Globey birthday

Lovely at The Globe today. The gate was full of roses. Must be Shakespeare’s birthday sonnet walks. There was Mark Rylance looking preoccupied with his bicycle. The sonnet walks are part of his legacy to that building. I always feel the urge to greet him like an old friend, because I’ve seen so much of his accessible human work. He’s stitched into the fabric of that building. His priorities and his spirit. His taste and his beliefs. They have helped recreate that well placed and powerful edifice, which has in turn kept me fed through the fallow seasons for a few years now.

I was working at a Drama teacher’s birthday party today. She didn’t really know what she wanted but she wanted something performative and Shakespearean. I didn’t really know what I was going to do but my head is full of stuff. There was a harpist playing. I did things that underscore nicely. Oberon. Some sonnets. Then a quick timeline and some other little attractive snippets.

In my break, an 11 year old girl bobbled up to me. “What’s your name,” she beamed. “I’m Al. What’s yours?” “If we shadows have offended think but this and all is mended,” she responded. She then did the whole of Puck’s epilogue from Dream, word perfect, marking the verse. Her favourite teacher, Vicky, made her learn it. Vicky is everyone’s favourite teacher, you see. She’s in Wood Green and she teaches drama. Everyone knows that bit. She gets us to do it when she points at us. “Do you want to share it with your auntie?” “Yes please. Not on my own though, I’d be scared.” “We can do it together. Let’s practice now.” She’s great. We speak the lines in unison. She speaks it forward and loud and enjoys it. “I have to get back to work but I’ll give you a thumbs up when it’s time and if you still want to do it just come and stand by me, ok?” “Ok.”

A spot of MC, introducing speakers etc, a showy silly bit stealing Henry V and Prospero, and then thumbs up and she springs over immediately. She’s raring to go. Highlight of my week, sharing those lines with that 11 year old. Particularly on the day that The Globe celebrates Shakespeare’s birthday. That was my energetic contribution to the festivities. Flowers in the fence. Sonnets in the surroundings. Barclay in the balcony room. Good things for the year to come.

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If anyone knew energy and the power of language it was whoever wrote those plays. I’ve been blessed to work in so many different contexts and different parts of the world over the years with those human, healing words. Two nights ago I was writhing around in Hampstead with tights on my head in a silent scream playing Banquo’s ghost, and tonight I got sentimental, underscored by a harpist and in partnership with an 11 year old girl. I hope I didn’t just make another actor. She was fab. She had already made herself. I knew when I was 8.

Now I’m home early and taking myself off to bed ahead of another odd week, in which I’m hoping there’ll be some positive news. I’m waiting on 3 jobs. It’s unfamiliar. Something’s gotta stick. My hit rate is high. I want to keep it that way. Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo.

 

Play doh

Elena and Flavia both made cats out of play-doh today, and almost immediately they were destroyed by the four year old hurricane Ivo. He’s a pleasure, that kid. But why is destruction always so attractive to kids? I was the same, I think. Empathy takes time to learn.

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One time when it snowed in April on a weekend I had a load of out of work actors staying in my flat. We made a snowwoman with a snowdog in Battersea Park. It took us hours because we had beer and made a day of it. We were surrounded by people making snowmen. At the end of the day, as the light was fading and most people had gone home, three kids came into the field. 16 years old perhaps. Over the course of half an hour they jumped into every single snowman, laughing. I remember thinking of the families that had made them. I even tried (and didn’t manage) to teach them empathy. They left ours because we were by it, although I have no doubt they jumped it as soon as we left. These snow beings had been made with care over hours by so many people. The field looked beautiful and strange in the fading light, populated momentarily by still silent white giants. They levelled it in less time than it takes to make one snowman. And I thought how familiar that is. How human. To unthinkingly destroy something because it exists.

If we haven’t made something ourselves we find it easy to smash it. Snowmen, belief systems, artworks. It’s easier to destroy than to build. It’s faster as well. And it satisfies some primal urge. Ivo is 4 and he didn’t think twice about smushing some play-doh someone else had made, even though he’d have shouted if we’d smashed his. It got me thinking of that upsetting video from a few years ago when grown men in Mosul with the brains of 4 year olds and sledgehammers that are marginally smarter than they are smashed up a load of ancient artefacts in order to show the world how ridiculously narrow minded their viewpoint is. A young critic will frequently write a hatchet job. The less we have experienced, the more we are inclined to just smush. It’s an odd feature of the human condition and maybe one which we should be aware of within ourselves.

