Routine is anathema. I have barely if ever had the sort of rigidity that I’ll be adhering to for the next few weeks on weekdays.
7.30 alarm. Two 10 minute snoozes, but up by 8. Breakfast? Certainly coffee. Housekeeping. Chant. An hour and a half of time to do the me things that need doing that day. The only certainties are coffee and chanting.
9.30am leave the house and go to Brixton. Rehearsal starts at ten right in the thick of it. Lovely people in a room, building something difficult and beautiful. Nearby is Pop Brixton for incredible lunch, with plenty of options to buy interesting things or get good coffee. Rehearse until my alarm goes off to tell me I’ll miss the train if I don’t go NOW. Leave immediately and walk fast to Brixton tube through the unrushed and haphazard crowds. Funnel into the early rush hour Victoria line. Cross the platform at Oxford Circus. Bakerloo stopping and starting all the way to Paddington. 17.22 to Hereford, platform 3. Miss it at your peril. An hour to Oxford. Arrive, squeeze accordion until someone shouts “briefing” at 18.30. Find out about the audience. Meet any FOH volunteers. Shave if necessary. Polish shoes. Cover self with aftershave. Kingsmell. Get into costume. More aftershave. Reeking of the stuff. Write something silly on the blackboard. Say things like “Kick it in the dick, everybody!” or “Smashy smashface.” Anything but “Good luck” or the coopted “Break a leg”.
Beginners. Front of House clearance. Four actors round a watercooler guzzling cups of cold water. Giles introduces the king. Enter. Be patronising. Selfie with son. Silly fun shipwreck.
Change shoes, ditch jacket, grab water, all in under 5 seconds. RUN. Keith and I, getting faster every night, accidentally fitter every night despite bad shoes. “Summer Shakespeare: Accidental fitness for actors”. “Have a good one!” we shout. He hives off left. A pleasant moment of togetherness in an isolated show.
I’m on my own now for a good ninety minutes.
Into the park. Stop at a tree. Grab ten ivy leaves. Run to my willow with them. Make five out of ten ivy boats. Throw the stick into the river. Lay rope. Stash five remaining ivy leaves for later. It’s all I’ve got time for.
Group arrives quicker than anticipated. Send “ready” on WhatsApp. Listen as they get restless. “Are we in the right place?” “Look there’s someone in the bushes.” Hide if necessary. Fail at hiding. Style out getting rumbled. “Goodness, you’ve found me. I’m in some sort of timeloop where I keep looking at my phone at this moment. Goodness, you’ve found me, I’m in some sort of timeloop etc.” Whatever I can think of that allows me to check my phone until “GO” comes in on WhatsApp. Keep it playful.
Start content. Realise that most of the content I have is made up. Listen to the audience. Play more. Play together if they have any play in them. Spam energy if necessary. Do about a minute and a half of excellent verse work for the traditionalists. Watch ’em touch the corners of their eyes. Softies. Let kids take it in weird directions so long as I think I can bring it back. Occasionally fail to bring it back. Go through an emotional wringer ten times using bits of Shakespeare and bits of context. Finally have time to light incense vs the dogshit bin after the third group. Make the other five hopeboats after the fourth group. See a beautiful sunset alone when it slows down. Do penultimate group as the last rays fall, and one in total darkness. Send them back singing.
Reset my willow. Follow, drinking any remaining water. It’s about 9.40 by now. Reconnect with the company. Find fellow feeling about the character of the audiences. “What about that old guy? He was weird? He said what to you? No way!”
Last scene. Ceilidh. Magic trick. Bang? Bow.
Get changed. Carry shoe boxes and costume rails out of the changing room. It’s not ours in the day. Get ticked off for moving it too early. “The audience is still leaving. It’s unprofessional.” FFS. Wish the audience would hurry up and leave. Stack up stuff the other side of the door ready to take out.
Move all the stuff eventually. Make sure the room is clear. Pick up the rubbish left by the interns.
Pub? Punter. Time for one pint despite protestations? If irresponsible, alarm goes off at 22.52. Fast walk to train station in time for the 23.01 last direct train to London that stops everywhere. Write blog as we roll.
Get bus at Paddington? Or Uber? This part remains to be seen. I’ll find out when I get there. Citymapper. Hopefully bed by 1.30am either way. Rinse and repeat for two weeks with significant changes on the weekend…
A routine! Of sorts. Closest I’ll ever get I reckon. Unless hellmouth opens and I have to go with in an …
… one of those things that begin with O. No satisfactory rhymes. Lots of people working in them. False notions of hierarchy and advancement. Hideous cross sections of entitlement. Daily death by inches. Those things.
I’ll take this empty train.