Ralph Oswick: Wish­ful think­ing is no co­in­ci­dence

Bath Chronicle - - OPINION - Ralph Oswick was artis­tic di­rec­tor of Nat­u­ral The­atre for 45 years and is now an ac­tive pa­tron of Bath Com­edy Fes­ti­val

Sci­en­tists say that co­in­ci­dences don’t re­ally ex­ist, that they are a com­bi­na­tion of in­evitabil­ity and wish­ful think­ing. I’m not sure about that, be­cause as my friends and col­leagues will con­firm, a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of con­cur­ren­cies of events with­out causal con­nec­tion (dic­tionary def­i­ni­tion) seem to hap­pen to me! Note my use of the word ‘seem.’ For it could be that I seek out such hap­pen­ings. They do make good pub con­ver­sa­tion. Maybe I am look­ing out for them. But I’m cer­tainly not in­ten­tion­ally caus­ing them to take place. Take last week.t shoe metoim ne sent me a cut­ting from dated 2007. It re­ferred to the cos­tumes I de­signed for Sleep­ing Beauty at a Lon­don the­atre. (Ex­quis­ite in the opin­ion of the critic, as it hap­pens). So much wa­ter has passed un­der the bridge since that pro­ject, I can barely re­mem­ber it. How­ever, the cut­ting re­minded me of just one cast member, the hand­some prince. He was the only one to write me a thanks card at the end, which helped me re­mem­ber his ex­tremely un­usual first name. Any­way, I Googled him to see what he’s done with his act­ing ca­reer. Not a lot on the per­form­ing side as it turns out. Ap­par­ently he’s a suc­cess­ful writer and di­rec­tor now, but they did credit him with one small tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ance in Lewis, the suc­ces­sor to the In­spec­tor Morse se­ries. That evening I was chan­nel hop­ping and I came across an episode of Lewis that I hadn’t seen. Af­ter only a few min­utes view­ing, there was my erst­while prince, munch­ing on a sand­wich and de­liv­er­ing his one line! Cue ad break. Yet an­other sofa sale. And fea­tured in the ad was a mas­sively dis­counted set­tee with the same un­usual name as the young ac­tor. So two co­in­ci­dences for the price of one, nei­ther of which I ‘made’ hap­pen. An­other time I was on a re­mote and de­serted Caribbean beach when a fig­ure ap­peared in the far dis­tance. Some­one got here be­fore us, said my mate. I bet it’s a Ger­man I joked. Turned out it was in­deed a Ger­man. The Ger­man stage tech­ni­cian from a Ber­lin venue I’d per­formed in some 10 years ear­lier. And what about the woman who, see­ing me from be­hind at an Ed­in­burgh con­cert, mis­took me for her friend Ralph? Large chap, pen­chant for Hawai­ian shirts, walks with a stick af­ter a knee re­place­ment. Tick, tick, tick. Same name, same look, same knee even, dif­fer­ent bloke. Or when the ac­tor who played nephew to my char­ac­ter Lady Mar­garet went to Wind­sor to buy a sec­ond-hand Eton uni­form for the part and re­turned with one that, ac­cord­ing to the name tag, once be­longed to my friend’s cousin? Or in­deed the Ja­panese fel­low who shouted my name across a sea of com­muters in the Tokyo rush hour whom a year be­fore I had shown round Bath on be­half of a tour agency? And so it goes on. Just call me Mr Co­in­ci­dence.

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