Food shop

I went food shopping today. That’s it. You can all go home. Thanks for coming. Blog over. Smashed it.

Even shopping took me long enough. I was trying to sleep off my cold. But I had my mother’s ghost telling me “Feed a cold to starve a fever.” And no food in the house. Plus my blog from the other day where I said I was going to go shopping. So I schlepped to Tesco and filled the fridge with stuff. Veg onions milk butter meats bread cereal cheese pasta rice pies etc etc. This makes a change. Recently it’s literally just been a can of sardines in the fridge, staring at me, despite no bread. Now I’ve got bread. Toast is possible. Sardines on toast. And onions. Even tomato. And peppers. Which is a perfectly viable – even luxurious – meal. Even without the sardines. Bruschetta!

I ate lots today, starting with a can of Heinz ravioli, which you can judge me about but 0.79p and familiar. Plus everything tastes like nothing right now. It’s a probably a good time to eat old leather shoes, as even my shoes would be mildly piquant and no more, to my taste buds. I hear my own words back in my ears, despite the ringing. My throat is full of death. I’m leaking like a stuck faucet. I’m finding out lots about snots. I’m sick. Sick as the proverbial dog. Which certainly wasn’t bouncing around seeking approval in which ever proverb it came from. It was fucked. I suspect it was dead.

How the hell will I do 2 shows tomorrow? No doubt I’ll find out. Pharmacopoeia. The wonders of science and adrenaline. I timed it perfectly this evening. Ten minutes before I went on stage *ping*. CAFFEINE PLUS OBSCURE PERKY DECONGESTANTS YAY SCROOGE HUMBUG. But now it’s worn off. Completely.

I’m on a packed tube and I’m hosepiping snot into my moustache and reeking of olbas to the extent that everyone is standing in the doorway rather than going near the only 2 empty seats in the carriage – my neighbors.

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I’m not helping myself by having had a couple of pints this evening. But if you go into the deep ocean you have to decompress. And it’s important I sleep well tonight. Plus when have you ever known me to be anything other than retrograde to whatever is good for me?

Lunch matinee, then just … the wrong amount of time to get out of costume and experience the world as Al before pre show kicks in again. I prefer it when I only have a 45 minute turnaround. Then I stay warm, which is relevant vocally and physically. This matinee is annoyingly early compared to the Saturday ones. But because it’s extra we get compensated. Worth it when it comes to the boiler fund. I’ve got enough for a plumber that isn’t taking the piss. I’ve put it aside. Now it’s about finding someone who’s free on Friday who isn’t charging emergency rates (fat chance). Looks like Christmas will be cold. I’ll make some more calls tomorrow in the hopes…

Sick

Everybody on Carol is sick. I have olbas oil on tissues stashed all over the stage. This evening I even put it in my beard. Which was an interesting experiment. Not one that I will necessarily duplicate because owch. But after fifteen minutes I was glad of it.

What do you lose with this bug? Well. Coordination for certain. Jack and I are thoroughly physically incompetent today. We did the shutters in the wrong order. We got thoroughly confused getting them back. It was a disaster. An unmitigated disaster. We got them wrong, put them back wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Horribly wrong. This shutter job that we are so efficient in? Disaster. It put me in mind of this glorious video from Bernard Cribbins. But we got it done in the end.

Vocally this week will be a challenge. Right now it’s only one show per day, which should’ve been fine if I hadn’t been recording a sci-fi short story in the daytime, full of cold. As it is, the podcast gets growly Al, which kind of works for the story. As a test of my new home studio for long-form audio it’s come across pretty well despite tired voice and sickness. It’s about someone technologically recidivist versus progress. I’ll be editing and sending tonight when I get home most likely. If I don’t hate it I might link you. But I’ll probably hate it so don’t hold your breath.

Right now I’m heading home with Mel. Just a few days ago we were looking so happy and I took a selfie at Kings Cross as my blog photo. This is us tonight. I deliberately only took one. But we are both exhausted.

