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