When I told my dad I wanted to be an actor, he looked at me a while in silence. Then he said “I wanted to be a long distance truck driver when I was your age. You should do that. You’d make more money and you’d see more of the world.”
He went to his grave believing it was a “phase” that I would “get out of my system.” I’ve spent much of my working life trying to see as much of the world as possible through my work. There’s nothing I like more than an opportunity to travel and work. I really wanted to get a meeting for the Globe Tour of Hamlet that went to every country. The furthest I’ve managed so far is Thailand, for just a couple of days filming. The scene involved myself, David Thewlis and Michelle Yeoh, in a flashback scene for a Luc Besson movie. It would’ve been wonderful for my showreel, but Michelle and David both had dots drawn over their faces. They were going to CGI younger versions of their faces over their real faces. The whole flashback sequence was cut for budget in the edit, and I never saw the footage. I kept the credit, got a free trip to Bangkok, and chalked it up to experience.
For the last nine years I’ve always somehow managed to land a lovely summer job. For six of them I was in Yorkshire, running around in the grounds of Ripley Castle for Sprite Productions. We did Twelfth Night, The Tempest, As You Like It, Shrew, Comedy of Errors and Dream. They were beautiful summer days and I met some practitioners who are still very close friends now. The end of an era – I just saw the producer looking to sell their cables, as they’ve moved to Wales and have too much on.
Last year things were a little different and more or less a year ago today I found out I’d be off to play Claudius in Hamlet, in Dubrovnik. They were casting a woman as Hamlet, which was pretty groundbreaking for Croatia. The show had a woefully short rehearsal process for a story of that scale, but a dedicated and hardworking company that wasn’t going to let that detract from it. It was mounted for a month or so in Fort Lovrijenac, jewel of the Dalmatian Coast. It was a lot of fun, despite being a tragedy.
The Fort is a squat but imposing edifice on a promontory. Back when Dubrovnik was a great port, they were sending Argosies out across Europe, and it needed defending from the sea. There’s plenty of room for cannons with wide angle views of the sea on the battlements. You’d have to work hard to slip by unnoticed. It’s part of a system of defenses in the city that lend it a peculiar beauty now they are redundant. Some of the interior of the walled city itself was destroyed by mortars in the nineties, but the Fort was not hit. The huge stone arches and verandas overlooking the sea were a great setting for Hamlet, as they are for Game of Thrones. It’s where they film most of King’s Landing. It was a hell of a place to work in. We had enough time to learn the city, rather than rush around like tourists. I had already changed my pounds when they tanked for Brexit, and I was happy to be working in Europe while everyone went mental in the UK. From waking to swimming in the sea was less than 5 minutes. I came back after the show brown as a nut and ready for the insanity.
My friend Helen who was Hamlet came round my flat this afternoon and we went for a walk and sat with the Buddha in Battersea Park. I haven’t been very grounded the last few days, but it’s the working week tomorrow and I want to hit things running. New headshots coming soon of beardless Al. I think it might have been good advice to shave it, even if it didn’t yield what I expected. Let’s see if I can find some visible work now and take advantage of the fact I look about 10 years younger without all that grey fluff. Or at least another beautiful summer show. Here’s to a good first week after Easter for all of us. I expect it’ll be pretty hyperactive, as everyone will be rushing on sugar from all the reduced Easter Eggs in Sainsburys.