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Bed soon. No ordering takeaway!!!! I have a cornucopia of medicinal delights though. Lemsip and Actifed. Mmm zzzz

We took over a grand on the bar tonight with 75 audience. We have over 1.6k in donations so far for Centre Point. People love this show. This evening we had a whole load of immersive theatre makers in the audience who are playing with tech. They’ve got a humongous budget. 3 mil. They’re using VR. Crucially they all seemed bloody marvelous humans. It could’ve been that, on a day when I’ve wanted to die for most of the show and to sleep once it was over, I’ve accidentally made a connection with a large group of makers who have budget and are working in the same arena and where I could add narratively to their work, since narrative is my obsession and it seems to be what they’re missing. I’ve got someone’s number. We shall see …


Meanwhile I’ve got home. God it’s shit being sick. I’ve just got to hope that my body fights this hard. Doctor Theatre is still my friend even after a few years of running this show. The show is unpredictable enough that I still get my adrenaline fix and become momentarily augmented as it bombards me. But then the show ends and like with any other addiction there’s the crash.

I slugged home through cobwebs, and shared out the remaining takeaway overspill in the fridge with Brian and Mel. Tomorrow I’ll be hitting the shop and being organised regarding food. Pies. Things that require no care or creativity. Today I knew I had leftovers. Tomorrow I don’t.

Christ at the end of this week there’ll be Christmas in this flat. I haven’t cared for my home in the way I might usually have. Lots to do. Including buying the damn food.

Fast food

I hate being cold. It saps the will. It doesn’t have to, but it can. I’ve let it. I’ve fallen into some bad habits in the first week or two of this run. First of all I’ve been drinking too much, which cuts the morning. Second I’ve not taken the time to go shopping. My normal food shop is done on the way home, but since I’m heading home after the shops are shut right now, I’m not buying food to cook. This coming week I’m going to make sure I do some shopping. Otherwise I get home to my cold flat starving, and throw open the fridge to a bag of mouldy cheese and carrots that have been there so long they have opinions about TV shows. Before long I’m online throwing loads of money down the internet into the hands of an Indian restaurant in Battersea that’s open until 2 on a Tuesday. Then I’m up waiting for my defrosted rat tandoori when I could’ve been cooking fresh. The food comes. It’s expensive, it’s unhealthy. I eat it guiltily, and feel down on myself for being so indulgent. And then I wonder why I’m low, when it’s a cycle of my own making.

This morning was beautiful sunshine. I didn’t leave the house. I ignored lots of messages. I just stayed in until evening, cocooned in a duvet, reading, playing games and consuming other people’s stories. Partly a necessary relief as the show is costly in terms of spirit. But now we are in the run, it’s noticeably easier on that front.

I needed the vocal rest, and just … to not think about Scrooge for a day. I’m trying to save up for a plumber. From now on I’m going to make that my priority until the system is flushed. That means getting method on Scrooge. Gruel! No extra coals in the fire! Humbug! Clever shopping in supermarkets, lots of healthy cheap food, being a bit more organised, and not spanking my evenings and my paychecks in the bar after the show goes down. Theoretically it should be easy. Practically?

Well, it’s Monday evening. I haven’t seen Emma for a while. Maze Grill is walking distance from my home and half price with the keyring. Despite everything I’ve just written, I find myself sitting in the window with a close friend. I’ve been dying to spend time with her recently. We’ve both been having tricky times and there’s tremendous fellowship. “Oh don’t worry, I’ll get yours,” says my mouth, knowing that every penny is worth it. She’d be happy with a cup of tea and a cuddle. But I want something’s flesh and I want to get her dinner too. I have a rump steak. Not a sirloin or a rib-eye, mind you. Economy…. Although frankly it was huge and I paid a tenner for it. I didn’t think to take a photo until I’d already eaten half of it.

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She is a vegetarian. There’s not much she can eat in Maze, but we both come out full and happy and it didn’t break the bank. Although bank breaking, I am finally learning, is about gradual attrition rather than big stupid gestures. If I cycled into work every day like I did at The Arts last year it would be cheaper and I wouldn’t get so drunk after the show. Maybe that’s the solution. I own the gloves. I can wrap up warm and if it’s not pouring it’ll be another way of kick-starting the journey that, hopefully, leads to a working boiler before Christmas. Let’s see where that goes, shall we?

Prescience?

I woke up with a weight on my chest. I was having horrible dreams, and – unusually – my lucidity wasn’t kicking in. Then I spent the whole morning with a feeling of impending doom. A few hours after waking I discovered that it was not unfounded. Today was a dark day for some of the people I love. I’m using all my positivity to bring people together for Christmas and to think about family and kindness, but reality has been conspiring to bring darkness into the lives of some of my close friends.

