I woke up on a sofa in Hampstead this morning. Second night running on that sofa and no I didn’t have a change of clothes packed. I had also managed to get food down the front of my shirt and I’d kicked over a pint of water in the night onto my trousers. As you may have gleaned had you read yesterday’s offering, I got … angry. Thankfully my friend there keeps a toothbrush for me and a pair of pyjamas. This is not her first rodeo.
So in the morning I’m standing waiting for a 24 bus, stinking in stained damp clothes, trying to remember lines I spoke years ago. They were there back then. I spoke them out with confidence at the 503. I played this character, said these lines, and people clapped and laughed and did all the audience things. It seems like a generation ago. The way I look at the script has changed in that time. Back then I was still involved in “How am I going to deliver this script clearly?” Now I’m also thinking about the message. “Why this piece now?” haunts me and annoyingly my only answer is “because they asked me.” It’s nice writing though and I’m happy with good friends. But they aren’t paying me. I’m not even getting travel. They’d better buy me some drinks. It’ll be the night before my birthday dammit.
We rehearsed at RADA. The Chenies Street building. The stairwell is decorated with RADA stills from the time that I was training across town at Guildhall. My audition intake lot. People I’ve done loads of random stuff with over the years, but all looking younger than I ever knew them. They’re all the way up the stairs. “Oh look there’s Fenella. Oh and there’s John.” I send him a photo. “Is that Aoife! How come there’s no Mel? And there’s that guy from that corporate. And that twat! And who’s she? I’ve done something. What did we do…? Did we kiss in an audition? Or not in an audition? Who knows…”
It’s nice to rehearse in that building, because it sweats acting now. Nondescript studios, black or white paint, usually a grotbag piano. Decades of people sampling humanity. Decades of high emotion either channeled or forced. Decades of detail either owned or obedient. Decades of moving for a reason or just wandering. The process of teaching acting. Refining talent. Understanding and activating weirdness. Telling stories without getting in the way. Helping people to get out of their own bloody way…
It’s good to see in retrospect how useful a good acting training can be in general life. Looking at things and people, keeping your body healthy, keeping your mind quick. (If you ignore the stubborn fuckers like me who refuse to retract their claws from the idea of this being a viable profession.) Some of the people in my year have gone on to great things, way outside of the realm of acting. Front facing front footed people changing the world for the better by noticing. Bringing new humans into it and helping them not be vile. And there’s some of the people in those photos who have done the same. So many good drama schools. So many people paying to service dreams. So many hard clear meetings with reality or time. Life just keeps happening. That lovely guy who was so kind and welcoming and funny – he’s dead. That asshole? He’s lovely. Others still fighting, others having downtime for kids. And time keeps ticking. ticking. ticking.
I stood in my stained shirt rehearsing scenes I did once but have long forgotten. I’m older. Weirder but not so weird. Balder but brilliantly “I remember you as being balder” from one of the actors. The lines fall out differently because we notice different things, care about different stuff. I’ve not had such a concrete example of how we change over time as this remount experience. My character is still a bit of an asshole. But at least he cares about something.
Our piece is one of many. Here’s the event link. Arcola Theatre in Dalston on a Sunday. It’ll be my birthday at midnight so, fuck it, you can come see me do a short play with old friends and then raise a glass to another year of madness afterwards. Although I’m not up for a big one because I wanna get the Monday in full technicolour and see as many people as I can…