“Your whole life is a work of art.”
Thus spake an old teacher of mine, today. I like it. It’s delightful challenging and strange. Much like the man who made the comment. Here we are together.
I sat in a pub with Martin Tyrrell after having delivered an employability workshop at his son’s school. His son was auditioning for the school play after hours, so I got to catch up while he waited. His son goes to John Lyon School, which neighbors my old secondary school Harrow. It’s an independent fee paying day school. It’s named after the founder of Harrow School, because Lyon’s charter was always meant to be for local kids.
I went to Harrow. I dislike admitting that, but here it is in public. Yep. It’s one of the most expensive schools in the world. My dad was on a mission. He gave me fantastic privilege. That’s me. Hi. I went to one of the most expensive schools in the world. Fuck.
I knew I wanted to be an actor when I arrived there. That’s not what they want, really. Although it worked out for Cumberbatch. Martin was the first man who took it seriously. He gave me the role of Camille in the school play of A Flea in her Ear at a time when I was universally known and mocked by the tiny pool of socially derelict monkeys that made up the bulk of my contemporaries. Camille was the right part, in that he appears to be incapable of clear speech with a cleft palate written phonetically. Given the correct mouthpiece he becomes intensely erudite, desirable, and funny. From time to time the mouthpiece gets knocked out and hilarity ensues. Suddenly, thanks to Martin, I was able to make people in my limited circle laugh with me rather than at me. And then they didn’t treat me so horrendously. It was the beginning of the good times when these nasty little turds looked elsewhere for their whipping boy.
I loved Martin as a teacher so it was very pleasant to sit and reminisce with him. I’ve given so much of my time and energy to theatrical forms that are outside the norm that it’s pleasant to see that he’s still curious, still generous, still happy that I’m happy, still kind. He’s contextualising what I do for himself, and I appreciate that. I’m trying to do this on my own terms and he understands that, and knows how hard it is to do so. He did at one point this evening accuse me loosely of being a puritan, but I remember that we clashed a few years ago about my thoughts regarding delivery of verse in Shakespeare, so I’m cool with that. My thinking is less rigorous now than it was then, but I still firmly believe that until you understand rigour, freedom can be a general splat, and not satisfactory to watch. Freedom grounded with rigour is true freedom on stage. A mixture of the fixed and the flowing. As Patsy Rodenberg used to say, “It’s about the work.” It really is. Hail Eris/learn your lines.
Tomorrow my agent has got me an audition but she doesn’t know when! Yep. I’m going to show up at ten as I’ve got a funeral to attend. Hopefully I won’t get sworn at. This job is still as arbitrary and beautiful as it was when I started. I’m lucky that, somehow, I’m still going.