Today has been the darkest day I’ve felt for ages. When I got into work I said that it felt like there was going to be a nuke. Turns out it was less general but just as unutterably hateful. Sorry to be vague. I know how that sort of behaviour feels like fishing on social media. Suffice it to say that something unutterably horrible has occurred in the family life of a close friend. It’s in the news but I don’t feel it’s my job to speak of it. Their happiness affects mine though. And it’s thrown me out emotionally. I’ve been volatile all day. And I’m pissed off about it.

I don’t like that I woke up so tense and then found out that something had actually happened. My grandmother would gladly tell me that she was “psychic”. That’s a word that means something different to everyone that says it. But we can easily fall into confirmation bias. We want to. Coincidence is rife, but we love to feel like it’s not random. Like we have a hand on the tiller. Do we? We work hard if we work hard and not if we don’t. None of my loved ones had control over their exit. All of them very much wanted to.

I had a shit sleep, woke up in a cloud, and then a shit day unfolded.

I’m extremely sensitive. I pick up on what I call energy with people. I once flatly asked someone to get out of my flat because his energy was so dark. He was just an insecure man using learnt techniques to behave socially. But it was so unrelatable and false that I found myself reacting almost allergically to him. I’ve had similar reactions to sociopath lovers of people I care deeply about. But the convergence between my feeling of impending doom today and this shitawful thing in the life of my friend… I really hope it’s just coincidence. Ugh. Poor poor family.

I’m glad to be home. I wish I wasn’t home alone and I wish the boiler was power-flushed. I’d like my home to be an uncomplicated destination, and I know that the fact it’s not warm is making it less desirable. I want to get it sorted out by Christmas so I can have lots of people round. Which reminds me: Anyone you know who might be sitting alone at home on Christmas – send them my way. I’m pretty central, and I am actively looking for international waifs and strays. I’d gladly meet them before to normalise me, but they’re just as welcome to show up on the day if they feel brave.

Meantime I’m off to sleep…

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Two show day

Jack Whitam strode into the room, through a wardrobe full of smoke. Without full use of his limbs while he corporealised. Into a cold room with a table and loads of people looking at him. Playing the ghost of Marley. He strode into it twice today, brilliantly both times. It is his job, after all. As he came through the wardrobe, I stood behind him, hidden round the corner with a smoke machine… He’s the ghost of Jacob Marley. Plus ASM. I’m Ebenezer Scrooge. Plus ASM.

Let me talk you through my show. I’ve done it twice today so I should know. As the audience comes in, I’m warming up. Literally. It’s fucking freezing. My feet are like blocks of ice and I’m wearing shoes without socks. The floors and air are icy cold. I’m warming my vocal folds before I have to work so that I don’t damage them when the show kicks off. Lots of muscular stuff. Good old Kate Godfrey. Tongue. Soft palate. Connecting sound with breath. And warming. I might take a bit of time checking out the audience through the mirror. “Shit there’s a ten year old.” “That family looks lovely.” “They’re hammered. Interesting.” Then my show opens. I’m fanning a smoke machine that doesn’t work very well. I’m fanning it to stop the thermostat from cutting it off at a crucial moment. Then I’m switching on some LED lights in a wardrobe, and filling it with smoke if the machine works. Then Jack goes on through the wardrobe. I head round back, listen to the audience with Jack so I know what I’m in for, head for my entrance, make sure someone is there to close the door behind me, and hit a high energy scene, that’s the closest to panto that we get. Once I’m through that door I’m on stage for the rest of the night. There’s no rest. Over the years now, thousands of people have attempted to teach Ebenezer about Christmas. They’ve taught me obscure Christmas games – this evening I learnt “The Chocolate Game.” Everyone in the family rolls a die. If you roll a six, you put on a hat and gloves and eat from a big bar of chocolate with a knife and fork until someone else rolls a six. This is from a reality TV producer from Doncaster. She swears it’s brilliant…

So yes, I start with lots of humbug and Dickens quotes while I’m trying to get all the ghosts out of my parlour. Then I’m taken back into my past and I go fourth wall for a bit.

