed?
Frankly, I am appalled by the lack of support from our governments for our industry. It minimizes our value to the community and our contribution to society as a whole.
However, I am also elated and inspired by the resilience I have witnessed throughout this struggle by so many. The innovation and imagination of all the artists and technicians and curators and their navigation of this crucially difficult time has been absolutely extraordinary. Brilliant.
We have confirmed our value to each other at the very least.
As a professional artist, what are you missing the most about the live theatre industry?
I miss the integrity of the work. I miss the discipline. I miss the collaborative quest for excellence and the collective forward movement of a group of people foraging and forging. (Or milling and strewing if that’s where we are in the quest(ion)…!)
As a professional artist, what is the one thing you will never take for granted again in the live theatre industry when you return to it?
Other people’s worth. I hope to be mindful of not making any assumptions about anyone. That I will not take Anyone for granted. That if I don’t know someone, I will take more care and be sensitive to Their journey of which I might play a small part in.
I will not take for granted the value of Respect, Care, Humility, Love.
Describe one element you hope has changed concerning the live theatre industry.
I hope we can all be more gentle with each other. That when the pressure is on….and it is inevitably ON...that we can always Stop and Take Care.
That there is no show or story or work of art that is worth hijacking someone’s mental or spiritual or physical well being at any time.
Explain what specifically you believe you must still accomplish within the industry.
I do hope I can be of help. I hope to continue to do some teaching. I hope to give Hope back to the younger (or not so younger) artists who may have lost their way during this storm.
I hope to support those whose artistic journey has been prevented from gaining traction by the systemic oppression, exclusivity, and colonialism of our industry. I hope to help those who have been stopped in their artistic tracks by this pandemic.
Some artists are saying that audiences must be prepared for a tsunami of Covid themed stories in the return to live theatre. Would you elaborate on this statement both as an artist in the theatre, and as an audience member observing the theatre.
I honestly don't see how we can avoid our stories being informed by Covid in the return. Both in the telling and the receiving.
As you mentioned in the first question...we are forever changed.
If we are craving lighter stories it might be a reaction to our state of being and our desire to be nurtured back to health. If we want to dig deeper into the pain and grief of the last few months It is because we aren’t ready to move forward. I think it will all be about healing.
We will Need to simply Be together….Both in the telling and the receiving….and take it from there.
As an artist, what specifically is it about your work that you want future audiences to remember about you?
Gosh. That is hard to say. Just to be remembered would be nice.