Worlds

Dawn this morning saw me leaning on a railing on Waterloo Bridge. I watched the glorious dawn as it broke. Wonderful. As I watched I was wearing one of Brian’s coats, a brand new scarf, and my black shoes still muddy from Jersey. Everything else was my daily wear restyled as costume. Essentially I was being paid to watch stuff, while someone filmed me. There are harder ways to earn a living. We’ve been all over London today, and the Gods have been kind. We had great light. It was a crew of three, including me, so we didn’t attract much attention. Still we did get moved on once.

We had been outside Somerset House for less than 3 minutes, filming a pretty clock, when a hard faced dane came out and reminded us, in no uncertain terms, that “even if this feels like public property it is in fact private.” This is the case with much of London. We’re there under sufferance. Somewhere in the corner of the pretty square there’s a laminated poster telling us all the things we are not allowed to do. Sitting in warm rooms, hard faced danes scowl into monitors for the best years of their lives enforcing rules because they’re rules and rules must be enforced. Yes, we can walk through the square. Yes we are positively encouraged to go to that coffee shop. Great, we want to have a meal in that restaurant. After the meal, overwhelmed with joy, we spontaneously break into achingly beautiful song. A song from the buried ancestral heart. For a moment we’ve tapped into something ancient, the song that stills the birds in the trees, that awakens the ancient spirits, stirs love in hearts long lost. Beneath our feet the earth breathes, a column of light from our head to the heavens. And perhaps… perhaps at last… “EXCUSE ME yes you excuse me – I’m afraid this square is actually private property. If you want to do that singing you’ll have to do it somewhere else thank you very much.” Welcome to London. Go and buy another coffee. Because then when someone cracks and spraypaints “WANK” on the cobbles again they’ll have enough cash in the maintenance budget to employ a guy who needs the money to get it off. And the square stays beautiful and the circle continues. Wank.

I’ve walked around the city today, looking at beautiful things, for 14km. I suspect my habit of stopping and looking is what spurred Alice – today’s film maker – into thinking of me. She first employed me as “Martin” who gave no fucks about anyone but himself. It’s lovely to come back after many years and be “The Observer…” And kind of typical that “the observer” doesn’t hit the usual buttons. He’s a simple, uncomplicated, happy fool. I just hope I’ve given the complicated people a happy start, because Martin would’ve just battened down on the least together people.

I am tired. I’m off to sleep.

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All these photos were taken after I relaxed a bit.

Medicine

Back in rehearsal for West Side Story. The director, who is great, has been thinking about me applied to Schrank. We’ve got an interesting fucker cooking now. He sees that I’m well meaning and a little dissipated. The well meaning has to be buried but he wants the dissipated. “I think his house stinks. There’s empty whiskey bottles and cigarettes everywhere. His fists are covered in scabs. Sometimes he gets drunk and goes out, finds some Puerto-Rican kid, beats him half to death and leaves him under a bridge.” I can get my imagination behind that. What I need to work on is the danger. I’ve got the curves for free, but I can see the guy he means and there’s edges there. And bursts of speed. There’s something a bit Joe Pesci going on. I might work with a vibrating metronome in my pocket for a while set super fast while I move super slow. I’m also thinking it’ll be a good excuse to get fit. I can do it if it’s for work!! Boxing classes would feed it. I was thinking about one of those “drunken” Kung Fu masters. The danger of an outwardly dissipated man. I’ll look for some introductory offers near home and see if I can haul myself out of this reluctance to get back to fitness.

I flinched a bit when he suggested this rangy guy based on his observation of me. I like to believe that tomorrow morning I could leave the house immaculately groomed, starched and shining, and do that every day for the rest of my life, and nobody would comment on it. I don’t like to find identity getting tangled up in habits, and this beard is only here because it’s quicker to shave than grow. But yeah. We become who we are every day. And every day I’m the furry guy who puts a hat on, walks in curves and goes out unironed and unshaven with ripped pockets – (unless I’m in my armour). There’s nothing to stop me adjusting that pattern, but it’s become a familiar groove. Identifying it has made me immediately rebel against the idea of it. I hate noticing habitual patterns in myself. I usually start running interference on them as soon as I do. The blog being an exception because I think the stricture helps me. 

