GSMD reunion

Around this time of year 20 years ago we got the news. “You have been accepted to train at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.” Boom.

At the time you could go there to find out live on the day it was announced. I did so. A woman tried to sell me lucky heather on the way. I told her no, saying I needed good luck, I had a good feeling about it, and if I got the result I wanted I’d forever be reliant on heather. Good shout. I am now immune to lucky heather.

I had been working as the receptionist at Ambassadors Theatre Group, Turnstyle. The bulk of my work that day had been to do with preventing Jason Donovan from being put through to a certain producer. There were Rocky Horror problems with no answers yet, and delaying tactics were in full swing. “I know she’s there. I’m sitting in the Rainforest Cafe opposite! She walked in 5 minutes ago.” “She hasn’t walked past my desk yet.” “You’re lying to me.” “I’m not.” It was good to escape. Had I not got into Guildhall I might have still been working there. I’d have a lot more money. I wouldn’t be so happy.

They separated us into groups in the gym at Guildhall whilst loudly playing terrible music. We went into another room. My old schoolfriend Toby read the names. I was counting the group size. I knew that the year group at Guildhall was 24. We had about 30 names called out in our group and as soon as the count for my group went past 24 I hit rage. Toby winked at me as if to say well done. I didn’t properly register it. The numbers were wrong. We were moved into a room and I sat there with a face like thunder. It was too many. I didn’t have a place. Fuck this whole idea. We sat there for ages.

When the faculty came in and told us we had been accepted I didn’t immediately process it, so convinced I had been of it going the other way. After all, I had spoken to one of the guys in my group and he spoke next to no English. Maté, our Hungarian film star. One of my best friends over the years we were there. I often have negative expectations. I’m learning not to.

They buffer themselves with too many acceptances at Guildhall. I was overthinking as ever. Funny that. Sometimes people decide they’d prefer to be a scientist, or go to Julliard or get a proper job. They offer too many places tactically. We ended up 23 because one student literally just didn’t show up on the first day. She was rich Chinese, I think, and her parents prevented her at the last minute. We watched the teachers pretending not to panic about it. It was a wasted space. A shame. But our unit was complete.

Some of us got together this evening for a reunion. Twenty years since we first met. Fuck you, time! But it was lovely.

Russell organised it. It was a strange and beautiful thing. We met in The Jugged Hare – the pub that still stands on the site of our beloved King’s Head. It has since been retooled to appeal to the people we didn’t like when we were students.

A good sized group of us had a meal in the shadow of the past. Things felt much as they used to, although many of us are parents now. I went home early, but full of memories of how it used to be, even now that we are 20 years older…

IMG-20190817-WA0011

 

Sod you, blog

I literally don’t want to write today. My faith in this blog has taken a massive hit. I write daily and instinctively try to make it interesting. Obviously. But maybe I should just go to the old standard of “wow here I am with *link* doing *link* and omg *linked names* are amazing particularly *linked name with most followers* #actor #actorslife #blessed #MoreHastagsThanContent

I try to tell the truth about my inner state. Often my inner state has no correlation with what you get if you’re in the room with me. We are all like that. It’s called being human.

Internally I’m a screaming mess of insecurities and howling worries, paranoia and crashing loneliness. Externally (I think/hope) I’m gently awkward, friendly, open hearted, caring, creative and immediate.

Yesterday I was having one of those days where I was internally knackered but firing on every available cylinder. The Creation Theatre lot understood that about me and then some. They saw me show up and get ready. I sat with Charlie for a bit and joked that maybe my blog photo should be her dragging me through the door. They knew full well that I was joking – that I’d give the show everything. The show was even live streamed. There is empirical proof that I was on form.

By jokingly writing myself as a fish person I opened a can of tasty bait worms. That one blog has come with a cost. It’s perhaps enough to make me decide to wrap this shit up, frankly. I never set out to hurt myself here. Once before I took a hit because of my daily writings. Now, again. It’s ridiculous.

