Fitting

Waking up after a night like last night isn’t one of my specialist skills. I won’t be putting it on my Spotlight. But I did it.

I arrived at the party last night with a Magnum of fizz. I booked the job I wrote about a while ago where there was a confusion about the times. I was in the mood to celebrate. I had a costume fitting in suburbia for it though, the afternoon after the party – this afternoon. Everything is shutting down for Christmas so they rushed me in. Late enough in the day for it to be perfectly reasonable for me to get across London in time. Early enough that I had to haul myself stinking and unwashed out of the house to get there in time. I’m running a bath now I’m home, but I’ve already promised myself that the money for this job goes first and foremost towards a goddamn shower. I’m used to waiting 45 minutes for the bath to fill. But it makes it hard to put the place on Airbnb. And most normal human beings get to wash quickly when they need to.

I arrived in a warehouse full of clothes.

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I tried on a selection of suits. My character seems to think of himself as reasonably stylish, so I’ll be looking sharp. The wheels of this big machine are turning now, and I remember how many people are involved on a set. I’ve been sending my photograph to hair and make-up, who have been asking me to make sure I don’t have a haircut. Of course. They booked me based on my tapes. I’m not now going to go on a mini-break to Lanzarote and get a tan, or shave my head. My tape was my proposal for the part, aided by an extremely positive and helpful casting director. They accepted it. All I need to do now is make sure I look like the guy in the tape, know my lines backwards, show the fuck up and put no specifics or pointers on social media. It’s not rocket science. But you’d be surprised how often people don’t do it. No public guessing please. And if I’m not gonna fuck this up for myself if I can help it.

I’m home post show waiting for a bath to run and a chicken Kiev to cook. I’m not sure which will happen first but I suspect it’ll be the chicken. Perhaps I’ll sit in the bath eating it. Time is of the essence. I’ve got 4 shows in two days coming up, with Christmas looming close upon us and not a single bauble on my wall at home. So much to be done. Oh so very much to be done. And tomorrow morning two delivery people are going to show up with an oven and swear about the internal flight of stairs before making it as difficult as possible to remove my old oven. They might come in time for me to get to the show with comfortable time to spare. They might faff around and make it squeaky-bum time for the matinee tomorrow. 1pm. It’s too early for humbuggery. But Maddy will be in da house. So I’m just gonna do the show for her. Friends make it all better.

 

Old friends

I’m surrounded by old friends. Jack is here, and he’s spitballing ideas, which is what he does. Directly to my left is a man who was in my first round audition at Guildhall. These are some of my base level industry friends. They’re the survivors.

Fucking hell it’s weird this profession. These incredible humans are throwing their lives into stories. They’re still full of hope and life. And we’ve all been in the acting profession for over fifteen years. Alex on my left – he’s been in New Zealand filming the baddie in a Netflix. He was in my first round audition for drama school. He was in my Guildhall recall. We both did the William Poel verse speaking festival for our schools – (now the Sam Wanamaker). He made The Factory with Tim Evans. God. So many years ago. It makes me feel old but cool.

To my right is Jethro. Another old friend, and someone who has helped me come into myself. He knows me deeply, and knows the things I do to block my power. Then, stretching out, there are people who have been terrifically important to me over many years. It’s a birthday party, for Maddy. It’s The Factory. It’s a distillation of the ridiculous optimistic geeks that graduated just after the millennium. We few. We many. We crazy fun bonkers open awake mad wild fewmany.

It’s a joy to be here, surrounded by old friends. I wasn’t going to show up. Jack persuaded me. It’s near his home. I didn’t want to get drunk tonight. But he was right to drag me in. He’s my dear friend for a reason. He knows me better than I know myself.

I checked myself out momentarily in order to write this down, and my friends understand that. Now that I have this daily obligation, I notice my friends and how understanding they are about the need I have to write words before bed. The more people bang it aside and tell me to get off my phone, the more I learn where a spot of empathy is lacking.

People are leaving the party. I’m rejoining for farewells.