My inner life and my environment have got swept up into the benign chaos of my current series of priorities. Hmmm. I’m not sure it’s boxing for me but it might be for Schrank. Worth a jab.

For now though, it’s an early bed. I’m up well before the dawn tomorrow. So it’s half nine and I’m about to take two spoons of cough medicine because it’s the only thing I’ve ever found that sends me off to peaceful sleep almost immediately, but wakes me up fresh. My mum used to give it to me when I was sick so there’s an immediate comfort. Which may or may not be as effective as the very small amount of morphine derivative… Zzzz

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Sin wave

Yeah so I’m an actor that writes a daily blog. An obvious starter for ten is “Do you use it to promote yourself?” Nope. I mostly use it to speak frankly about what a twerp I am, and by implication how delightfully fleeting and arbitrary all our petty struggles are. No Photoshop here. Maybe that’s the trick I’m missing though. All of these manicured curated YouTube and Instagram freaks who can’t make three seconds of live content without a jump for edit, and then this freak putting out a few words daily with a badly thought through photograph, gently peeling off my own skin in public for complicated personal reasons. Nobody gives me free holidays though. I could use a bit of sun right now.

Today was a low day probably through lack of sun. I just wasn’t feeling like I wanted to participate in all the caring about things nonsense. I had a meeting to break the monotony but it was pulled at the last minute, so instead I went shopping and bought lazy roast dinner. Then I refused to go to the cinema with Brian and Mel, preferring to sit at home feeling sorry for myself. I suppose I could’ve learnt my lines for West Side Story. I didn’t. I just sat here and listened to Shirley Manson. Of course you might argue that listening to the Garbage back catalogue is never a day wasted. Now I’m playing Faithless. I might open a bottle of Bandol and just stand in the window watching the trees blow.


It seems my network of hearts is too alert. A friend rang up and now she’s coming round. I didn’t ask her to, even though I secretly wanted her to. Good on her. I’ve put the oven on. I’ll open a bottle of something. We’ll almost certainly find something to laugh about! Damn. I can’t go full emo now.


Brilliant. We are listening to Bon Jovi. We’ve stuffed our faces. Claire is dancing. She’s fit as hell after training to teach barre. I’m writing this to get it done because I think dancing might have to happen. Useful to remember in this city that, if you’re feeling a complicated mix of things there are lots of people who feel the same way. Claire and I might have felt sad in isolation. We converged and now neither of us feel sad.

It’s odd how we feel pressured to curate social media. It’s some sort of self imposed tyranny. We are all flawed, unhappy in showers, happy in slashes. But somehow, unspoken, if we say we are sad we are soliciting sympathy, and if we are super happy we are bragging. One of us is up while another one is down. Existence is like sine-wave. Up down up down up down. Doesn’t matter what you have, how much better off you might feel you are. Up down up down. I was down. Claire was down. Now we are in the same room and we are both up. And I’m off to stop writing and give her a hug.

Here’s the dinner carnage.

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Year One – Donkeyman

Drunk London

All I had to do just now was stand on a stage and speak through a radio mic about Shakespeare with Ffion for a little bit. And still, coming off stage, I’m flushed with adrenaline. It’s weird. I must be addicted to the stuff. It would make sense. Dad was. He based his existence on it too, making risky trades and going as fast as possible in all sorts of different vehicles.

Now I’ll sit here for a bit. Then I’ll go and insult Ffion for a while, and then sit here again. Then I’ll play a sort of Hamlet drinking game with 300 submarine engineers. And then I’ll eat food and drink wine. It’s not rocket science. Although it’s a bugger to learn, and I haven’t done this one for ages. Standing there with Ffion just now it felt a bit like we were speaking a foreign language. Now I’m surfing adrenaline and getting some words in the can so I can be better company when we’re finished. I haven’t seen Ffion for a while.


You have to be resourceful about making money in this game, for the periods between jobs. The fees have mostly been going down in the years I’ve done this business. Commercials, which are the jobbing actor’s big bonus – they’re often paying about half what they used to do ten years ago. I turned my nose up to a corporate job the other day where the fee was too low for the nature of the work. This was lovely but it’s been a while. There have been periods where we did this work three times a week. Now it’s been months and months. It felt like another country.

