“Have you been here before?” the man at the audition asks. I think I recognise him.
“Yes. I have. I didn’t realise until I walked in, but yes. It must’ve been eight years ago. I recognise the place from back then.”
It’s a house in Kentish Town. I’m at a meeting for a stills shoot. I was going in for these before I trained, when I had a modelling agent. I’m the only person dressed in brand colours because Carol at Needham’s models taught me to do that back in the 1990’s. It helps keep my hit rate high with commercial castings. I don’t get in the room often, but I’ll usually win the director. It’s about winning the client. I’m grateful to her for the tip, even if I dumped her when I hit the 3rd year at Guildhall. Idealism over practicality. “I’m an artist now. I don’t need to do these stills shoots.” Al(ex) Barclay 2002.
This man at the casting is lovely. He must be 15 years older than me. He’s an actor too. He’s taking names and it’s like he finds an understanding with me. Then, out of nowhere, he says “Yeah, sometimes we can miss the plane.” I’ve never missed a plane in my life, says my rational brain as it feels targeted. I’m in pre-audition head. I think I might have missed the part of the conversation that led to his comment. “Yeah” I say, bewildered. He continues “I missed the plane some years ago. I had to take the train. Lots of interesting things happened to me on the train.” I’m still lost. I humour him, a little clueless but I like the guy. But I feel like there’s a layer to the conversation I’ve missed. I go in precipitately early. Apparently Tom was in front of me. Sorry Tom, I rushed up the stairs, I didn’t want to be involved in a conversation where I felt I’d missed the start, just before a casting. The casting itself was lovely. I come out and go to my next meeting. And with a thunk, my brain clicks out of audition head and into normality and I realise he was talking in metaphor. “Sometimes you miss the plane.” To celebrity-land? To workyland? To moneyland? To whichever land he feels neither of us made it quickly. Shit. He was making friends.
I’ve been walking, though. I don’t want the train. If you walk you see what stuff actually looks like. You can touch it. You can eat interesting food, and stop to admire something beautiful. You can spend time with people who, in the train would just be flashes and in the plane would be invisible.
Train? That’s for people that are happy with being forced to eat nothing but the shit sandwiches provided by the railway. Then eventually you find yourself jettisoned in the worst part of whichever place you’re going and finally you understand that you still have a long way to go to get to wherever you think you’re going. You don’t know the buses, and everyone else on the train wants a cab too.
I’ll keep walking. I liked that dude, but I’m glad I only got his inference late. Because I refute the unspoken assumption of his metaphor. I’m not seeking to go anywhere in particular, outside of working as constantly as I can and not having to worry about this fucking boiler as the world gets colder. Where is there to go? Constant interesting work is the only aspiration to have, and on that basis I’m close to landing. My main source of hunger is the need I have to position myself so I can still work when I’m old. I shot with Sir John Mills on his last ever film. He was pretty much completely deaf and in a wheelchair, but they accommodated it because he was Sir John Mills. I need position in the industry for when I’m crazy or lame or blind etc. By then I won’t be able to rag myself stupid as a medieval king.
The guy at the audition, his chosen metaphor is transport, and he assumed I’d understand it. My chosen metaphor is the endless line of brick walls that you individually have to break with your head. I respect his optimism in thinking that there’s a destination. Although if you miss a flight or a plane, your friends can’t help. My friends and I are constantly saying “no need to bang your head on this one. I already made a hole in it. There’s a whole field on the other side. Problem is, after the field… Yep you’ve guessed it. Another wall!! And two for women!!!”
I’ll share C.P. Cavafy’s Ithaca poem about journey vs destination. Wyn Jones gave us all a copy of this when we left Guildhall. It has deepened for me over the years, particularly when I did The Odyssey with The Factory. Odysseus is just trying to get to Ithaca but his life happens on the way. He can’t get the plane, or the train. He gets the boat but it keeps sinking. Sean Connery and Jon Vangelis (who wrote the music for Blade Runner) have a version of it on YouTube. Click here if you have five minutes for something lovely.
If not, and for those who have no sound, here’s the text. Read it out loud to yourself as if you were a lisping Scottish Rutger Hauer in the rain as Junior Indiana Han Deckard finally catches your replicant hide: