As an novelist as well as an actor, I have always been fascinated by ‘the secrets that whisper in the blood’; by inheritance, what we have taken from those that have gone before us, our parents, grandparents, even further back. In our genes, of course, but also in how these people behaved, characteristics and even attitudes passed on that we have adopted, that rule some of our actions in ways we cannot tell.
The theme reoccurs in my books… and it is one of the many reasons why the production of this play, ‘The Master Builder’ by Henrik Ibsen has been such a fascinating journey. He was Norwegian, of course, wrote about his countrymen and women. And I am half Norwegian, have always felt viscerally connected to that land of fjords and myths. It features in a lot of my writing. But there is another connection of blood and legacy – my Grandparents, all of them, English and Norwegian, were actors too. And most of them played Ibsen.
I have a framed photo of Betsy Jordal, my grandmother, on stage in a rather obscure Ibsen, ‘Fru Inger’. Also one of Karl Holter, my grandfather, playing the better known ‘Peer Gynt’. I brought both of them out to UBC, have them sitting there on my dressing table. It seemed appropriate, in the week that included November 2nd, ‘the Day of the Dead’ when people, especially in the Latin countries, visit with their Dead, for me to visit with mine.
Karl, Betsy and Me. Eighty years apart, all playing ‘title’ roles’, all wrestling both with acting choices and personal demons, in the psychological maelstrom that are the plays of Henrik Ibsen. I wonder what from their lives they brought to the roles. How, perhaps, consciously and unconsciously, they used their grandparents. Wonder about the line that stretches back, the secrets hidden in time, held in blood.
Somehow, they are up there with me, Karl and Betsy, under the lights, in ways I cannot fathom. I am glad of it – and just a little bit scared.
Guest Post ~ C C Humphreys