Behind a curtain in the Gatsby set there’s a room full to the brim with utterly random knick-knacks. Piles of wood, bolts of fabric, mannequins, dust, boxes full of junk, antique furniture, broken mirrors, empty boxes.


I’ve been sexily sorting it out all day. Sexily because it is of course still sexy February. Heavy lifting and making money. Both sexy af.

As a child I used to be allowed in the staff area of The Kulm Hotel in St Moritz. My parents would be at The Sunny Bar, which was beautifully appointed and smelt of wood and glüwein. Max and I would play around the velvet curtains, and occasionally Erwin the head waiter would give us errands. “Go to the kitchen and ask Adolfo for more olives for the bar.” I would open a door dressed with velvet and panels and walk into a cracked unpainted corridor full of strange odours. The backstage area of the hotel. Piles of bin bags and buckets of spent oil and mops and cardboard boxes, just a thin wall away from where the Liechtenstein royal family were tucking into Eggs Bledisloe. Chefs shouting and laughing in the kitchen, working to feed terrifically wealthy men and women shouting and laughing just as loudly on the terrace.

The difference between a show and the working of a show is a fascinating space. We all inhabit it in some manner, those of us on social media. There’s Jack and I at the start of Carol tearing the lid off a beer carton to waft the smoke machine that I’m holding in my right hand and operating with my feet, with a remote control in my mouth and keeping a curtain closed with my knee while Jack rattles bolts and groans, and the audience goes “oooh” as if it’s a magic trick. There’s the Instagram “model” swaddled in makeup taking a thousand photos of themselves with a puppy over half an hour, before running one of them through so many filters their mother wouldn’t know them anymore, loading it up with hashtags and eventually captioning it something like “Quick snap of me and my puppy. Heart emoji. Puppy emoji.” There’s me writing this blog, and then reading over it, worrying and changing details, editing out content, adjusting phrases, tweaking, twerking, and finally scheduling it, manicured and pruned from the initial brain-dump. There’s social media: “Oh how wonderful our existence is!” That’s the show. The backstage area of each of our individual existences probably tells a different story.

I found out today that over 60 of my Facebook friends have accepted a friend request from a “catfish” that targets performers. Why have they accepted? Because her shopfront is immaculate and entirely credible, and the woman she’s using in her pictures has one of those “I think I’ve seen you before” faces. But put to the question, nobody recalls ever meeting her. She just… looks familiar – and shares lots of friends. She posts as a liberal creative woman with a brilliant existence, but she could be anyone, anywhere. It has been fascinating watching so many people realise she’s a massive catfish. Shows how easily we can be fooled by a good front.

Which is just as well considering I’m in theatre. Good on her whatever gender she really is, and whatever her reasons are for doing it. As long as she doesn’t steal anyone’s identity or do something craycray. I suspect she might just be lonely and living a lovely fantasy life with lots of glamorous virtual friends. If I can talk to a tennis ball in an entirely green studio, and the edit can show me anywhere you can imagine talking to anything or anyone, then she can put up a load of photos of someone else and write a happy hippy sunny existence with pictures of other people’s kids (until she got busted) then she’s good to dig into the profile of whoever accepts her friend request without checking. Caveat emptor. It works both ways.

This time last year it was the Superbowl

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.

One thought on “Fronts”

  1. Another brilliant insightful blog, taking the lid off things we dont stop to think about enough, and sprinkling in some Al curiosity and magic. Thank you.


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