And I’m done. In an uber. It’s pouring with rain. We are at Waterloo. Dreadful weather. My friend whose birthday it was – she lives the other side of London from me. I’ll carry on living Southwest, but it’s always a sinking feeling at the end of the night when I know I’m heading to Chelsea and that none of the artists I’m with live anywhere near Chelsea. I somehow feel it’s my responsibility to try to singlehandedly cling onto the old idea of Chelsea, before all the flats were bought by the people who wish they were cool in the sixties but were too busy oppressing third world economies in unrealistic directions for their own profit. It’s like living in the middle of a huge active mid life crisis. I love my neighbors. They seem to like me. But we fundamentally differ in worldview.

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Barometer is moving hard to storms… Ech

Star Wars – (I haven’t seen it yet)

Since yesterday’s post was about cultural reference points, I’m perfectly happy to do it again. I just booked for Star Wars. I’ll need to see it quickly so nobody spoils it, which they inevitably will, as quickly as they can, in some sort of power-quest to use their specialist knowledge. Never underestimate the ability of powerless people to wield the idea of power when they have it.

I should probably have stopped caring about Star Wars a long long time ago. The original trilogy had Joseph Campbell in a direct relationship with George Lucas. It was the hero’s journey. Campbell died around Return of the Jedi time. His advice carried through the first three films. It is conspicuously absent thereafter.

The next three were Lucas alone without the guidance of that master of myth, at a time when CGI was new in movies. In many ways those three detested films were bellwethers of technology, if for no other reason than to teach us how far you can push it before people instinctively know it’s bullshit. The “uncanny valley” is the phrase I understand was created to talk about the bit where our imagination stops believing in the CGI and starts thinking about the array of artists sitting in an office with managers and employee of the month and high end laptops, drawing and animating and colouring not only the obvious bits, but the drearily boring but constant background.

I still miss puppets. It all looks like bullshit to me. Give me Jabba the Hutt. The Alien. Fuck yes.

Most people still know the name of Jim Henson. Many know the name HR Geiger. Point me towards the CGI masters in the same frame?

Maybe it’s just that I’m not aware of them.

More likely it’s because we have heard of the old masters in the old idiom. The money men have found a way to divert us from knowing the names of the changing artists in the new. If it can be made in an animation sweatshop where everybody is told they’re even, then nobody has to be paid royalties and if there’s someone particularly changing and unusual and positive then they’re just part of the team, ya, and there’s no “I” in team ya ya? And if the team disagrees then the artist just loses their job.

I’m in to watch Star Wars tomorrow at noon. It all happened pretty suddenly. I was thinking I’d just get to hang out and have a nice relaxing morning. But my friends are going full Star Wars, and I can’t ignore that. I’ll go. My lightsaber was broken by a friend forgetting that it was actually plastic not genuine hardened light. Despite my saying “Go easy on it,” they whacked it full force into a stick that another friend was holding. I’m not one to confiscate beforehand, but I saw it coming. It was irrevocably fucked. I’m still good friends with him but I’m not square about it, and it was about seven years ago. I love him. But grrrrr, blundering with his “I’ll replace it,” and both of us knowing he never would. He’s been too busy pretending to be Irish lately. Friends, eh? We love ’em. They piss us off. I have no doubt I’m just as frustrating to many of my old mates. I certainly don’t mind if I am. But I miss my old lightsaber.

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Football crazy

No booze post show today. My friend getting sick has triggered me to a spot of sobriety for a while, especially considering there is Christmas to make and lots of shows to do this week. Another delighted bunch at Carol and we are back in the swing of it already for the longest week we have.

Those of you who have known me for years will be surprised to know that I’m now capable of having a conversation about football, having avoided it my entire life. I can speak about the form of different players. I watch it quite closely. When the matches are playing I sometimes have as many as 4 live score widgets open on my phone screen simultaneously, and you will catch me saying things like “De Bruyne just banged another one in.” Or “What’s happened to Abraham all of sudden?” “Oh dammit Salah scored again, Mane better have had the assist on that, I gave him the armband.”

