Jack and I went to Big Yellow Self Storage today with the van. I have two days of van work coming up. I can’t use the thing if it’s full of bric-a-brac. I went and got a starting deal on a storage pod, giving me time pressure to get the stuff sorted, and a chance for Jack and I to touch base with what I’ve managed to get hold of, through the frame of Christmas Carol.

We have the most amazing haul of tacky Victorian plates. They’re all extremely patriotic, these plates. Pictures of Victoria and Albert and Gladstone and Nelson and other statesmen of the time. Men with muttonchops looking constipated and women with bonnets looking as if someone’s standing directly behind them. These are simultaneously wonderful and awful plates. Christmas Carol this year will probably involve the audience eating from these authentic Victorian pieces of decorative nonsense, loved by patriotic Scrooge, no doubt. Although as a precautionary measure I might ask someone if any of the plates are worth loadsamoney as they’ll likely get used hard in Carol. If there are loads with value then we have a budget for Beowulf! I suspect they’ll have very little value though. They’re just costume plates. Dressed up to look fancy but not actually fancy.

If you’re a ceramics enthusiast then this is a goldmine of interest. I’d love to learn the provenance of some of this. It’s lovely to know that this plate collection, maintained by theatre people, will find a life in theatre. I almost want to thank the lost owners for curating it for us. I think they’d be thrilled to see it go to good use. I would be. I’m going to invite their kids to see Carol and hopefully to eat off their plates.

We took our time to look at things, and to photograph them, and still got everything packed in reasonably efficiently. I took a lot of photographs. Sure there’s plenty of pure and simple junk. Also a lot of interesting looking junk – stuff that will be well used as set dressing for immersive shows. Stuff with personality but no real worth. Suitcases and ceramic Queens and candelabras and tiles. There’s a filthy rocking horse that looks more like a donkey. If anyone fancies cleaning it I’ll drive it round for fuel as I can’t imagine it’ll be much use in any of the stories I’m planning on making. It needs a damn good scrub though. How does one wash a rocking horse? Manually, and painstakingly I fear. Anyway, It’s yours if you want it. It doesn’t have smoke damage. The major issue with much of this stuff is that it’s heavily smoke damaged. Carrying it makes your hands filthy almost immediately. There was a fire in the house it came out of before it went to storage. This is what was loosely saved.

The best thing about today was working with Jack. Had I been alone I’d have had an interesting but far less fulfilling day. Sharing discoveries with Jack, dreaming possibilities for things we found, making spot decisions on random items… All of that was fun in company. I enjoy doing things so much more when I do them with someone I get on with. I said to Jack as I was driving back home over Chelsea Bridge that I honestly have no idea why I’ve let myself stay single for more than a decade now. Life in company is both cheaper and more fun. That’s why I was a serial monogamist for years. Rather than this committed bachelor I seem to have landed in.

Next week will have to be about moving this stuff quickly out of my storage and finding the right home for it. It’s free from the dump. Now it’s time to repurpose things. And yes, if there’s anything with huge value maybe I’ll sell it to make budget and repay storage. I’m not here to lose money. But I’d sooner repurpose things as that’s the service I offered. So I’m going to make sure that as much as possible goes towards theatre.


Speech dumping

This is renowned Shakespearean actor Al Barclay checking in with you from Waterloo. Hello. I should warn you that I’ve consumed a large quantity of alcohol in a short space of time. Ah yes. My work tonight? Oh I had work. Work. I had it. Is it work? Yes, dammit. Yes, it’s work. (It was hard, if I’m frank. The unknown is tricky. It’s why I decompressed into this delightful ebullient state of mind that you find me in. I always have a hand on the tiller. Although right now it’s not the steadiest hand.)

“Good evening,” I cried to those beauties with their plates of thoughtless meat and their tasty tasty clothes. Oh they all looked so correct. All the women in glorious dresses or trouser suits, expressing all the colours, delightful. Homogenous men in drab colours, aping Beau Brummel, the man who killed colour, slouching in the same old shape and pallette centuries after the poisonous shitbag died of Syphilis.

My job? I’m the interference. Even though I’m in a uniform. My threepiece is navy blue. An acceptable colour for a man, according to inherited convention. I’ve got my tophat and my green ringmaster coat in a carrier bag but these humans aren’t ready for green yet. Man in green? Pervert. Navy is the way forward here.