I’ve had a lazy day today. Playing with the cat, reading and relaxing in the morning. Then hanging out with Flavia and Ivo in the evening. Now back at home, drunkenly teaching reading Tarot for our current sofa guest before winding to sleep beneath the cat. Happy Sunday everyone. I’m so tired I haven’t got it in me to write another word.

 

Relief

Once again I’m here in King Willy. The King William pub in Hampstead. Just a hop skip and jump to the West Heath. And as fabulous as you’d expect.

We’ve got a live act entertaining us. We’ve just been a live act entertaining other people.

It was my first Factory Lady Macduff tonight. Plus Banquo and Menteith. It’s beginning to make sense now, this strange beautiful difficult thing we are trying to simultaneously make and destroy. We learn by doing. Tonight it felt bullshit free, and we told it clearly.

This feels like the kick off, five shows in with this tight instinctive company of strange brave purists. I’m extremely proud to have been part of some of the work tonight. The irreverence but deep understanding running in tandem alongside the work ethic and our manifesto. I don’t like writing about The Factory. We make stuff that is deliberately unrepeatable. Sometimes it flies. Sometimes it doesn’t. So be it. Tonight I never felt disconnected from the work and I’m happy about how we played as a group. It was joyful, connected and artistic.

But this morning is where I made the money. My flat was rehearsal venue for a celebrity birthday party coming up at The Globe. It’ll be a lovely evening, and also joyful, in much the same way as the show tonight. There is a little company of actors who are all working together to make this corporate work interesting and fulfilling. There’s concrete money on the table too. Even if it’s not at all well thought of in the industry. It’s a means to an end. And these guys work with integrity, and I feel valued in the work.

I do a lot of corporate work. Money isn’t endless. I can sell my skills and my time. I also turn in adverts from time to time too, selling my face. If you can do that and keep integrity, then it’s legitimate, surely, I keep telling myself. There’s a level you can reach at which you become too recognisable to do commercials. Despite 15 years I’m not quite there yet. I remember on my first job I witnessed a household name being actively attacked by another household name for doing a series of adverts. “You don’t need that you idiot. Leave those jobs for the people that can’t pay their bills.” I think the animosity ran much deeper. The response was “They straight offered me over 500 thousand. What would you do?” I heard both points and my sympathy was with the (rich) man attacked – but partly because an early film of his made him my hero and then he was hanging out with me on set by choice.

I went to the wire for two 16k adverts in one year last year and having watched both of them heavy pencil and then go to *the other dude*, I’m sanguine that that dude needed it as much as I did, even if it hurts. 16k is the perfect figure, repeated, dangled in front of me and then withdrawn. I really want a reset button to kill the old debt. My kneecaps are not under direct threat though. Just my comfort.

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A dude in the pub drew this of me. He’s got the shape of my face completely off, but the eyes are good. He proudly showed it to me as I was leaving and I thought it looked like my mate Jacob. I said “I wouldn’t like to get in a fight with that fucker.” I didn’t buy it.

I can’t imagine a world where I wouldn’t play a Factory show though. It’s my expression. My community. My friends. My challenge. When I get recognisable, what a joy to vanish into ensemble.

God knows what this is about

I’m at a school in Barnet talking to a bunch of kids. They’ve got a design for a kinetic energy recharging speaker-bed. The more you jump on the bed, the more energy you generate. They’re marketing it to 4-18 year olds. “Have you all agreed on the age range?” I ask them. “Yeah. Grown ups don’t play. Besides, my mum is 40 and she’s exhausted.”

I know how she feels. This time at least I got myself to the right place. But I can barely keep my eyes open and I’ve got to do Macbeth in a little over two hours. Grown ups don’t play? My hat.


And there I was in another school this evening. I thought I had it easy but you never have it easy at The Factory. I should know that by now. I thought I was Lady “only one self contained scene” Macduff. But no. Banquo. And also, 1 hour before the show “Oh and you’ll also be Menteith.” Shit. I didn’t know Menteith. Now I sort of do. Playing to a bunch of tired kids, some teachers and a few visitors. I didn’t know it would be a school show. I’m schooled out. If I was sensible I’d go straight home. But I’m not. Pub.

“Grown ups don’t play”… A person got me over to help her move her narrowboat last night. She’d have had to fight me to get my hand off the tiller. There I was grinning like The Joker and trying not to bang off the sides and we scooted down and found a mooring under the Westway. While I was lying on the towpath trying to force a rope through a gap someone shouted “Al Barclay.” I stand up covered in shit. It’s only another actor, a friend, someone who is doing good things. On the fucking towpath. I’ve been in this city too long.

