I wrote a blog many years ago as a reaction to a job. It was my first noticeable blog. It was about a tour. The show was Twelfth Night. I knew the play reasonably well, having played Malvolio at Guildhall. It’s a lovely show about love, grief and our expectations of ourselves. James, (now the father of my godson), had been with the tour for a month or so already, playing Orsino the lovesick Duke. Gemma, (Olivia the mourning countess) is now Hal’s mother. They met on that job. Sometimes it works out!
I remember the call well. It was 7/7/07. They’d been open for a while. I was sitting in my car, waiting to pick my girlfriend up from work so she didn’t have to take the tube. Back then I really didn’t like myself much, but I was fond of her. There had been multiple bombs on London transport, and unlike the other day at Parson’s Green, they had worked. I volunteered immediately to drive her home even though everyone was paranoid about some sort of greater attack on the way. She was ace. I’ve never seen London so empty outside of Christmas Day. Driving in was a pleasure. I was waiting in the car outside her office when I got the call: “Do you remember the part of Malvolio from drama school?” “Yes.” “Do you want to play it for money in Eastbourne tomorrow in front of a full house?”
Considering the circumstances, I wanted to get out of town. I checked it with my girlfriend and our “Yes” led to a few weeks of glory. The show got 5 stars at the Edinburgh fringe. We blazed around the country, and I garnered some superb reviews in the name of the guy I replaced. The company was hilarious – full of proper misfits. It was joyful, chaotic and – Fuck it – really really expensive to be in. We were being paid tuppence halfpenny and a kick in teeth on Wednesdays. And the last Wednesday we didn’t even get our kick.
I got back to London totally broke and immediately split up with my brilliant girlfriend because I’d looked at someone else in Edinburgh without acting on it, which meant I had an excuse to act on my self loathing instead and break something lovely because of my idea of principles. Then I wrote a blog about the tour, also motivated by the old desire to do as much damage to myself as possible. And I smashed it for the purpose.
As with this blog I didn’t seek a wide audience. I just put it out there. I called it “Crazy Tour of Doom.” Problem is, I named names. I named the guy I replaced. I named the producer. First name last name. I had never replaced someone before. I’ve replaced people a few times now and I’ve been very sensitive to them if I meet them. It must be hard to be replaced on an acting job. Particularly by a self sabotaging mug like me. But I can say with certainty having reading pages worth of this particular man’s comments that he was deeply and dangerously unwell. As far as I can glean, the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he started delivering lines from the wrong scene, in order, by rote, with gaps. Alastair the director sacked him after that show without knowing how to replace him. He ended up with me. Which went beautifully for the show, thankfully. And I made some lifelong friends.
Meanwhile the guy I had replaced found my blog. He was in the habit of googling himself exhaustively on the weekends at around 3am, and I’d named him. Foolish. He didn’t like that I had replaced him. His usual pattern was to insult a few times, proposition me sexually, anticipate my rejection, insult me further and then proposition again more forcefully. All without any response.
I learnt to be careful what you put online. It has been lovely to write a blog for so long and not feel threatened. I still feel a tingle of concern every time I press publish, expecting someone to start ranting about some topic I’ve chosen. I’m genuinely surprised that no-one has got the hump with me and started attacking me or my standpoint. It’ll come, I have no doubt. But so far, so lovely. Maybe it was bad luck that it happened so swiftly.
I spent part of the evening with Alastair, who produced the crazy tour of doom back when he was young’un. He is still providing gainful employment to actors now. He noticed when I took the old blog down, and told me he used to use it as a reminder.
This evening he organised 16 actors to come to RADA and try out a script that he might produce. He is the heart of a big community. That first tour feels like forever away. It was a hilarious mess. A decade has turned and we are still making stuff, and now his actors get more than tuppence halfpenny, and the kick is discretionary.