Too few saw you in your last theatre role,
the affected hero of La Forêt mouillée,
Victor Hugo’s seldom-performed verse play.
Cross-dressed, in white face, top hat and cutaway –
from my late father’s wardrobe – you stole the show.
No, that’s not it; that wasn’t your style; you simply took
rightful possession of the part,
learnt pages of alexandrines off by heart,
flew to rehearsals in Provence and, fired
by months of Bernard’s coaching and coaxing, acquired
the voice, gestures, gait and look that he desired,
and became, for one night only, comédienne.
Not comédien. Nobody in the hall
could have mistaken you for a man,
though, equally, nobody doubted you were French.
This being a Bernard production, the cast
included Indian dancers, opera singers, the village choir,
a vast ensemble, less theatre than carnival –
and starring you! You surpassed
even yourself. It was your most sublime performance
and your last.
‘Lucipher’ is from Anniversary by Christopher Reid, published by Enitharmon Press.