A couple of weeks ago now Emma Thompson came to speak both at Newnham and at the Cambridge Union (where I saw her speak).
I found her to be witty, outlandish, larger-than-life, courageous, fearless and charming. But what I really found of interest was the way that she occupied extremes – juxtaposed with her exuberance was a sobriety as if, in describing her as larger-than-life, both the fun and the solemnity of her humanity were enlarged.
I will remember her mentioning the “deep well of sadness which we all have”, which she draws upon when acting certain scenes.
I will remember how, when asked about the scene in ‘Love Actually’ , she casually described that feeling of heartbreak as one we are all familiar with, one of “broken plates sitting at the bottom of your rib-cage” jarring with movement, a pain that we often decide to (or must) keep secret from others.
I will also remember her analysis of people as either ‘porous or metallic’ when she spoke of the activist and humanitarian work she did, and a haunting analogy of fame as having a bunch of balloons tied around your wrist; a role that is fun to play when you are being the balloon seller but is hard when you find that you can never untie the balloons and you must cope when people approach to ask for them when you are not wanting to give them out.
Mostly, I think I will remember her as brave and as making me proud to be a Newnhamite.
Livestream of her Newnham talk