Tonic

It’s done. Opening week. Done done done. One thing is it has cemented our core team. Jack, Me, Anna-Fleur and Natalie. We’ve been grafting this week. And despite technical fuckery, loo problems, electric disasters and plumbing fails, the four of us have used our physical presence and work ethic and positivity, and we’ve made this show delightful for loads of people, and solved lots of problems that might be considered to be out of our remit. It’s a really happy core team, and we’re making something community based and glorious.

I had lunch with an old friend, Lucy Kerbel, today. I was able to think outside Carol at last. Lucy directed the show on which I met Jack, all those years ago. Twelfth Night, for Sprite, in the long long faraway time. I was Malvolio, he was Feste. It was joyous, and the beginning of a partnership that neither of us could’ve anticipated. Plus it was the start of a new phase in my work – I think of it as my shift to a journeyman. My years working hard for Sprite cemented my craft.

Lucy, since then, has become a strong catalyst for change in my industry. She hasn’t directed much lately, focusing instead on activism and awareness raising. She’s looking at the gender imbalance in theatre, and across media. We are very used to stories that involve more men than women. Most drama schools reflect that in their intake. There were 8 women and 15 men in my Guildhall year, graduating 2002. That kind of balance (imbalance) is what was considered reasonable if you wanted the employment statistics to go in your favour, and all major drama schools want to keep their stats high. But just because something has always been so, it doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. There are plenty of underperformed plays with as many roles for women as men that can be put on without alienating anyone. And new stories can easily be balanced better. More women audition for fewer places at top drama schools. Gender can be more fluid in the classics – (and indeed recently it has moved that way.) But there’s a lot to unpick.

A few years ago I hosted an actor at The Royal Court in my spare room. He stayed, renting for peanuts, a friend of a friend – digs. I got home one night to a cast party. He had unexpectedly invited everyone round with instruments and booze. “Oh shit I didn’t think you were coming home. Well, you’ll get the chance to meet the director – he’s here,” he said when I got home. He had thought I was away rather than commuting. I had to leave at 6am to get to work.

I was totally cool with it. I immediately wished I could cancel my morning show the next day. As he said, the director was there. He’s now one of the best respected commercial directors in my industry. At the time I was torn. I needed to sleep, and quickly. But I wanted to try to make a good impression. Impossible really without joining the party. But I made it totally clear that everyone could have a party and I’d just drug myself – (I sensed very quickly that I had been cast as old moneybags with my riverside Chelsea flat. Everyone seemed to expect me to explode with intolerance.)

Post dose, wishing everyone goodnight as I moved towards sleep, the man I admired stopped me. “You’ve got a ticket to the Tonic platform at The National Theatre.” he said, referring to something propped up on my table from the previous night. “Yes. It was brilliant.” I replied. “You’re a male actor. Surely that sort of thing is lowering your chances of getting work. Why would you support it?” he responded. It was a hard moment. Perhaps he was testing me. I hope so. I said “If that’s a genuine question, I don’t have time for the debate we need. If it’s not, we don’t need the debate. Either way I’m off to bed. Goodnight. Make as much noise as you like, I’ll be dead to the world.” I disengaged. I felt I had to. I was already full of sleepy pills.

I remember the morning after very clearly. I woke up to a delightfully trashed flat with a few people still valiantly trying to play my accordion. I had a great show that day. But I wondered what would have come of that conversation with mister big-jobs, followed through. I wish I’d had time to call him on it. I fear that he meant it.

Damn it was great to have lunch with Lucy and think about things other than Carol. I need my day off tomorrow. Lucy’s ace, and a true friend now. We’ve covered a lot of ground over the years. She’s even ended up on Scrooge’s debt board…

Day off tomorrow. Wahoo.  I took no photos as usual  Here’s Lucy’s logo. Legend that she is. Go sponsor her work. 🙂

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Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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