I sit on a stool and quote verbatim at great length the bit of Dickens that shows us that Scrooge liked Arabian Nights and Robinson Crusoe as a kid. My sister dies, I remember how to dance and fuck up a proposal to a ghostly memory. Then I have to welcome a load of people to a feast, and they teach me stuff like the Chocolate Game. What I’ve learnt is that virtually everyone has something unusual in their family Christmas. I’m trying to build a web that connects all sides of the audience every show. By the time I’m at this part of the show I’m already on the home stretch. The bulk of my emotional journey is in Christmas Past and once that’s done it’s mostly just playing with the individuals that are there. Then I have to do a bit of improv, play some accordion, play a game, and then switch the atmosphere from fun to silence on a ninepin. If that works out the rest is gravy. I get very sad, understand my mortality for the first time, make a vow, and undergo a total human revolution. Then I run out in the rain and almost get hit by a bus. Then I talk too much and eventually bow.

People love it. It’s a beautiful show. Obviously. You don’t come back four years running to do something negligible. I’m so happy to be back in the nightie. It’s feeling like a huge part of my year now. Every year I fear it’ll be the last. Every year it comes back. I love this gig. And this year it’s been beautiful. And the team is just perfect. It’s such a happy show. Here’s Mel and I heading home after perhaps a little too much wine… I fear I’m getting better at drunk-writing. I’d never be a theatre critic, but I suspect that that’s the number one skill in their profession…

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16 Kentish lawyers

Standing on the stage of The Globe I shared a little bit of my knowledge and showed a little bit of my heart to 16 very rich lawyers from Folkestone. We weren’t supposed to be on the stage, but it was the perfect storm. All the volunteer ushers were gone, and a school trip had just been allowed on before us. “Stuff it,” I thought. “Nobody’s watching.” I ended up quietly speaking a little bit of Jacques to them from the well foot polished bit of stage known as the “Mark Rylance spot.” It was lovely. For me anyway. They seemed happy too.

Then we went back to a room full of wine where I had to be convivial for money and have none of the wine. One of them had been to The Globe recently for a show. She’d seen Daniel Kramer’s Romeo and Juliet, the opening show of last season where Emma Rice significantly achieved gender parity in employment on and off stage in a Shakespeare theatre, and continued actively challenging the traditions of the space and the board. She had already been resigned by this time.

“This perverse show vandalises Shakespeare,” said Billington in The Guardian. Lots of one and two star reviews. Lots of people huffing and puffing about it. “What did you think,” I asked the guest, keeping my question as neutral as possible. At one of these events a while ago, during Emma Rice’s first season, a man at a similar event asked me “What do you think of THAT WOMAN.” Being polite to someone you’d like to kick in the nadgers, that takes work. But these people today were fab:

“It wasn’t what I expected. But my kids loved it. And suddenly I realised I loved it too. Afterwards I was talking to lots of people who made me feel like I shouldn’t have loved it for some reason. I mean yes, I was surprised by all the music and everything. But it was just great fun. The kids still remember it. They’re doing it at school now and it’s helped them.” Can’t say fairer than that. That sounds like a win.

These guys didn’t get all the sound and lights for their show. They got muggins in his glasses and bobble hat speaking quietly because he’s on daytime vocal rest. And it was a lovely way to spend a shivery morning.

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I’m curious to know what comes in Michelle Terry’s tenure as the new artistic director. She seems by all accounts to be a goodie. She was at RADA with some friends of mine. I expect finding a replacement for Emma Rice was a minefield after the way in which she got resigned. It couldn’t be a man (Flashback: “What do you think of THAT WOMAN?”) But which female artistic director would be willing to step into the shitstorm of opinions. Also, since the prevailing wind seems to be that The Globe will return to natural light low-fi stagings, how do you find an artistic director who will not feel they have to compromise their vision to placate the board?

A neat solution is to employ an actor manager – loved by her peers but not widely known. Like Rylance was. An actor is always going to be focusing on the human interaction. You can do that on a bare stage more effectively than you can on a merry-go-round. And her lack of profile effectively bypasses the shitstorm. Let’s see what comes. I think The Globe will be a beautiful human heartfilled theatre with her at the helm.

