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

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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