I’m deeply conflicted. Multiple people have recently told me lovely things about how they encounter this blog. How the thoughts, even when drunkenly circular, sometimes chime with their thoughts or their patterns of thinking. I do find it therapeutic to write this. But not if it fucks up my happiness.

I’m angry. Like when you realise people have been ganging up on you. And I feel I can’t go into detail. But without actually being a problem I’ve made myself into a problem by joking about my state yesterday.

Fuck it. I’m not going to write this anymore today. Blog out.

In fact, no. I can use these words.

I want to thank you, oh constant reader. I’ve been genuinely moved on a very deep level this week by things that people I respect so deeply have told me they’ve taken from these writings. Thank you for staying engaged with this. I don’t know who you are, most of you. It’s so helpful for me to write this. Yeah, sometimes I get the tone wrong. Sometimes I get angry and say stuff I don’t mean. And sometimes I shoot myself in the foot like yesterday. Ha ha ha SLAMFACE.

I have made myself have to do this blog every day and run the marathon of these 500 words for ages now. Sometimes it explodes in my face, but so long as I don’t compromise my honesty in the moment of writing then I can’t regret it, I guess.

I once wrote my speculative opinion of why someone did something incomprehensible to me in this blog. Ages later I was told that they chose not to pursue legal action. Bless. Seriously folks – sometimes I just make the whole blog up. Cucumbrivalis! Other times I exaggerate my inner life for fun. I’m assuming you’re on the same page as me. Don’t get swept up in it. Everything is transient.

I’m so tired I’m making everything bigger in my head. I’m pretty damn fine, and today in rehearsal was lovely.

Rosebud.

Inshallah.

Fuck it.

20190816_224258

Last commute

I had a momentary blackout in the middle of a scene in rehearsal about two hours ago. I had to ask the others if I’d fallen over. Apparently not. My question struck them as odd, which I suppose it must’ve been without the long context of inner struggle that it came from. “Guys, did I just fall over?” “Er..  are you ok?” “Yeah, yeah I’m good I just thought I might have fallen over … um … never mind.”

It’s an illustration of how horribly tired I’ve gone and made myself. My voice is in rags. I’ve been wearing the same T-Shirt for three days. Lines I’ve known for ages are falling out of my ears and getting lost behind chairs and in cobwebs. Right now I’m on the train praising the gods that I messed up my bike test and that I can just let Great Western Railway worry about how I’m getting up to Oxford for the very last Tempest instead of throwing on leathers, jumping on a hog and riding it into a tree.

I can do this. I’ve got a show in me. Ten scenes and the start and finish. One show, one day more of rehearsal before the weekend. Then time. Actual time. Time that is mine.

(I’ll likely spend half of the weekend brushing up on lines that have hitherto been neglected, but that’s as maybe.)

It was worth it for last night, having this deep strange unhelpful but peaceful exhaustion today. Even if my hangover meant that the Twelfth Night company had to rehearse with the fabulous talking fish-person.

Last night brought live music and fun, for ages in a great pub with delightful people. I even made new friends of old acquaintances. But the hand to mouth instinct was in full swing and boy oh boy…

The cab driver shocked me out of a deep sleep far too early. I remember nothing of my journey to Brixton. I stood in a taped square doing talking and I kept wondering if I was rehearsing or just having a strange dream about rehearsing. I think sometimes I spoke in extended sentences designed to be helpful to other actors – we direct each other. In retrospect I fear the content of my sentences was mostly stuff like “You’re playing Olivia. She has feet. Feet are useful for walking and stuff. Has anybody noticed the dappled light on the wall over there? So yeah, try that. Is that helpful. My name’s Al. Who are you playing again?”

I keep saying things out loud in the train carriage. I’ve done it frequently enough that I’m now aware that everybody around me is keeping a loose eye on me in case I suddenly rise up brandishing a machete. The most recent exclamation was “God help me.” I’m too tired to catch them before they come out. I’m too tired for much more than excreting these blogwords, taking all my clothes off and replacing them with costume, shouting at strangers in a tree for an hour or two, bowing, reversing the clothing trick and working out how to join the dots between the venue in Oxford and my pillow in London, accompanied by my laptop and accordion.


