There are times, when I haven’t seen a soul for several days, that I wonder if I am really me. The puzzlement grips me most of all in the evenings when I have poured myself a smidgeon of cognac, settled myself into my armchair, and am resting my hind paws on Great Uncle Mole’s Egyptian pouffe.
This uncanny feeling has intensified since I ventured out of my own humble abode and headed for a burrow of magnificent proportions. The Museum of New and Old Art (Mona) is dug deep into the sandstone of a half island on Tasmania’s Derwent River. I spiralled down its staircase like poor Alice. At the lowest level, the cinema is hidden behind clusters of baroque chaises longues. Parting the crimson velvet curtains I tip-pawed through the darkness and lost myself in the generous upholstery of a seat. I held my breath.
The picture screening was the National Theatre’s Frankenstein. I knew the tale, of course but what thrilled my little moley heart about this version was not knowing who was being who. The actors playing Dr Frankenstein and the Monster changed places every night. So each time Dr Frankenstein is in a scene with the Monster, the actor within him is seeing the Monster being played differently from the way he, the actor now playing Frankenstein, played it the night before – and the actor within the Monster is seeing Frankenstein as a subtly different character from the one he, the Monster, knows him to truly be. My tiny eyes stretched trying to imagine this back-and-forthing between the two and just how wobbly it must make them feel.
I may not have mentioned Great Uncle Mole’s bequest. His death pains me still – even after all these years. What I never expected were the crates, trunks and hampers that arrived at my burrow one rainy afternoon. A water-damaged note in Uncle Ratty’s hand explained that there was no room on his houseboat, and besides it seemed more fitting that these things should come to me.
And it is on those special evenings when I dress myself in Great Uncle Mole’s fez and smoking jacket and rest my hind paws on his Egyptian pouffe that I am visited by the strange sensation that I am not really me.
Is it the jacket, the fez or the Egyptian pouffe? Or all three, imbued as they are with Great Uncle Moleyness?
Or is the scented cheroots I found in the jacket pocket and which I smoke on special occasions?