This morning I woke up naturally at 5.30 so I bounced around the flat thinking about my audition. Had eggs. Chanted. Fed the cat. The audition was in Southwark which was a happy coincidence. I was working there anyway in the morning.

I say working. I put on my ringmaster coat and Scrooge’s top hat, and grabbed a riding whip. My job?

First of all I met two delightful women who were dressed up as giraffes. Back in the mists of time there was a circus in Southwark, and the giraffes lived north of the river in a warehouse. They would be transported northwards over the bridge in the dead of night. Back then the Camelopard was an unfamiliar and intimidating creature and the shadows of the night were considered the best time to move the strange beasts in order to minimise consternation. A few drunken spouses might have returned astonished from late night boozing. “There was a spotted horse thing. With a long neck like a serpent, but with horns. And a black tongue.” “Go to bed dear. You’re drunk again.”

Every year at this time Southwark council spills a load of actors out onto the street with things loosely connected to the district, as part of Merge Festival, in an exercise purely designed to make people smile. This year, for today only, I was the ringmaster. I have now passed the baton, and the costume, to another actor who is more reliably available than I am. I’ve got stranger fish to fry.

So I was on the street with two giraffes. Two wonderful actresses dressed as giraffes. And we were “playing” in the truest sense of the word. We were finding out how to get grown ups outside Southwark tube to behave like children, and positively encouraging them to do so. It was beautiful and surprising. For me the highlight came with Jenny, who must have been eighty and clearly hadn’t had silly fun for a long long time. She sang to the giraffes, who honked back to her. Then they all danced ring a ring a roses. It seemed right. She was so thrilled and confounded and charmed I found it very moving. She stayed with us for ages, grinning from ear to ear. It made my day. All you need is one encounter like that. And we had many more than one. We went from joy to joy. The giraffe-women were simultaneously extremely inventive and remarkably charismatic, and people were drawn to their hilarious costume and endearing behaviours. All I had to do was put on my bombastic idiot hat, and hard-sell how glorious the beasts were, whilst occasionally whipping myself, or gathering people together to celebrate some other aspect of the circus – The best cyclist in the world was fun when the lights were red in rush hour. I have no doubt someone has me on their helmet-cam announcing their prowess.

In the midst of this I changed my clothes and went to a lovely audition, 5 minutes from the crossroads where I’d been working. My first note in the audition was essentially “Shall we try it again without you being a ringmaster?” Oops. We did so. Half an hour after the meeting I was back in the top hat and green tails and whip rolling up the crowds.


I love my life. More random stuff tomorrow. So much random tomorrow. Must sleep. Zzzx




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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