Playwright Van Badham continues the story of the drama behind The Bull, the Moon and the Coronet of Stars. Final instalment tomorrow.
At the time of this third Eastmanian phone call, I was back in Sydney for a short stay, enjoying a writing residency at Thirning Villa, a heritage house retreat for artists run at the generous provision of Ashfield Council.
I had been living in London for 10 years, three of which had been spent in an intimate relationship with a black-haired conceptual artist with a love of polyester collared shirts. We had moved in together to save money and the domestic experiment – in a shoddy bedsit with a bed built into the ceiling and tempestuous negotiations with hot water plumbing – was not going well. The offer of the transcontinental residency I accepted with an unspoken consideration that a three month separation and a sojourn with separate bathrooms would do me and my dark-eyed lover great benefit.
All of us regain our naïveté when love is failing.
I missed him, of course… but while my fidelity was iron and my love professed aloud, a growing restlessness manifested itself in dainty crushes on the handsome strangers who crossed my public view. As writers are wont, I narrativised projections of experience onto trivial encounters – noticing a grey-eyed gentleman in a theatre foyer became a torturous mental flowchart of potential consequence: what if I did approach the grey-eyed man? What if he smiled and my heart leapt? What if he should offer to buy me a drink? What if one drink became three? What if the ooze of booze and flowing attraction became liquid and viscous! Oh, how, how, could I return to my lover in London smeared with the stench of adultery? Noone can keep a stinking secret in a bedsit flat!
“It’s for people to listen to on headphones as they wander through the Ashmolean,” Helen had explained.
It is the great privilege of writers to explore the repercussions of their sinful promptings without an obligation to concrete sin; the labyrinth of the Ashmolean – the labyrinth under Knossos – was built of the bricks of the speculations I wandered in my own half-animal mind.
Helen Eastman loved The Bull, and to my knowledge you can still stroll around the Ashmolean and listen to its radio-play form on some headphones.
As for me: within six months of writing The Bull, I returned to London… and then returned to Australia, ending my relationship with the black-haired artist.
Final instalment tomorrow…
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