Getting hammered

I was on my way to a nice contemplative Buddhist meeting when I got a text from a guy I know across town which … changed the dynamic. There are some fairly extreme personalities in my life. I suppose it goes with the territory. “Need help,” the text read. I’m a sucker for that.

Before long I’m slogging across town. I’ve got time in the days now we’re open. Eventually I ring his doorbell. There’s a pause. The curtain twitches. Then the door opens and he’s looking behind me as he hustles me in. His cats are going mental. They’ve picked up on his energy. He ushers me into a darkened room. He’s barefoot in a tracksuit at 2pm. Cigarette butts are in mugs and there’s a mostly finished bottle of Jack on the table. No mixers. Is that a credit card and white powder? All the lights are off and sun is low already. This is not a happy man’s flat.

He’s fretting, restless, moving from place to place. His phone is constantly buzzing. He jumps every time it does. “Are you okay?” I ask him. It’s clear that he’s not. He shows me a huge pile of grammatically fucked text messages coming in one after the other. I spend a while trying to make sense of them.

I’ve never slept with a hooker. I can’t really handle the theory of it. A big part of my kick is my partner’s enjoyment. I suspect that I’d not be able to trick myself into believing that it was anything other than a transaction. Today is the first time I’ve really thought about how the oldest profession works.

My friend had got himself messed up on booze and whatever else he could find, and then paid for something he couldn’t afford. That much I understand. I get drunk and wake up to an empty bank account and a receipt for a £350 accordion, or I impulse buy 96 cans of Kronenburg when I can’t get my heating system flushed. My friend has overbought and underpaid a professional for services. I think it’s likely he was upsold, but that’s standard business practice. He is now bound to pay a balance of £700, which is a bit worse than “any cakes, any muffins?” It’s been three days. And she is getting very anxious.

If you do some work, you send an invoice with a term on it. There’s probably a union, and there are things in place to make sure you get your filthy lucre. Reputation stands on payment. People get blacklisted for not paying.

If you let someone have sex with you for money and they don’t pay, then that’s a broken social contract, but there’s no union, there are no checks and balances, reputation is already negligible. What can you do?

Phone your friend and get him to make repeated threats, it seems. While I’m making a nice cup of tea, his phone rings and he jumps. He answers. The panic is heavy in his voice. The caller basically threatens to come round and break his hands with a hammer. This is three days after the bill has been incurred, and already we are in hammertime. I guess that with no recourse, she feels it is necessary to escalate quickly.

So what to do? What to do? I’m unpicking the situation. He’s spoken to the local police. They’re anxious to escalate this. My years as a jobbing actor are in my mind too. I think he’s incurred a debt in good faith and should pay it and chalk it up to experience. The amount is not impossible to him. She shouldn’t be threatening violence though – categorically not. Particularly so quickly.

He’s really jumpy – actively scared. He doesn’t want to go outside. I suggest we go for a walk, hoping that the last rays of the sun will help shift him to positive thinking. I even offer to carry a hammer in case of unexpected violence, but the idea of that makes him even more jumpy. For the first time I notice how skinny my friend is. I focus on making him okay, knowing that I’ll have to go to work in a few hours.

A few hours later things feel a little more manageable. We made a small payment, a balance is still outstanding. Hammers are not in the equation at least until Sunday. I point out to him that she texted “I know where you work” which is a nonsense. We’re self employed. He’s not in work right now. She’s making herself as threatening as possible because she wants the money she’s worked for – she needs to make the rent and she doesn’t want to feel used. She provided a service. If I was on the game, sex would be a conditional transaction. If I let you buy me and then you didn’t pay me, that would be tantamount to rape. She feels used and he feels manipulated – even extorted. Problem is, if he pays, he’s worried it’ll start actual extortion.

Over the course of today I’ve learnt a little more about my standpoint on such things. Legality didn’t factor in my thinking. I pragmatically wanted my friend to be okay and for the right thing to be done. It seems that was more about completing the transaction and organising a payment plan, than involving the police and further isolating someone already having to sell their body to make rent. But also today was about making bloody certain that my friend didn’t have his hands broken for a ridiculously stupid sordid drunken idiocy.

I located a hammer in his kitchen. I’d have got stuck in if someone had come to the door. It’s probably for the best all round that nobody did. I have to be Scrooge for the rest of the month. And I’m not a fighter. Lately I’ve not been a lover either. I’m glad I can sublimate my urges while I wait, so I don’t have to worry about hammers. What a mess. What a stupid stupid avoidable mess.