Lift sorted with Simon. Amazing. Now I just have to survive the show.

20190815_184955

Penultimate night party

We are all going to have a party tonight to celebrate the end of The Tempest. It isn’t the last show, but it is the party. Tomorrow post show they (and we) will have to break down all the things that have been constructed in The King’s Centre. All the truss and the drapes and the steeldeck, the minirigs and fans and tables and chairs. The costume rails and the dressing tables and the trolleys and the hazers and the lights and gels and microphones and amps and soundboards. The extended infrastructure that supports the visible work that we are all doing. Actors are like mushrooms – (and sometimes toadstools) – the visible organs of a complex invisible mycelium. The display part of something much bigger and more complicated.

I want to see this company of mushrooms off – aka get drunk with them tonight – but I’m booking a taxi to Oxford Station from Ginny’s at 7.50am in order that I can get to rehearsal on time on Thursday. I don’t want to do a day of work in that hot room in Brixton while being hungover and cranky, especially with a final Oxford show on Thursday evening, even though I’ll have the wings of final night adrenaline truncating time once the show actually starts. I have to get there first. And it’s tiring enough rehearsing plus doing a show before bringing last night’s booze into the equation.

Nevertheless I’m writing some of this blog early. I usually write shit down on the train back to London and use the Oxford train to just sink into senseless oblivion for a wee while, and contemplate nothing. But good to crack the back of it. On which subject I hope Trinculo’s back is better…


Now I’m strolling down the towpath north to Jericho, writing as I walk.

20190814_221801

Hopefully I won’t fall in the canal. I thought I’d steal a march as there seemed to be a great deal of faffing and it’s a twenty minute walk to Bookbinders. I’m not in the mood to destroy myself but now we’ve finished what was a slightly damper and more reluctant show than usual I think I fancy a wee dram. I’ve booked a cab for 7.45 tomorrow morning. Hellfire, this has been a glorious job, this is the last night we will have before some of us – very probably myself included – will vanish back to London asap after the show goes down. I want to raise a glass with them despite risking exhaustion as a consequence…


Drunk Al is thrilled. He had a great night. There were songs, some of which he joined in with. We had a musical night. How lovely to have a musical night! All of this joyfulness lands firmly on one actor: Simon Spencer-Hyde. A glorious human if ever there was one. Secretly rehearsing songs when there was time, just to bring out a beautiful night for all. This evening was a validation of the extent to which I am surrounded by glorious humans on this job. We were even joined by actors from other companies. A big mash of glories. But I’ve only got 4 hours to sleep. Zzz

Illusion

“My shoes smell of SHIT!” So says Miranda, wedding dress disheveled but mostly zipped up. “Smell them!” She pushes them near my face. God no! You can smell them in Chipping Norton. Once upon a time they were ballet pumps. Now Vladimir Putin wants them for a visit to Salisbury Cathedral. They are death. The only thing worse than those pumps are Trinculo’s shoes, which have been given to two hobbits to take to Khazad Dum.

Trinculo’s back went funny in his bed last night. He’s in agony. It didn’t stop him from doing his scene ten times and his scene involves getting in a little rubber dinghy which must be agony with a bad back. He got a lift there after the shipwreck to save him running, as did Sebastian and Antonio, leaving me sprinting down the road on my own. Late to the party as ever. There I was, panting and frantically plucking ivy leaves from a tree to make my boats. They sauntered past much earlier than usual. “We must do it like that more often!” Delightful bastards. They can call it character research.

Much of our costume has fallen apart, generally, as is usually the case one way or another.

I munged my jacket within a week but got a replacement which I keep safer. One of my cufflinks dissolved and is now a safety pin. Some of us have cut the legs off our trousers so the air can get to us. Close up, we are disheveled. But say one thing about this company – we all get stuck in and solve our own problems. This is a company of kind experienced actors with an understanding that just because an employer is making employment it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re rolling in filthy lucre. Jobs like this allow a company to exist, and provide employment for lots of actors and joy to lots of audience. But it’s not a big cash-cow and shouldn’t be treated as such.