I stand up in front of these humans I’ve maybe even met before at a film premier connected to their company in LA two years ago. The context is way out of whack and I’m clean shaven. Still I avoid self naming, as a casual Google search would bring the curious into a thought-hole of my own creation after 777 daily blog posts not including this one. Plus I don’t like promoting myself. Probably more of the latter than the former if I’m frank. Maybe I should’ve grandstanded…

I realise just before I start talking that there’s no lectern, rendering my bullet point notes useless. I can’t stand there visibly reading from an iPad. I’m a “renowned Shakespearean”. I want to share Titania’s speech about how the seasons are topsy turvy. It would be current with this week’s weather. “On old Hiem’s thin and icy beard / an odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds / is as in mockery set.” But Titania is one of the only parts in Dream I haven’t played over the decades. I find myself cutting it entirely for safety. I didn’t want to appear as anything other than totally certain, and I’m not certain about Titania’s lines despite multiple Oberonning over the years.

When you stand in front of that many people, and then you inhale their attention into a singularity, you really need to know your pinpoint to remain the shining tip of the pyramid. Thankfully I do, but dammit I’m not – yet – as internationally celebrated for my work as would be helpful in that context. If even 10% of the audience knew me from off the telly box – doing any old stuff – I could’ve been considerably looser with my content and we all would’ve enjoyed me talking more. As it was I had to use discipline and lots of adrenaline, which takes time to wind back out.

I tell them tales. Tales of life and the art to which I’ve committed my headspace. Tales of the war between the ones who fear and the ones who breathe. As the pyramid tip I sparkle.

When I pass the Rameses mic to the client, I pass him an attentive room with it. And then I sod off and walk to Vault. And at Vault I decompress way too quickly, pull in more pints than I’m comfortable counting, and generally put it all away. Now I’m off to sleep. Zzz

Only took one photo today…


Victoriana and junk

While I have custody, the van sleeps in the same spot every night. I can see it from my bedroom window. I’m jumpy about it. Every time there’s a bang in the night, poor Pickle gets ejected suddenly from whichever warm bit of me she’s chosen to nestle into as I pop up like a suddenly activated string puppet. I glue my sleepy eyes to the window until I’m certain that nefarious types aren’t causing damage to the van I’m supposed to be looking after.

Normally it sits empty, apart from a ghost light and a bedside table full of mystic knick knacks from the show. Suddenly today it’s full to bursting. Crammed. I don’t even know what’s there but there’s a lot.

My phone rang at about 2pm. It’s a friend of a friend. I have not been in touch with him directly but I put him in touch with Brian because I’d been told there was a grand piano that was going to the dump. It’s now going to be repurposed, but everything else was on its way to the dump. They were emptying multiple full storage units. They had been working since 10am with a bunch of guys who load up, throw away, charge you for the weight, and return for more. Brian had suggested I follow up, and get the van involved.

These parents worked in theatre. The guy had saved loads of theatre books for us. But the gold for me lay in the random stuff. When I heard it was all going to the dump I got myself up there FAST.

The parents did music hall. There was so much Victoriana, and it can all find its way into Christmas Carol, particularly the mismatched ceremonial Victorian plates. We need plates for carol. Every year we rent them from expensive catering companies, and they’re vanilla. We might just have hit upon all the period catering items we need for a full audience to go “oooh is this authentic?” Golden.

But I’m going to bed without the foggiest idea what’s in the back of that van. I need time and help to sort it. Sure I noticed when I took in an entire leopard skin with head and claws. Sure I clocked the plates, the lovely Shakespearian character tiles. I’ve got box after box of sheet music. A few nice old books. A shitload of smoke damaged busts. I had to move fast. The other guys were just ferrying stuff back and forth to the dump. Throwing it out. Getting it weighed. Charging for the weight. Coming back. Getting more. They were paid by the hour, but their working day finished at 6, and the dump was taking money in exchange for the weight of things with value. I have no idea what they chucked before I arrived. Nor did they.

I liked the dumping guy a lot though. We got talking about how this is what happens to our lives. We all accumulate stuff. It has such value to us. And then we die and it all goes to the dump haphazardly. Ok, my friend in the dump from two days ago might have ended up with some of it in his house. The big prop store might have got a load of it with whatever deal they’ve struck so they can rent it out to movies. But the bulk of it would’ve been landfill. It might still be. But I’m going to sort what I saved, and distribute appropriately to shows, friends, charity shops etc. I’m tempted to follow up on my impulse from a few days ago to start my own limited prop storage company. Although the acting is about to explode for me beautifully.

Still, all these lovely things saved from destruction. At least I can honour their owners. Storage units… They’re stupid and expensive. This family apparently spent ¬£100,000 over ten years¬†storing whatever was there. I’ll have to be smart about what I keep and what I let go. But I’m so glad I have the van right now.