Macbeth was lovely tonight as ever but my phone has now decided it’s roaming so it won’t connect to data. I’ve got just over a month before I can legitimately escape from those catastrophic Vodafone morons. But I’m now getting words written on the pub WiFi surrounded by beautiful bold crazy actors most of whom I’ve known for years. It’s odd to be in the room with these glories and be clocked out to my phone. But this blog has taken on its own momentum now and until I can afford better technology, every day is going to be stream of consciousness coping mechanisms.

Every few seconds I get a pop up I have to cancel about roaming. It’s absurd.

Anyway. Grown ups don’t play? I’m here with my friends. This is play time. I did a workshop this morning helping kids understand that innovation is personal, not regulated. Then I did a show where people work to be as honest as they can with ancient language. Now it’s coming up to closing time, and this “Managed Roaming” pop up on my shitawful handset will make things impossible as soon as I’m off WiFi. I’ve had enough of this shit. But that’s 500 words…

Here’s the lovelies.

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Tube map tapestry

This is why I keep a diary. It would help if I looked at the bloody thing.

I went to Barnet by mistake. Bugger. Don’t get me wrong, it’s alright in Barnet. I used to go up and stay in Chris’s room, and see the Big Chief. He would have musical jazz parties that would spill out onto the sunny streets. I miss those days. It’s always sunny when I’m in Barnet.

But I’m supposed to be in South Kensington. Barnet happens tomorrow and it’s a long way from where I should be. Bother. One day I’ll sort myself out (or not.) At least it means it’ll be sunny tomorrow too. Doesn’t it?

Now I’m cruising back on the endless Northern line with all the commuters. The tube announcer just said “Hyugyüt” in her cultivated ’50s accent. Highgate – where Harrie used to live.  Here to South Ken in half an hour? Hopefully I’ll get there before anyone misses me. My habit of being early is bearing fruit. This is more or less exactly why I cultivated the habit in the first place. It allows me to be an airhead but with fewer consequences and more time to look at the pretty things.

Right now though it’s just a load of sleepy people passively consuming fear through their free newspaper. “Toxic Arctic”. We are all going to die. Buy more stuff. It’s expensive as all hell, this little underground train, but it really does haul a lot of people around. And the culture of silence means you want something to read. Controlling the free paper of choice gives huge thought power. So often those headlines instigate a fear reaction, and it makes you grab the paper. But the paper’s not the spear, it’s the boar

I’m stuck in a tunnel outside Mornington Crescent now. Humphrey Lyttleton eat your heart out. He’s right. You always end up here one way or another. Fifteen minutes to go.

We are moving again. I’m sure you’re all thrilled. Euston already, where I was last night and had a bit too much wine. Then Warren Street, where I rehearsed Hamlet in the Croatian Embassy. Then Goodge Street. The RADA stop. Mum’s hospital. Tottenham Court Road. My old agent…

When I moved to London all these stations sounded strange, distant, unknown. Now the tube map is a complicated loom of associations. There are little bits of me sewn into the fabric of this town. Leicester Square. Brian’s work. Marie. Red paint stains on the wooden floor. Running in the streets in a nightie. I’m bolting onto the Piccadilly Line but I’m going to be late. 6 minutes left. The tube announcer promotes paranoia.”If you see anything suspicious, report it to the station staff. See it, say it, sorted.” We are in danger. Trust no-one.

Three minutes to the Rayner’s Lane train. I’m going to be late, but “There is a good service on all underground lines.” Aren’t we doing well!?

These prerecorded announcements are in constant chatter like a dystopian sci-fi film from the ’80s. We hear them but don’t hear them. Drink water. Stand behind the yellow line. There might be bombs. We are efficient. Serve the computer. The computer is your friend

Green Park. Where we did that treasure hunt. Three more stops. Three minutes late already. Bum.

We stitch ourselves into places. Every station has a story for me. Hyde Park Corner. Where I should’ve got in the taxi with her after Nick’s wedding even though she was a lawyer. Knightsbridge. That night shoot at Harrods. Better get ready now. South Ken is coming. Max’s work. My work too today. If I’m not too late… And … … run!

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Photos of my face

I’m sitting in Hampstead trying to remember what I’ve done today.