When I’m filming for a big budget job sure I will wait until someone brings me wellies and holds my shoes and someone else carries an umbrella over before I walk exactly as instructed across the uncovered mudpatch towards the location. But that’s because there are people whose job is to do all of those things, and it makes it quicker in the long run for everybody as you can’t have a mudsplash on trousers suddenly that then vanishes in the next scene. As a general rule, in theatre muck in to help solve and on set wait until you know you can definitely solve the problem before mucking in.

In this sort of community we do the job of dresser for ourselves once the show is open. As long as I’m there physically I can say the things that need to be said for my scene, with or without cufflinks, even if I’m wearing a tutu. It’s only if there’s something impossible to surmount that we must reach out to the massively overworked team around us for help.

We are approaching the end of this glorious run. Our costumes are disintegrating. This is familiar to me from many previous shows with different companies, over the years. You fix your own stuff if you have to. Ferdinand only has one and a half working buttons left on his waistcoat. We only have 2 shows left.

The magic of theatre! You can get away with murder if you sell it hard. I’ve made my first entrance with mud all over my trousers and shoes from the previous rainy matinée and just thrown my arms and energy up and acted high in order to draw attention off it.

This is theatre. Magic can be cheap and still magical. Even in the moneyed theatres, the backstage area is narrow, crowded, smells of feet or microwave cooking and carries paggro notices. You’re the character until you walk offstage through that exit and then you’re actively reminded that you are a big pretendyface and have to put the prop exactly in the right place – for very solid reasons. I heard of a Julius Caesar being actually stabbed with a letterknife when an actor hadn’t picked up the retractable blade from the table but found the letterknife instead.

I’m the king in a cheap shirt, dyed and pumped up with a button-down ruffed front that can’t be washed. I’ve got a clip-on bowtie that I personally wouldn’t be seen dead in. My shoes are covered in mud most of the time. But it works. It is a glorious illusion, and a storytelling. And I’m thrilled to be part of it.

I’m winding down on the train. I thought I’d have a friend for this leg of the journey – I’d sorted her a comp and all – but she had a writing deadline out of nowhere. So it’s me, Marks and Sparks beer, you lot and the train.

20190813_232947

Contact lens malfunction

I just bought a toy accordion online against the possibility of bringing it to America. It has one octave and who knows how many or how few stops. It’ll arrive at rehearsal tomorrow lunchtime. I’ll know almost immediately if it’s viable. Right now Kaffe is making all the music, so we are experimenting with Valentine being vaguely musical himself – as vaguely musical as the actual actor playing Valentine is in reality. It’s one of my parts. Run for the hills.

If it’s any use at all, I’d be glad to have a miniature squeezebox to upskill myself while touring and to bring more music into our show. If it’s no use at all then we will find another solution and it was only about £25. We are in that very fertile period of rehearsal where all ideas are considered and examined, and as a company the five of us are currently invested in shoehorning as much joy and as many gags as possible into the telling. We might strip back later. But it’s fun right now to see what we can get away with. Similarly we are making absolutely no cuts so we can offer the client an uncut version. If the last tour is anything to go by we might need to go at it heavily with scissors at the last minute to keep the run time down, but if we include everything then we’ll know intimately what works and what doesn’t by the time the scissors have to come out – if they do. That’s the theory at least. It all heads towards giving us a deeper knowledge of this beautiful play, so we can sound authoritative in post show Q and A sessions with academics, and unlock the depth of meaning.


On which thought I arrived and hit the dressing room for The Tempest with these brilliant reprobates.

20190812_185747(0)

Dammit, I’ll miss them when it’s done. Every single one of them. We get changed in a little room to the side of the conference hall with this little mirror for detail. Until last week we had to evacuate all our costume etc on a nightly basis – a job that fell to the three of us who have the least tech. Now thank God we can leave stuff in the room overnight. We don’t have to wait for the audience to be gone from the space before we take out the costume rails.

