As a South African, Roy loved the outdoor life. In London, since outdoor activities were not easily achieved, Roy had to content himself with the game of squash. He was a master at this high energy game. Not only was his game biting and athletic, it was also fluid and dance-like. It was a delight to watch him play with an equally gifted opponent. Squash then became an art form. The last London-based centre of the Roy Hart Theatre was the Abraxas Squash Club in Hampstead, so Roy had many opportunities to play, as did we all.
On 27th February 1975, Roy, Dorothy, Vivienne and myself arrived at Malerargues to join the thirty or so members who had already begun restoring and preparing the Chateau, as our home and seat of our vision for a new theatre. Roy was overjoyed to be in the countryside. The Chateau, its outhouses and the big Magnanerie theatre and studio complex were all in need of major renovation. And while, the main order of the day was the creation and rehearsal of the new play "L'Economiste", Roy insisted on finding moments to enjoy the outdoor life. I was very fortunate to be asked to share some of these moments with him.
"Roy Hart off stage"
- some reflections by Paul Silber -
Roy was essentially a very practical man and the focus of our outdoor activity was wood cutting and gathering, since these were used for heating purposes in the very cold wheather we had in that winter of early 1975. Sometimes these activities would involve all the members and everyone would stop work and concentrate on collecting as much wood, as possible, from the vastly overgrown forests. It was a healthy and practical activity and also gave us a sense of team spirit.
There were some occasions when Roy asked me to work with him alone and much to my amazement, we left the rehearsal and while the others carried on, we cut up some trees together. I was "amazed" because in the twelve years that I had known Roy, I had never known of anything to take precedence over a rehearsal. These were very important times for me and it furthered a bond of friendship that was growing between Roy and myself. I look back on those moments with great fondness.
It was great fun cutting wood with Roy but what was really lovely about this extraordinary situation was to experience the marvellous dialogues that accompanied this activity. I remember Roy referring to a process that he felt was happening in me at the time which he spoke of as the marriage of the natural and the religious man. This phrase gave me much food for thought after the accident and his and Dorothy's deaths.
As one can hear from our dialogues, Roy was a long way from being a joker. However he was capable of some very subtle humour on certain occasions. It was rare to hear him crack a joke but if he did it was always to emphasise some quite serious point he was making. One such joke, he related to me in a very specific context. (I preface the joke by saying that Roy was not a male chauvinist, he loved and respected women very much.) This joke was recounted in relation to the exuberant energies of my youth, which I had difficulty in containing! Taking it in this context , the joke remains funny to this day."There was an old bull and a young bull. They were grazing on the rich lush grass of a Swiss mountain meadow. Down in the valley, far below them, grazing contentedly on equally lush grass, they could see a herd of cows. The young bull turned to the old bull and said to him "Let's run-down and f... one of those cows?" The old bull turned round to the young bull and said "No, let's walk down and f... them all!"
This joke illustrates perfectly the difference between Roy's and my energies at that time. He was a slow, methodic body type, "an old steady bull" if ever there was one. Whereas I was a much younger darting-all-over-the-place type, definitely "a young wild bull".
The village of Baska, on the island of Krk, 30 years ago, an island of untouched beauty just off the shores of Yugoslavia. The whole of the Roy Hart theatre was on holiday there. This was in itself unusual because tourism had not yet touched the island. There were no hotels, boarding houses, holiday flats or any other form of tourist accommodation. It was only by virtue of the fact that one of the members of the theatre owned a house in this little village at the far end of the island of Krk, that any of us had any access to the island at all.
As far as it was possible in the evenings we would try to cook collectively. The facilities for cooking where very meagre so the task was not easily achieved. Firstly there was no piped water available so it was one of the evening jobs to collect water for cooking for 20 people, this water had to last through to the following evening.
It fell to Roy and myself to fullfil its duty, it involved the filling of two Jerry cans each of 20 litres and a walk along the beach of one to two kilometres each way, the second way with 20 litres of fresh water for each of us to carry. Roy and I worked out one-day that the best way of achieving this was not to walk back along the beach with two full jerry cans but to enter into the sea water with them where, because fresh water is lighter than sea water, the Jerry cans would float and we could swim back without having to carry the weight of the water.
One evening we were doing this as usual, enjoying the cool water and the beautiful scenery around us, when I noticed that Roy was beginning to surge ahead.
I started to go a little faster in order to try and keep up with him, but then I noticed that he had accelerated a little more, so I accelerated a little too in order to keep up with him again.
And so it went on faster and faster, until we were both swimming flat out.
I was absolutely exhausted.
We came to our destination.
I rolled out of the sea panting, exhausted, lying on the sandy beach.
I turned to Roy, panting ", Roy, what on earth were you doing?"
"What do you mean Paul?"
"why were you swimming so fast?"
"what do you mean Paul? why were you swimming so fast?"
"well, because you were swimming faster and faster Roy"
"but I thought it was you Paul who kept on swimming faster and faster, not me".
Then we both rolled around on the sand laughing and laughing at the ridiculous situation.
The above is taken from an extract of "Celebration of Life" by Paul Silber and Clara Harris
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