I’m home now finally. Time jump. I’m still dressed in my armor. It was fine, performing to a load of submariners. They were not the most willing. But they enjoyed it despite being hammered for the third piece of the night.

I was talking to a (drunk) friend of mine on the phone just now – on my mobile on the bus – when he got punched by a (drunk) woman mid sentence. I got it all live. The bouncer told him “If that’d been the other way round I’d be holding you down right now and asking her if she wanted to press charges. Still. Do you want to?”

Saturday night, vicariously. They’d had a (drunk) row about bullshit and mutual friends. He’d held his ground and phoned me for corroboration about some spurious crap she was slinging around. I said “Put her onto me,” but she punched him instead of talking to me. 

Everyone in this city is hammered right now. London is a seething entitled shitstorm of opinions and alcohol slosh. I’m glad I’m home, warm, with the cat. Brian and Mel are about the only people in London sleeping and they left half a bottle of white wine in the living room. I might have to do some catching up on my own with Pickle. I could neck it and punch someone about nothing. Although I guess I’d have to punch myself as I’m not punching Pickle and Brian and Mel are in bed and I don’t want to punch them either. Perhaps I should go to bed too.

Pickle and I gonna work it out.

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Year one – Theatre in a shopfront

West Side Story

I’m sitting in a rehearsal room. This is unexpected. I’ve been shown a load of pictures of my costume.

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My New York accent is currently all over the shop but I’ll work it out. I’ll be off to Manchester from the 16th to the 24th February to do a short run of West Side Story with full costume, production and orchestra. I love West Side Story because my mum loved it. She slapped me when I told her a joke I’d heard in the playground: “Which wood doesn’t float? – Natalie Wood.” Then she sat me down in front of a VHS and we watched the Jets and the Sharks and Natalie Wood being beautiful and looking a bit like mum. I loved it and she cried and I think I did too.

“And step and hop hop step step hop clap spin.” That’s what they’re saying right now. The constant noise of a dance rehearsal.. Nuts and bolts of the moments that will look like magic in the playing. I’m sitting in a comfy chair watching the bouncy people bounce. The best thing about the part I’m playing is he doesn’t participate in any of the dances so I don’t have to put myself through that and a one and a two shit. I’ll certainly join their warm-ups in my quest for fitness though. They’re all sorts of body types, capable of all sorts of monstrosity.

My part – he comes in, takes his space and power, says loads of racist crap and leaves. Then he does it a few more times. His name is Schrank. Maybe he’s bruised, maybe he’s bad. I’m yet to work it out. It’s the sort of part where I could give him a twitch or a limp and get away with it. I probably won’t. But I think he’s almost certainly a psychopath. But I’ve only just met him. This all happened very quickly.

I just said to the director “I’m looking forward to working out what his body moves like, but right now I need to work out what the fuck I’m saying and why.” So as I’m enjoying myself working out the little details and experimenting with centre of gravity, a load of virile young men and women are bounding around in trainers singing songs I’ve loved since I was ten, and I’m feeling nostalgic hearing the riffs.


How lovely to get thrust into a project like this. Well over 50 people, making one of the best known musicals in the world, and making it properly – no fucking around. Okay – for most of them it’s a learning job. All I can do is be my positive self. But there’s a validation. Because we are making fucking West Side Story. In Manchester. With everything. There is not a single human being who will emerge from this job without having done something fucking big. It’s a rare opportunity. “You’re never alone. You’re never disconnected.” Yep. I’ve been doing this shit for long enough. I’m not alone or disconnected. I just got a text. “Are you free around the 16th Feb?” And now this. It’s a week of work espousing a horrible worldview in a masterpiece.


Year one – Views and Vikings

Hungover

Quiet day today. Brian had a migraine and I had a hangover. Going to Vault Festival is always lovely as I get to see loads of glorious people who live in the industry I live in and get tangled up in the similar tangles, but are mostly clever enough not to try to find words for them and post them online. They make shows out of them instead.

I got drunk with James and called him Tom. That happens a lot. He didn’t seem to mind. Good old long suffering Tom. There was quite a lot of wine. It definitely had an effect on me. By the end of the night, it’s entirely likely that I had an animated conversation about something with any one of you, and that now I’ve completely forgotten I even saw you. You could probably get away with pretending you’d lent me some money. I regretted it in the morning but it was a good night as far as I remember. Mostly laughing. Eventual falling over.

