Tardiness rant

Apparently it snowed this morning briefly in London. I was locked in a warehouse so I missed it, but occasionally people would come in with the strange positivity that comes from witnessing snow. “Guys, it’s snowing!” “Great. Lovely. I’ll just finish working this out and then I might be able to go outside.”

We had a preview tonight, playing to a small group of people who had brought packed dinner. Tomorrow is the first show with full catering. Apparently we are packed to the gills. It’s basically a stress-test. Full house but a number of them work for the show and are there to see if we can sit and feed everyone. They’ll take the hit and stand when there’s not enough room for everyone.

All this glorious madness is coming to a point now. I’ll get my days back soon too. Anna-Fleur, Jack and I are like coiled springs. Natalie, the chef, starts tomorrow. Two men on stage looking like they’re doing the work and receiving clappage. Two women offstage doing just as much work and not getting clapped… Bah humbug. But it’s a glorious show.

It’s mostly sold out already. Which doesn’t surprise me. We always sell out, and with Natalie on board it’s hot-cakes. There might still be a window if anyone wants to book. But you’d better be quick. I’ve got no discount link, because they don’t need to drum numbers. I have to pay for casting directors I barely know. It’s not a cheap show to run though, and I’m thrilled it’s selling well considering the producers are both very dear friends of mine and they don’t run this show for profit, they run it for joy.

Jack, Anna-Fleur and I are about to get stuck into the run. With such a small team, a lot of the job of the stage management falls to the creatives. I’m an early arriver as is Jack. I have been for the entirety of my professional career. I think it’s a hard reaction against my educational personality, where I was not punctual. Nowadays I get anxious if I’m not early. I reserve my lateness for social occasions.

I still remember – in fine and excoriating detail – the two times where I’ve been late for an audition. Once was at the BBC. My agent’s assistant had given me the wrong time over the phone and told me I had to learn “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame,” to deliver to camera. It’s a Shakespeare sonnet. I learnt it. I hadn’t checked my emails (this was before smartphones and I was slow on tech). She told me 1.30 on the phone, so I learnt the sonnet. I decided to get there early, and drove. On the way, 50 minutes before I was due in, my agent rang. “Where are you?” My response was casual. “Oh hi, yeah I’m about… 20 minutes away from White City. Shouldn’t be more than that. Bit of traffic but not too bad.” “You should’ve been there ten minutes ago.” “What? Nonsense.”

I went in half an hour earlier than I’d budgeted for, having just run from an expensive parking space. And there is a scene. Not a sonnet. A scene! There is a character I’m supposed to have looked at. I didn’t have to do the sonnet I’d learnt at all. Aaargh. The show was called “Waste of Shame.” Wtaf. Here is a major casting director who has spent years since casting things I’d fit. Back then she had just cast me successfully.  I ran in and “You were stuck in traffic?” she asked, sardonically. I immediately get ragey, realising this is how my agent must have spun it. I’m stuck in traffic? No I’m half an hour early. Retrospect Al speaks out “Jill, I thought I was here early. I was told the wrong time. And I haven’t had the sides.” Realtime Al doesn’t. He just apologises automatically, clenches anger and does himself no favours.

I read a scene that every other actor has learnt but that I’ve never seen. I have no context for the scene. Fuck fuck fuck. I sight read it once out loud. I’m angry. It’s a fucking disaster. Everyone is angry including myself. Bye bye Jill. It still eats me now. Now I obsessively clarify details before a meeting. One day I’d love to redeem that relationship.

(The other time was less traumatic. It was an advert. Car breakdown, station evacuation, expensive black cab, only 5 minutes late miraculously, but expensive. Treated like a willful careless idiot child.)

So yeah. You can see why I’m usually early. And these days it’ll help us to build community and world in our cavernous warehouse. This is going to be a truly magical month. But if I’m going to be on time tomorrow I need to stop mulling over the past and hit the hay. Night. Here’s my desk… (Only photo today. It’s late. Falling asleep. Nn)