I met Chris Mann for headshots in the morning. Once, many years ago, we worked together as actors. We were paid £75 to do an incomprehensible murder mystery in the home counties. I was the lord and prime suspect. He was the deviant stable boy and arbitrary murderer. Neither of us were paid enough to style out something that didn’t work. Both of us chalked it up to experience and drew a line under murder mysteries. Now he’s taking headshots and I’m still throwing myself head first into the plate glass. He was exactly the right person to take my photo. He’s taken a lot of vibrant, forward photos. I need to be allowed expression to thrive. On a film set nobody says “Angle your head like X. Do Y with your lips.” But an astonishing number of headshot photographers do just that. Is it a hangover from celluloid, where you can’t waste too much film on crap photos?

Anyway my job isn’t to be pretty, nor has it ever been. My job is to try to be honest. I think I might have just got some honest shots. Even if my shaved face looks weird to me.

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I took my weird bare face to a meeting, and the director said “I hope this isn’t the wrong thing to say, but you have a tremendously vulnerably quality.” My brother described me as “haunted” a month ago. Looking at these photos, where I was having a lovely time, some of the shots I’m drawn to see that haunted thing. I don’t feel haunted. But that shit has got into my eyes. Is that a useful thing considering it doesn’t affect my behaviour on set? Fucknose.

After yesterday and today if I’m not extremely busy from June forwards then people are idiots. Which means I must get onto the comic selling ASAP as I’ll want a holiday before it all kicks off. Once it’s locked in. Which it will be.

Meantime this evening I went to volunteer with a company called Scene and Heard. Today was just a start. We will be working with brilliant kids from a particular part of London, helping them write plays while providing positive role models as best we can. Today we did a writing workshop with them. We created an animal, and worked out names, family and many circumstances relating to their daily life – their hopes and their fears.

As I was doing all of this, the headshots came through for review. Ping. Superfast. There are some great shots, I think. I don’t much like looking at my face. But hell I wonder how many times I’ve written the word “I” in this blog. It surprises me that nobody has yet called me “narcissist” to my face for this incomprehensible repetitive excursion into vanity. So surely I can spend a few hours looking at my own mug.

Anyway, that’s my shit piling up right there. I’m at a friend’s house. I just clocked out socially to stream this down. Now I’m going to clock in again.

Sprung

Spring is always a border, a corner, a change. A Spring that has sprung so far into summer? Surely a hugely positive omen. After the snow this blast of heat is helping nature get back on track. My friends who suffer from hayfever are all drooling out of every orifice and sounding like people sound when they’re trying to pull a sicky by telephone. I’m debating as to whether it’ll be quicker to reread the whole of Brave New World, or sit in front of 3 hours worth of 1980’s TV sci-fi. I’m in the frame to help tell the story, meeting tomorrow. I might have to watch the Spandex, as it might be an audience point of reference, and I read the book when I was like 17.

Today I met with someone who has already auditioned me three times and not given me the part. They keep seeing me though so I must be doing something right. Maybe this time…

They asked for a song, unaccompanied, so I went with “Old Man River” because “oh I get weary and sick of trying” felt apposite. Plus it’s in my vocal range. Lovely audition. And I usually hate the things.

Then I got home swearing like a trooper because I was expecting a million Buddhists to come round my flat, run their fingers down surfaces for dust, and tell me my gohonzon is too low. I’d agreed to host a tozo, where people come and chant together. I didn’t feel like hosting anything when I got home. Gradually, as I tidied and hoovered and burnt incense and reluctantly made my home lovely, I realised that the fact I was so down on the whole idea of everyone coming was precisely why I needed to do it. Damn. 7pm happened with nobody there, so I just sat on my own with Pickle in a spotless living room, surrounded by candles, loads of empty chairs at my back, and I chanted into the frankincense smoke. For a good half an hour before one person came despite me having hung up on her this morning. Then another 10 minutes brought a second and it was lovely, chanting just the three of us. They did tell me my gohonzon is too low. But it was a positive visitation. I still have time to do my “work” despite me stressing. I’m even taking time out to jot down my daily tithe to the ideas-God before I hit this Brave New World.


Things are pretty good now the sun is shining. I’ve been working a reasonably paid occasional day job where they understand totally if I have to drop it for the afternoon and dash across town to sing songs in a small room – rolling the dice for a good summer. I’ve now spent the best part of three hours watching this 1980’s TV movie of Brave New World which is a remarkable illustration of how we have lost our innocence. There’s nothing wrong with it. It just feels deeply naïve. I’ll let it play out, iron some more shirts, and trust that one of these gigs will come my way. Or more.

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