I’m hunkered down in a patch of muddy ground underneath a willow tree, occasionally swearing. It’s half five on a Friday and the Oxford commuters are whizzing home on bicycles behind me. I’m not thinking about them right now though. I’m too busy stuffing a muddy sandbag into a suitcase, insulting the case for not closing and, once it’s finally shut, tying it about with multiple filthy leaking fishermen’s knots so it can’t slip out of the rope. I wouldn’t want to lose the suitcase in the mud if the handle came off, as I’ll likely end up leaping in after it before I consider the consequences. Wet king. Dry cleaning bill.
It’s only as I finish making the prop, and I swing the heavy bastard into the river that I realise how this might look to anyone that isn’t part of the show. I turn around and sure enough some guy has got his eye on me – this shadowy mumbler surreptitiously disposing of something in the water. SPLASH. As I turn he jumps, and scurries away in his hoodie. I momentarily consider running after him in the rain. “It’s a prop! For a play! No no come back. I haven’t got a weapon. Stop! Why are you screaming?”
Hopefully he won’t come back later and fuck my knots in exchange for a disappointing sandbag as he goes about his guilty panting hunt for body parts, fairy gold, the murder weapon, drugs, Jimmy Hoffa or whatever his imagination goes to. If he does, the scene can survive without the case but it’ll be annoying. I really don’t want to have to haul back a heavy soaking filthy suitcase to the venue every day in my damaged dinner jacket. Nor do I really want to have to re-square it off with knots daily and to get my hands filthy every night. It’s a long walk to the venue from the tree where the bulk of my work takes place.
Right now I’ve got to get into costume for the first – rainy – shownight.
Which I did. The show was lovely. But tough in the rain. I entirely hulked my dinner jacket, which I didn’t feel bad about as I’d been clear with wardrobe last night, and there were threads from previous actorhulk repair in the tear so I knew it was only going to get worse. I know how little rips can escalate and every moment I wore it and moved I could feel the damage grow, so I thrice asked for a small tear from last night to be shored up and eventually got an “It’s on a list,” which is code for “It’s not getting fixed anytime soon”. Everybody has too much to think about right now. I wish I knew how to operate a sewing machine as I felt like a costume Cassandra. I discovered this evening that other actors who know the deal had brought spare shirts etc. I know the deal now. I’m bringing shirts and cummerbunds and jackets. Maybe even a waistcoat. I’d have been more prepared had I had more notice. Last time I worked here it was with The Factory so we use our own clothes as a company ethos. Now I know the score regarding this I’m getting some spare stuff from my costume wardrobe on the weekend.
I tried to be gentle with that fucked dinner jacket, dammit. I’d already decided I’d take it off for the final scene to minimise risk as that was when it took the initial split-hit yesterday, but about halfway through this wet slippery night under the dark willow, when the poor damaged thing was soaking wet and clinging to my back, thus bereft of all flex, it literally split in half in front of an audience while I was just picking something up from the floor. Fine for the scene as I could style it out. But it’s so frustrating when you call something and it happens.
Tomorrow, the king will likely be “dressed down” in his shirt. I’m going to have to make him the chilled king. I think I might even wear my walking boots and make it all feel intended by going full hippy…
I’m loving this job btw. This is all just detail. I always wish that everybody was as bonkers as me.