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Insurance

I was in Oxford Circus, just about to cross the road with a friend, when a little silent accident took place alongside me. A woman stepped in front of a cycle. The cyclist knocked her over. Almost immediately a small group of people were around her. She was in shock and in pain. One bystander immediately generalised with “Too many bloody cyclists,” to which the cyclist responded “Too many bloody pedestrians not looking where they’re going.” It’s funny how quickly we go towards blame. Like a dog that smashed a bottle. “It wasn’t me, it was the bottle.” To his credit he probably would’ve needed to go under a bus himself to avoid her, and he stayed with her, on the phone for an ambulance, wanting her to be okay. I went and got a bottle of water for her because there were almost immediately some very capable women making sure she wasn’t panicking. I felt that it was better coming from them than from me but water was something I figured I’d want if I’d just been knocked over by a bike and Boots was just there so that was my attempt to help.

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Thank God it was only a bike. I don’t think she was badly injured. Just indignant and shocked, and maybe a sprained ankle. A bus would’ve been a very different outcome. Over 60 pedestrians have been killed on the roads already this year in London – pedestrians always account for more than 50% of road deaths, and I bet December is a bad month for it. It’s dark and wet, and there are more drunk drivers, and more drunk people on the streets. Even sober, Oxford Street is so rammerjammed with people it’s almost automatic to spill out onto the road like she did, and then it doesn’t take much speed to get under something’s wheel. Drive carefully. Walk carefully…

I was with an old friend – Catherine. She and I had gone into a casting together for insurance. Nice to go in with someone you know. We enjoyed it and were a bit silly, and told them we knew each other. Sometimes these things can help. I’m always glad to have fun in a commercial casting, because they can feel like cattle markets. But my enjoyment or lack of it has no bearing on the result. Either you get a little bit of work worth a great deal of money, or you don’t – but thinking about it won’t change the result. Ironic to witness an accident so soon after coming in for an insurance company talking about no claim discounts.

Good to be back on the audition train. This commercial shoots in January. It reminds me how short the run of Carol actually is, even if it’s almost all consuming when it’s on. Another full house, with a group of 25 on an office party. They arrived drunk. Jack and I went in slugging and neither of us went under the bus. I ran into an old friend from uni, and we had Charlotte Bennett in, who assisted the director on the job where I met Jack Whitam. At the time I could never have anticipated the depth we would find in a working partnership. Here’s to another ten years…

“Are there no workhouses?”

Centre Point. My agent’s office is in Centre Point, at the top of Charing Cross Road. 2 floors up.

We are collecting for the Centre Point charity this year with Carol. Helping young people get off the streets. They help get young people who are stuck on the streets not just into a room, although they do that too. They get these vulnerable people into a place physically and mentally where they can reconnect with their families and get themselves back on track. We’ve collected a good amount already. People can be generous when they’ve had fun, and the message of our story is wrapped up in taking care of the poor and the destitute “many of whom are in want of common comforts.” There are no more workhouses, but there are plenty of people stuck outside in this cold.

A few nights ago we had some women in the audience from The Big Issue Foundation. They had come back, after we collected for them for the last two years. Most of the shows last year would have a Big Issue vendor in the house. They’d been told not to let on, but they were leaky when questioned by Ebenezer about their Christmas plans. It was lovely to see them back. I said to them “sorry we aren’t collecting for you guys this year,” and they were totally cool with it. “We get it. We just wanted to come back again. It’s good you’re still collecting.”

This show has not been easy to mount this year. It’s only got to the stage where it rolls along as it does now following massive teething problems from building into that empty warehouse space. Water tanks, loos, washing, polishing, platewarming, power, heat, voices, thumbs, staff, shutters, ovens, snow, tables, chairs, carpets, candles, crackers… It’s been a mission. It’ll barely break even I fear. But it’ll pay Jack and Natalie and Anna and Mel and Tristan and Kane and I and it’ll get lots of donations, and it’ll bring ridiculous Christmas fun to all concerned.