It’s a good season for me to start with, as the team that I tell people I support when they ask me who I support is winning the league. I lived with a big Liverpool fan for a few years, and I had quite a few childhood years in The Isle of Man so they were my closest team geographically. Hopefully I’ll see them take the cup at the end of my first season following it…

It’s more of a computer game to me than anything else. A durational game over the course of months and months. I’m learning by playing a fantasy premier league manager. And I’m number 362,975 in the world. Which isn’t impressive at all but I’m still pretty pleased with myself considering I was clueless this time last year and there are millions of players.

It hasn’t changed much though. It just means there are a few more conversations where I don’t go quiet and walk away knowing I have nothing to contribute and no desire to contribute either. Football conversations are just name after name and I would find them annoyingly arcane. Now I can hold my own.

I’m not sure what made me decide to change that and learn some of the names, but it’s turned out to be quite fun learning and now I’ve started to get competitive – mostly with myself but there are some leagues I’m in as well. It’s all free to play and there’s no betting.  If you do riculously well they send you some bizarre stuff like a Nike Manager’s Jacket. But I won’t be anywhere near that. It’s never too late to pick up something new, I suppose. I might even watch a live match sometime. Although that might be pushing it.

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For this evening I’m going to get into a hot bath with a book to wash the potato out of my hair and then see how I do going to sleep sober after Christmas Carol. It’s already had a positive effect. I cooked some healthy food, changed a lightbulb, put in some laundry and washed the dishes. And my bank balance won’t have changed…

 

Discharge and rest

A good day of very little. I went to hospital to see my friend just in time for her to be discharged. She had been referred to infectious diseases yesterday, which I couldn’t quite understand. But the head of infectious diseases wondered why she’d been referred, and thankfully she didn’t end up on their ward. I think it’s because none of the doctors could quite work out what was causing the organ damage. But it’s not an infectious disease.

Hopefully she’ll be better now. She had some colour back today. She left surrounded by family and had the understanding of me to say “It’s probably good for you to be able to associate these places with healing.” She’s right. It is. My only real experience, despite all the nurses I’ve known, has been pretty mortal so I’m definitely glad to see someone I know come out better than they went in. I’m still worried about her. But I guess that’s my job as a friend, to worry.

Things have been quite bleak with a few people close to me at the moment. It’s very clear why, in this culture, we arrowed in on this point in the winter for the joyful happy festival of light and kindness. Almost universally when Scrooge asks audience members what Christmas means to them they come back with a variant of “Coming together with family and friends.” We need togetherness. The huddle of warmth and light against the cold and the dark. All we’ve got is each other.

Her ward was so persistently noisy. You forget the soundscape of the hospital. All the automated systems using sound to alert people to what needs to be done. Low level beeping and buzzing, in shifting patterns. Occasional full on alarms, such as the one that was going off everywhere when I first arrived, leaving the receptionist in the ward completely unruffled. Not his alarm.

At discharge, she went down to the discharge office. I was still obsessively gelling my hands at every door and trying not to touch people or things. We went into a little room full of chairs where she had to wait for her medicine. Her sibling showed up as we arrived there to be told that it would be a minimum wait of an hour for medicine. Her mum decided to do the waiting, and sent the two of them home to catch up. I said goodbye and emerged blinking into the end of the daylight, with no evening show to do. I went home, put my feet up, and geeked out on graphic novels and computer games. Now it’s more or less the time that I’d normally finish the show and I’m almost asleep. I’m sad after hearing some upsetting news from a close friend and I have a visitor staying over for the night. I’ve told them I’m not going to be good conversationalist though, and I’m gonna run a hot bath and make sure my head is down well before midnight. Today is for rest. I feel rested. And my friend will be able to sleep without beeping for the first time in a while… Joy.