Although the audience knows we are actors… The idiom for this show allows for a huge amount of play in that world.

I had a contact lens fold itself around in my eye during a scene today. I had to take it out immediately before it went round the back of my eye into sickypanicland. It was my third scene of ten. No way I was going to be an hour with a lens in my brain. I got it out of my face immediately.

The timing was atrocious. I was holding a filthy muddy stick that had just been pulled from the water. I simultaneously cried hard and blinked as I realised it was my son’s disintegrated case, and I felt it fold on itself. I dropped the stick, wiped my hands, licked my finger and took it out. I covered with some form of extended improv about how I needed to be vain and not have glasses as the king but that after the shipwreck I’d lost my servants. I popped out my lens to the end of my licked finger. Then all the “strange fish” text had me blind and enchanted, with all the audience very aware of the lens on the end of my finger. There were so many metaphors about perception and clarity of thought to clarity of sight. I even found myself bastardising Lear on that theme – “see better Alonso”. One for the scholars there. I managed to get the fucker back in while they watched me, and used it as the reason not to seek my son in the river deeper then ever plummet sounded and with him there lie mudded. “You shouldn’t swim with lenses.”

I got that mucky fucker out ASAP after the show… I think I’ve avoided amoeba attack.

On a human level, them knowing that the man who had been handling the muddy stick just put fuck knows what into his own eye in the name of art… ick. I didn’t want them to be worried. But I wasn’t going to lose the lens. They’re monthly disposables. Dailies have always seemed too wasteful to me. But maybe they make more sense for the acting if I’ll be doing the cry cry face collapse shit.

Or maybe I just need to save up for lasers.

Two roast day

A bit of space. I’ve been trying not to use my voice but forgetting. We had a Sunday Roast, lots of The Tempest company, all together at Oxford Blue. We had booked it for 1pm but virtually nobody was there on time. Ryan arrived and immediately needed to stream the rugby as it wasn’t playing. The pub WiFi was down. I ended up tethering my laptop to my phone and streaming it through a Sky Sports day pass on a Now Tv trial subscription that I’ll have to remember to cancel before next week. Harder than it needed to be, and Ryan bought me two pints for it, but it was worth it for him when England beat Wales. Half of the company was cheering for Wales. I had no real affiliation but was glad we could all hang out in the same space and relax. The Tempest company is glorious. I can’t quite comprehend that we only have four shows left.

I’m home in London and it’s after midnight. I forgot this blog existed until I had had a bath and was on the wind down towards bed. Four more days of being swallowed. I’m looking forward to having time again, like I had today. It was so lovely to just slouch round Oxford with the company.

Pickle is home again. She had the weekend holidaying at Rebecca’s, but I managed to find the time today to swing over in an uber and grab her, and catch up with a friend into the bargain. I’ve been able to socialise! It’s been incredible. Miles and Rebecca and I sat in a room and spoke like humans.

Until it became so difficult I didn’t notice how necessary it is to just shoot the shit with other human beings. I’ve had the best day. I’ve even shot loads of demons in Doom 2016. I’m using my laptop to try to catch up on about a decade of missed computer games if I ever get time to sit down. It’s the opposite of being a teenager right now.

I’ve got a house guest. She’s going through a tough time. Brian just handed her his keys when he found she was unhappy and needed a change of scene, knowing he’d be away and she could have his bed. She’s great, and we shared a roast chicken this evening and chewed the fat.

I’ve had the day I needed. Two Sunday roasts. Beef and chicken. Lots of good conversations. Exploding kittens in Oxford – (it’s a card game). Miniature Pickle kittens in London that didn’t explode. “It’s amazing how she responds to her name,” says Rebecca, and it’s true. That cat knows her own name. Her use name. She has secret names too. She has to – she’s a cat after all.

I’m happy and rested, full of food, eyes insisting on closing down. Only four more days of overlap and from tomorrow the USA company is complete in the rehearsal room. The dynamic is already excellent, and there is definitely room for my dear friend’s positive energy.

knorr-640x408