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One of the people I was out with doesn’t drink. I always get drawn to that. I frequently stop entirely for long periods. I am so aware that the livers on my mother’s side are not strong. I don’t particularly want to keel over until I’ve had more fun. And sometimes the fun and the alcohol are all tangled up together. But you can have fun without booze. Oh it’s a thorny one. Best have a glass of wine.

This evening I went to a monthly meeting in my Buddhist district. When it was all kicking off with the car in Jersey, my district leader sent me a WhatsApp asking how I was. I responded “stuck. Help. Chant!” She did, and we got unstuck. Whether or not the two things are related – (I like to think they are) – I still wanted to thank her. This year in Nichiren Buddhism is called “The year of Brilliant Achievement” and I’ve already shifted agents, plus booked a short film and a lovely wee theatre job, and sorted things out in Jersey. Life is pretty damn good. Next up fitness, which I’ve been talking about for a while without doing much to back it up. If I keep putting it into this blog eventually I’ll be ashamed enough at my own inertia to build a new habit. For now though, this cup of wine.

Going to The Vaults got me thinking. Robin has given me a chance to write something for performance. She is generating work for herself and others. I might put my new-found scribbling habit to good use and do that. Brian, obviously, makes a lot of work gloriously possible for a lot of people. JamesTom keeps making work for himself. There’s plenty of stuff I want to put into a work of art. When I get back from teetotal gym with my washboard stomach and my lovely girlfriend then I can write with one hand while painting the flat with the other and changing the carpet with my tongue.

Dammit – I just checked out last year’s blog and I was waxing lyrical about daily yoga…


Year One – Yogaworks yoga works

Finding Neverland

I’m off to Neverland. It’s in The Forge at Vault Festival. It’s the show that I didn’t cut my arms off helping to build. I’m really looking forward to it. The writer, the designer the composer the Brian and the Al Barclay, plus about loads of other people – we all read the script out loud in an abandoned open plan office board room in Liverpool Street two months ago. Now a bunch of people are going to cram into an underground tunnel and – hopefully – we are all going to be transported to Neverland. Maybe even literally. I’m putting my play hat firmly on. No worky. This is for funz. I’m told that, in this week of previews, the most helpful thing I can do is be a willing audience member while the cast recalibrate in the unfamiliar space. If someone says “come over here” and I’m not sure it means me, I will behave as if I’m sure it does mean me and show willing. I’m planning on having a brilliant time, even if that fucking rubberchip catches fire and the mezzanine collapses.

I’m writing this now because I have an inkling my coherence will have suffered a blow by the time I’m close to bed. Brian sorted 4 tickets because of my hapless few days of learning new tools as a “helper” at the get-in: “A glue gun?! Wow! That’s amazing. How does it work?”.

Robin, Avril the VR director I met the other day, a friend of hers who I’m hoping won’t be stiff as a plank, and yours truly. All going to Neverland. Brian’s proviso was “yeah I can sort tickets, but you have to get the drinks.” Thankfully Imperial College paid me 100 quid. I was expecting a bit more, but it looks like I’ll have to wait another month for that. Buggers.


All done. What a kind strange night. Some lovely people did some lovely things. I had a beautiful journey through the show. It hatched some old wounds around loss and identity. I found myself mourning the death of my mother. Shortly thereafter Hook made me write a childhood memory and then destroy it. The memory involved mum. I got to thinking about where I am now versus where I was/where I’d like to be. I miss her, that vast force that called itself my mother. With her ungodly early departure, it’s hard to have perspective. The show is about lost mothers, and it’s made by people I adore. I loved it but I cried a lot. Because it’s human, and honestly delivered. Also it’s a piece of work that is connected to the joyful sunny summers we spent in Yorkshire, making Shakespeare with Sprite. God they were happy times. And this is a happy piece of “yes”motivated work. It will only deepen with time. Neverland. At Vault Festival. If you’ve got a face, use it to watch that show. But only so long as the face is attached to a heart… Look for beauty and you’ll find it there. That’s an order.