When I was in the third year at Guildhall I worked with an amazing director, Jo Blatchley. I’d already done Scenes From a Marriage with him in the second year and he had helped me unblock myself a great deal, despite my uptight upbringing. He is an extraordinary man that expects commitment and attack from his actors. If you’re a coward (as many actors are) you get nothing from him. He wants you as an individual and as a company to go deep together.
I was playing a city trader in the 1980’s, trading dollar/mark and wishing I was on cable. My character secretly wanted to be a saucier. His biggest scene involved him sitting at Ascot railway station in his disheveled tailcoat, hoovering up cocaine on the platform and guiltily admitting that he wanted to make sauces. I went as method as I could, which was expected by Jo. I had no understanding of cocaine quantities come performance though. My method didn’t extend that far. I was pure as the driven snow when I graduated. Depressing to contemplate really
I put my method into the sauces. I bought loads of books on sauces. I cooked all the sauces I could learn. I immersed myself in sauces. When I said “I make sauces” on stage, fuck it was true. I also made sense of all the FX trading, to the extent that some 5 years later Jo asked me to come to LAMDA where he was doing the same show with the third years, and explain why these small numerical fluctuations can carry such emotional weight. Every number quoted carries an opinion about that number and the broker that gives it. And the detail is very close. He didn’t ask me to make sauces. But I probably would’ve been better placed doing that.
Gravy is one of my big sauces now. I make a mean gravy, partly thanks to my mum, and partly thanks to Tony Marchant (the writer), Jo Blatchley and part of my incomprehensibly lovely year group at Guildhall. The traders in that show (in the studio dammit – all my best parts were) consisted of (in no particular order) Dean Ashton (who I still see frequently), Dan Ireson (now Tristan’s agent and we’re due a pint), Chris Fry (going great guns and we are long overdue a pint), Kesty Morrison (musician in Bristol, legend, I miss her. Pint catch-up required) and muggins (Scrooge! Already had a pint or two thanks.)
So this evening it was somewhat guiltily that I filled an empty bottle with Natalie Coleman’s gravy to take home. But she cooks it for a few days. Which I usually don’t have time for. I do that with soup but rarely gravy. I reckon if I get enough of her glorious sauce I can use it as a base for my gravy and blow everyone’s mind with the übergravy. It’ll take on a personality of its own…
I’ve not had time to stop lately with this show and sickness. The cold house has no tree. I suspect there’ll be catshit in my bed when I get home. But I’ll make a mean gravy for Christmas in a freezing stark house.
If that boy at Guildhall could see me now, eh!! Ebenezer Scrooge to rapturous applause. Freezing bed full of catshit.
I can call it method. I never wanted to be caught in the “posh” casting bracket. I think I ran a bit too much interference on that though – but that’s my way, making things harder for myself on purpose. It’ll be worth it in the end, he says with the desperation of an addict.
And maybe Pickle won’t have shat my bed yet. I just need to remember to buy litter tomorrow.
Edit: she didn’t… Yet. Phew.