Catherine Graindorge is a Belgian violinist (who has performed with Nick Cave & PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish), an actor and a comedian, whose late father Michael was a well-known left-wing lawyer. Reaching the end of his life, he asked her to create a show for him. Before The End is that show. It tells his story with words, images and music, but also Catherine’s own story of grief, loss and caring for her father. We spoke to her to find out more.
Introduce us to your dad. How did the world know him?
My father was a famous Belgian lawyer, known for his social commitment. In 1979, he was accused of helping a client escape. After four months of imprisonment and a trial, he was acquitted. This period, called the Graindorge Affair, was highly publicized and remains in the memory of many people.
And how did you know him as a daughter?
When I was a child he was an enigma to me. He was not often at home, always involved in his work and battles. It’s only when I became a young adult that I really met him.
What aspects of his and your story have you focussed on for this piece?
My first purpose was to narrate our relationship and the path to illness and death. How do you deal with that? Then, it was impossible for me to avoid the public figure. When I began to empty his house, I found pictures, letters, books, and began to really collect a larger image of him…
How have you brought that to the stage?
I started to write quickly after my father’s death. Then some locations and events needed to be filmed. As a musician and composer, music came too, probably where words stopped making sense. On stage I wanted something simple, direct, grounded.
What has the creative process been like for you?
It has been a hard, intense and necessary journey.
How does it feel to perform this story?
I have played this show in French almost 40 times. Each time, it has been a premiere. Telling this story asks to find the right tone, the right distance from tragedy, bringing emotions and deepness but also humour and lightness…
In a way, it’s also a meeting, not only with the public but also with my father.
What do you hope audiences get from hearing your personal experience?
The audience’s reactions after the show often refer to universal themes: the loss of those we love, the bond between parents and their children, the struggles that give meaning to our lives… It seems that my story connects to other people’s stories.