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Time to shut down

I’m running myself a bath. Tomorrow is my first actual day off for a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to it very much. I’m home and fed before midnight, and I got it into my head to watch Chernobyl. But I’m not sure it’s the cheerful wind-down telly I need right now. So I paused it.

I’m sitting on the sofa with my constant mash potato dandruff and I realised that it’s as good an escape as any to pour myself into a screen for a while. There’s no booze in the house apart from spirits which aren’t my jam, so it’s time to find alternate windout mechanisms for the evening. I’m winding the whole fortnight out, and gearing up for the busiest week so far.

I do love this job. Tonight was rowdy and fun but also measured. We had a group of very drunk gobby naughty types and conversely four children under ten. The bawdiness changes on the fly, and Jack and I are always editing. I think we found the right balance of adult and kid friendly. But I’m so tired now. I’m not sure I can handle what feels like it’s going to be amazing but dark TV in Chernobyl. I’m more in the mood for something uncomplicated. Or just sleep and a book. This time last year I read a load of books. I think I might need a new one for the season, frankly.

“What’s my name?” someone asked me as I left the show and walked upstairs. I meet 50 audience members every night and remember their names. That part of my brain is flooded when the show is done and this guy is connected to Gatsby upstairs. I haven’t got space left. I remember a conversation last night post show where he told me we were in a circle of him telling me his name and me forgetting it. I remember promising I’d remember. I forgot again. Hey ho. There’s not much room in my head after a show, and particularly not after a week of them. I’m going to brain dump tomorrow. Maybe go for a walk. But mostly I just don’t want to talk or think or do. I just want to shut down and think about nothing. I might go visit my friend in hospital. She’s been moved to another ward now, apparently for infectious diseases. I’m wanting to be as present for her as possible even though it’s still strangely triggering for me to be in hospitals. But she’s going to be more weirded out than I am having to live there. She’s a never been anything but a positive force in my existence, and it’ll be nice to spend a bit of my day down with her.


And then a friend of mine shows up on Chernobyl in a sympathetic role. And suddenly I’m hooked. I haven’t got the awakening to binge it, but that’s some lovely nuanced work right there from Alex, and enough to make me stick with this despite difficult content. I’ll work through this over the next week. It’ll be my Christmas show. Hooray.

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Hospitality

Two hospital beds down from my friend, Joyce is in for her hip. She’s in a lot of pain, poor Joyce, but she’ll be home soon she keeps telling people hopefully. She’s 101 years old and lives at home with her son who was disabled in a car crash. She definitely is used to constant company. Sometimes as I sit with my friend I find I have to tune her calls out. “Nurse … Nurse … Nurse … Nurse … Nurse … Come to me … Nurse …” Her vowels are Northern, but she lives in Bloomsbury. “This was all night last night,” says my friend with an affectionate smile. She likes Joyce despite the constant cries. I do too. “Hospitals aren’t sleep friendly places,” she shrugs.

This is a bustling overspill ward in Euston at the UCL Hospital. The nurses are brilliant but their work is constant. When one of them can do so, they come to her. “Are you alright Joyce?” She’s not alright. She’s in pain and scared and not at home. But they’re doing everything they can, it’s clear. They just can’t sit with her. They are so patient and so compassionate. They’ll be changing a drip across the ward and will occasionally cheerily reply “I’ll be with you in a second Joyce!” And they will, but they can’t make everything better all at once. I wish they could, for my friend as well. They wish they could. Wonderful compassionate men and women.

She’s not in a good way, my friend. Her internal organs have taken some damage. They’re testing for all sorts of things, but more than anything they’re flushing her system. They’re not pulling their punches either when they talk to her. They drop the possibility of death onto the table quite casually in front of her mum. Her temperature is all over the place. Her blood pressure is really low. I don’t like seeing her like this. I think she’ll be okay. But I don’t like it. I mentioned yesterday that I’m allergic to hospitals. That’s part of it. I don’t want to think of her being in one, with Joyce. Although it’s perhaps helpful for me to be here. Like shutting yourself in the closet when you’re claustrophobic.

