There we all were, far too early in the morning at Waterloo, getting out of London around the same time that most people were getting in. The concourse was thick with rage as people tutted actively about momentary obstructions on the way to their little workboxes. We very nearly missed the train out to some place near Southampton. Five of us. Heading to a green screen. This is what I do for a living.
After an hour and twenty in the train I’m in Barry’s merc. I take the front seat. Barry and I get talking, but I’m in work mode. I’m quick to suggest I’ll send him my voicereel, as he is an active spirit and is clearly making lots of interesting things. They’ll need their “poor man’s Cumberbatch” voice before long so I’ll lodge it with them while I can, dammit.
We are disgorged at the studio. An old stable, surrounded by green, packed with working people. Coffee and strategy. Then hair and make-up. They always make you look great for camera. Even me. It’s like a little holiday from my base entropic state. Mariana works witchcraft with powders and creams and sprays and then it’s in front of the camera.
A shoot like this is about short term muscle memory. A series of gestures, in a sort of pattern. There’s no sound being recorded so you find your own logic, aided or hindered by Ed Wood style narration from various sources, (sometimes inside your own head). In essence it’s very like learning the steps for a really weird dance and then processing it quickly from mechanical reiteration to something with logical bridges and a sense. It’s seeking the moment where “step ball change, JAZZ HANDS” starts to feel like an organic part of a conversation in world. Patterning meaning into gesture into meaning.
They’ve booked a huge amount of crisis time into the schedule. At one point I sharpie the front of my shirt trying to work out how to magically open a book and get a pen lid off without three hands, and fudging the open pen into myself. While one of us establishes that the mark cleans out satisfactorily with a baby wipe – (he’s got kids) – someone else is already halfway to Southampton buying an ultimately redundant replacement shirt in Zara. Still we finish a good hour ahead of time. We bundle into the train back home before the snow and in time for the show.
I have a friend on standby to do my part in case the shoot drags. I’m happy to let her off the hook.
Showtime tonight, and hellfire it was cold. I didn’t want to leave the door open, and the volunteers were out there smashing it and making it clear that people can come into our rather strange but joyful van of tea and tarot. I tried to get tea to them in the breaks. I’ve got headspace during the show now for acts of thoughtfulness, which is just as well as West Side Story rehearsals go full time from tomorrow so there’s no more time for anything other than getting on with it in the evenings for the next few weeks. I’m also starting to find the joy and the logic with The Marquis. Learning the steps of the dance. Jazz hands!