I barely know the town, but here I am. I’ll be here for a few weeks. Up until now it’s been work to sleep to work to sleep. Tomorrow we have our day off. Monday. The actor’s weekend.
People here are good. The audiences have been solid, involved, grounded and fun. There’s been none of that London “impress me” shit. They’re coming out to have a good time, and they bloody well do. The faces and bodies of people here are often somehow deeper. People look and feel inhabited. And everyone is looking at and talking to each other. In London there’s a disconnect that you barely notice until you spend time in the North, where the woman that takes your money for coffee continues a conversation you started three days ago because she remembers your face and wants to pass the time.
We have made Scrooge’s Parlour in the corner of an old Carpet Right, and every night we fill it with warmth, song, food and fun. We are officially finished with the build now, but an inevitable consequence of the actors building their own set is that we’ll be adding tricks and details throughout the run. It’s rare and special to have that freedom. Jack and I keep experimenting and detailing, shifting and changing. This Sheffield space is great for that as it was a blank canvas when we arrived. The audiences are not packed out yet, which is just as well as we literally couldn’t seat them if they were. They’re willing though. Last night there was a lad who never goes to theatre. He came, dragged by his wife, and loved it so much he got tickets over the bar for his parents to come today. I put his dad on the debt board and they were front and centre in the Sunday matinee.
The director was able to come and see the show last night. Thankfully he enjoyed it. The bulk of his notes were exactly what we needed – a skilled outside eye. He was bringing candles into scenes so that our faces were visible, adjusting the timing of tricks and lighting levels and so forth. Technical stuff, and a few old reminders – particularly that we shouldn’t rush the sentimental stuff. We end up rushing it every year because it doesn’t seem to have intention. But we do it because we are modern actors looking for action and movement and forgetting that back then it was common to just sit in a sentiment for a while. By the time it comes, we’ve earned it. There’s a section in Christmas Past that is just Dickens’s words, basically in monologue form, delivered by me with a candle for approximately twenty years. One man with a candle speaking Dickens. I guess Callow can do it every year for an extraordinary fee. Someone will have to carry that baton when his liver finally succumbs. I might as well get my practice in now, and hope that Richard Curtis starts making movies again and casts me so I’m well enough positioned in a few decades time to stand and read a book for thousands of quid.
Here’s hoping. Right now it’s bed. G’night.