The woman in the bed between her and Joyce looks really fucking angry about life in general. She has something of the JK Rowling through a hedge backwards about her and she is definitely pissed off about being in hospital and doubly pissed off about being next to Joyce, who developed her tactics even over the hours I was there. “Nurse, it’s all gone wrong. I’ve pulled the catheter out. Nurse, I’ve done a motion in the bed!” “The catheter’s in fine, Joyce. There’s nothing there, you’re all clean.” So patient the nurses. And back to work. The inside of their heads must just be an ever growing expanding to do list with constantly shifting prioritising, all carried out peacefully and kindly.

I stay with my friend for as long as I can. Now I’m getting ready for a show. I’ll probably swing by again tomorrow…

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Medicine?

My friend is sick. Very sick. Norovirus we thought, but on someone who has literally no bodyweight. The way it’s been behaving it’s potentially something nastier. She’s been suffering at home for a few days, phoning 111 for advice and hoping it’ll pass. It hasn’t passed. It’s got worse. She ended up being taken to hospital at 3.30pm. She didn’t want to stay overnight – (who does?) – but they insisted. It might be something to do with her kidneys. It’s pretty scary, to be honest. I’ve been getting her news around prepping for the show.

I don’t know what time she arrived but she got a bed eight hours after I first heard her tell me she was there. It’s a bad time for space in hospitals. Central London. Christmas parties. The good news is that despite the wait she will still not have to sell everything in order to not die. Let’s see where that goes now the turkeys have voted for Christmas.

I’m going in to see her in the morning, early. I’m not looking forward to getting up, but it’s the right thing to do. She’s in the UCLH Euston. I went and saw my ex there a few years ago and despite it being extremely central it’s a pretty good hospital. The superbug chances are low. But I always worry. Mum was ok when she went in. Superbug. Jamie my half brother was overnighted just for testing, in Poitiers. He never came out. I caught him on his death bed after a crazy drive. Superbug. Fuck that.

Hospitals are death factories to my imagination. I fucking hate them. I’m sure they heal, but in my experience they kill.

I hate that she’s in one. I don’t like walking past the fucking places. Tomorrow I’ll be going in one, and then I’ll be going heavy on the hand cleansing gel, and hanging out with my friend, helping her out with stuff, getting her things from home, trying to make her stay as short and as comfortable as is humanly possible – all the while making sure that I don’t bring in or bring out anything horrible.

It’s already nearly 2am and I’m nowhere near sleep in my body. I’m thinking I might have to take some cough medicine just to send me down.

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I’m worrying about my friend. She’ll be fine though. The NHS is still just about working, despite the cuts, but that’s to do with the goodwill of the workforce – their sacrifice. I lived with nurses for too long not to understand how much work they choose to put in beyond what they must. They’re incredible. Surely this new government will provide more funding and not sell it off wholesale as we have been led to fear? Surely.

I’m going to try and get my head down. Get it down and switch it off. I’m pretty good at napping, and so I reckon tomorrow will be about that. There’s no Saturday matinee this week so I have more time than I’d usually have thank God. I was going to buy an oven. The best laid plans…

 

Election carol

A rainy and blustery evening in Chelsea. I diverted to the cricket pavilion on my way to work. It’s not the busiest polling station in the country, certainly not at 3.30pm. There was an old lady leaving as I arrived, and a brisk old fellow striding through the rain behind me as I came. I was only voter number 319. I made my cross in the box. Nobody exit polled me.

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Last election my constituency swung to Labour by a tiny increment – I think it was about 3 votes. It has always been thought of as a safe Tory seat, so it came as a surprise to me – and lots of other folks.

I have no idea what I expect from this election. I guess we will just have to wait and see. I’m glad I voted at least. I have a feeling there will be a strong turnout. People are extremely polarised and even among my friends there is quite an assortment of people making noises in both directions, and a few people making noises in third and fourth and fifth directions. I only had four candidates to choose from and went with the one I thought had policies that aligned best. What more can you do? I watched him in a political broadcast and thought he was an awkward enough man, but he’s not here to make videos. He can leave that to me if there’s funding.