Every night Jack and I end up spending time with happy people who enjoyed the madness. It’s a lovely thing to hang out after the show. I usually know most people’s names by then with my weird brain. And every night the bucket fills with generous donations. Tonight an audience member told me that the fact we collect for the homeless just put a button on the show for her. She said it was the moment that made her cry, to realise that we are having all this fun around the issue of have and have not, and then we actively seek to make a difference in the world by collecting. I guess it’s another immersive element. It amazes me how generous people are, because the ticket is way outside my maximum. Although I forget it comes with a meal, and a fine meal too.

This is relatively early mainstream immersive theatre at 7 years old. I guess we were making incomprehensible experiments long before at BAC, some of which took and grew. But this show started in a pub in York after the director worked with The Factory, and it is now playing to audiences who are not regular theatre goers. We wean the audience gently so nobody feels singled out. And it’s so much better for having majority non-theatre audiences. People who think they don’t like theatre enjoy themselves. That us a massive win.

I’m looking forward to hearing the donation figures at the end of the run. It’s so cool to be involved in this show. I feel ridiculously Christmassy already… Good to know that by fannying around in a nightie I’m also helping people turn their life around. It’s what Scrooge has to do. It’s what we can all do. And I’m being paid for this.

Thank God that nowadays the answer to Scrooge’s question is “no”. There are no workhouses. Ugh.

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Maze

Day off today. I’ve been looking forward to that. Mostly I’ve done as little as possible and virtually not spoken. Towards the end of the day I went out for dinner.

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At the top of my road there’s a little restaurant called Maze Grill. It’s run by Gordon Ramsay. I’ve actively avoided it for the whole of my adult life. As a kid it used to be called Foxtrot Oscar. I loved it then. It was dark and anonymous. I would go there with my parents and have cheap kedgeree or burgers. Torquill and Michael were part of the furniture. My mum loved it so much she’d go virtually every night, and it wasn’t so expensive as to make that impossible. It was an anonymous vibe, where you could dump a bowl full of pasta on someone’s head because they’d written nastiness about you, and then have another bottle of wine and laugh about it.

When Gordon Ramsay bought the place he immediately made it less dingy and ramshackle. He probably knew that in doing so he would lose the people who had built loyalty over time. He probably didn’t care. After all, he’s Gordon Fucking Ramsay. So he opened up the Maze Grill. And everyone in my area got a keyring in the post. The keyring entitles you to 50% off food on a Monday. I ignored it for years. Bastards. Where’s my kedgeree?

It hasn’t shut down though, this Maze Grill, despite years of my grumbling and boycotting. It is still full most nights. And it is extremely close to my home. Today I crumbled and thought I’d make use of the keyring I’ve kept for so long, and see what it’s all about. After all, 50% off food at a place like that means you’re paying more or less what you should be paying, so long as you’re careful about booze. This evening we weren’t careful about booze though because Ollie, who I was with, gravitated to a pricey St Emilion. But it was my day off, and Ollie covered the excess, and I wasn’t going to moan about a good red wine.

I had a rib-eye and it was excellent. As a kid I would frequently dislike my meal at Foxtrot Oscar, but it wouldn’t worry me. Foxtrot wasn’t about the food. We’d have a good time and feel welcome. The price tonight was just about right for the rib eye with 50% off, and when he saw the keyring the maitre d’hotel put us in an isolated booth downstairs, rather than in the window. I’m glad that Gordon Ramsay is making that concession for locals who want to hide. Any other night but Monday it’s a mug’s game though

Affordable food out is a rarity in my bit of Chelsea. We used to have The Chelsea Kitchen, and up until very recently The Stockpot – both on The King’s Road, both places where you could eat without having to sell your firstborn. The whole area used to be cool and even a bit alternative. All of that personality has been crushed by value. The landlords got wind that the area was considered cool and hoiked the rent up so much that everyone immediately moved to Camden or went out of business. Nowadays The King’s Road is utterly boring, homogenised overpriced crap. 20 years of greed. One of the only places that still survives is Al Dar the kebab shop, where they hate you no matter what you want, and make you pay in blood if you sit down. Takeaway Shawarma is still worthwhile so long as you don’t mind being scowled at, and you’ve got cash.

I never go out in my area. Tonight was an exception. But I think I might go out every Monday to the Maze, if I’m working in theatre. It’s the perfect convergence of the actor’s day off and a 50% discount…