Small victories. It seems I have beaten the lag. It’s 8pm and it feels like it’s 8pm.
Rehearsal in the morning, and then Jack and I drove to Bishop’s Stortford. I’ve got a pin in the map to a place just outside the village of Ugley where there’s a warehouse. I’ve always felt an affinity with Ugley as I drove by. This was the first time I’ve been a passenger.
It’s on an estate, secure up to the nines, full of absurd items with no fathomable use outside of a particular context. Hundreds of fake jars of tinned meat, weird shaped painted carts on wheels, offcuts of timber with random words sprayed on them, “This machine kills fascists” written on a calculator, wood, wood, wood, scaffold scaffold scaffold, a forklift, a load of truss, boxes full of dead phones and dead laptops and perspex and lights and trophies and pictures of people in the eighties and a suit of armour and a giant fish made of chip. Theatre stuff. Buried in the back, not so far from where Tristan and I left them, were four astronomically heavy boxes of Victorian plates. A little bit more broken than they were when I left them from whoever moved them. But mostly present. Eclectic. In no order at all really other than a vague attempt by Tristan and I in the height of summer when I filled the flat with boxes.
Now the plates are the focus of my attention at last. Now I can work through them. I’m loaning some to Adam, who I’ve never met but who is taking on a production role this year and is doing a version based on the script that Jack and I hacked together in Brighton. But we are taking the most bonkers plates for the London run.
They’ll be anachronistic joyful talking points in the show. I was so thrilled to take custody of them last summer, knowing what they might bring. But it’s been a long and twisty road from boxyflatday to dropping them off in Davies Street this evening knowing that suddenly this weight of ridiculous china is going to go to an artistic purpose and be random joyful and brilliant. Many will get broken or fucked in dishwashers. By the end of this run I reckon we will know which ones are worth keeping and I’ll get some catering boxes so they stop breaking when we move them. Then going forward I’ll have a huge collection of serviceable Victorian decorated plates. It’s the sort of thing you could never find affordably if you were looking for it. In the right context I could rent them for Victorian dining events when Carol isn’t running and turn them into an asset. Right now they’re just fun.
The nature of this job with your relation to stuff… People in theatre are more likely to be excited to find a hideously burnt rocking horse than to find one that’s perfect. We love the weird stuff and we provide a context where it can be right.
2 years ago Scrooge had a creepy taxidermised partridge in a glass fronted box. He loved it disproportionately, called it his “creepy bird,” and checked on it immediately when he awoke from his dream. 1 year ago, I watched Max as Gatsby in the syndicate ask a large group of people to take a moment to admire his “creepy bird”. It was the same bird, now a part of Gatsby, with the same exact name. Because it was horrible. That’s the joy. Find weird things, and give them meaning. Hell, that’s why I’m still in theatre. It gives me meaning. And helps pay the bills…