Now I’m in the dressing room pre-show, suited and booted so I can hang out with my friends afterwards. I’m gonna warm up now. I snored all night in central heating last night so my voice is bloody.


Now I’m post show and feeling very very post show. We had some drinks and some revelations and frankly it all made me feel very small and very sick.

It’s interesting and annoying how quickly people can start to feel comparatively important. I think it’s at the heart of this election today, the human capacity for underserved self-importance. Boris thinks he’s deserving because he’s always been on that path, Jeremy thinks he’s deserving because he’s predicated his life to his personal form of morality. From the outside people warm to a sense of deserving. Confidence is easily mistaken for ability.

The electorate looks at one or two policies, or they think about what they love or what they hate. Mostly they are manipulated by the mainstream media and the people who shout the loudest because – (and I say this with a heavy heart) – because the bulk of people are too busy living their hard lives, and haven’t got time to find nuance in the arguments they hear. They do what they need and then realise territory has been grabbed by people with less to worry about. “Get it done” is a complete sentence in three syllables. Golden. “What are the ramifications?” is already way too long and you can’t get behind it in it same way. You can’t chant it.

I have no idea how it’ll fall tomorrow.

I’m just making a show with a friend. A good friend. Who won’t let me down.

The show I’m making is about togetherness. It’s about Christmas, and joy, and love and bringing disparate groups together for a meal. I’m so proud of it. You should come. And bring your family! No matter which way the vote goes tomorrow. Togetherness!

 

Park

Today I went for a walk in the park. Much better use of my time pre-show than getting prepped for an audition. I’ve been doing this shit for pushing 20 years. Some of my old mates are internationally famous. It’s weird.

I got asked if I could cope being in a scene with someone we’ve all heard of yesterday, and I guess it’s a legitimate concern and it makes sense to ask it.

The place where I auditioned had a poster up for a film I’d worked on many years ago. I’d forgotten it mostly, but it was a big learning job for me. Seeing the poster reminded me.

I was flown to Thailand for it. I encountered the evil “fraud prevention” woman at Thai Airlines check in Heathrow, who caused me to have to wake up the whole production crew in Bangkok in order to get the credit card details that the flight was booked on. She wouldn’t let me on the flight otherwise. Nowadays I’d have got my agent to sort it, but back then I tried to sort it myself which made it look like it was my fault.

I arrived in Thailand on the back foot and then was given no sides. I didn’t know who I’d be playing. I was working with a director I admired for his early work. He hadn’t told me who I was playing. He’d just booked me. The sides came under my door at 9pm the day before the shoot. Nowadays I think I’d have got onto the front foot, asked more questions, and got more of a sense of what the hell was going on. Back then I was perhaps even starstruck. It seems absurd now, knowing how the industry works. But I think I was.

I shot a flashback sequence where the two principal actors were cgi mapped with dots on their faces. The idea was that they would have their faces mapped into younger looking versions. When it came to the edit and the budget, the obvious money save was the cgi, so the whole sequence went out the window. I’ve still got the credit. But that’s it. Shame. The footage would’ve been golden for my showreel.

I got sent the footage of some German TV I did over the summer, which is lovely although I’m the only person speaking English. I’m feeling very ready to start cracking back into screen work in the New Year. I’ll go out in Germany at Christmas, but dubbed. The footage can help make a showreel that’s not as catastrophically out of date as my current one that still has a montage (Cardinal sin).

I’m trying not to think about the recent meeting. But I’m aware it would be a good continuation. Insh’Allah.

Walking in the park is a very good way of derailing noisy head. It’s also good for just moving the body and the mind. I don’t have dayjobs currently, so as long as I’m in Mayfair for 5pm I’ve got the rest of the day to explore the world sober. I’m still not adept at winding the show out without alcohol, but I’m open to daytime suggestions of pleasant things. Today was a lovely walk in Battersea Park…

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