Finding John

Bathtime. I am the walrus.

I’ve started another short term gig, but this one isn’t quite what I was expecting yet. I was hoping it would be “Here’s your car, at x o’clock you’ll need to be at y for z.” But first of all they’re using me for the old finding actors and places gig. I’m back on the hunt for a John Lennon after discovering too late that the client wants a specific era of Lennon. I found a young John, but they want Abbey Road John. Full whiskers all over the place. Big hair. White suit. The full hippy.

There aren’t many people in my business who have that look as it’s not very versatile. You can only get so much work playing “pacifist guy” or “white Jesus”. Your majority of actors have shaved the beard and the hair. The lookalikes, who proudly provide their own suit and wig… even they don’t have the beard. And the numbers they are throwing around are eye-watering, after which they continue with “and transport from Scotland and a double room in London plus a deseeded pomegranate every ten minutes and a personal serenade from Michael Buble.”

Considering they’re just geezers with no specific acting ability, a face, a wig and good positioning on the internet, I think I’d rather blow myself up than give them the work for what they’re asking. I have no guarantee they’ll be any good at it and they are totally taking the piss pricewise. So I’m looking for hairy dark haired actors, 30’s, guys…

I’m also looking for a reasonably large room for three early hours on a Sunday morning near Albert Hall. Hence I’m shouting out to RCM students for a practice room, although the college might not even be open yet at 7. I can’t picture many students getting in to practice at that time…

And I’m also looking for ground floor office space in Waterloo for a temporary art department. They’ll be the guys putting the wig on hairy Lennon, and renting the clothes…

So yeah. Just some stuff. It’s good to be busy. But until I’ve got this fucking Lennon signed off I’m not going to be able to relax. The situation is complicated by the fact that whoever I get has to have a photograph pass over a desk in America where someone who is looking for actual John actual living Lennon will go “Nah. Not him. Next.” John’s dead. The Catcher in the Rye. If he wasn’t dead he’d be old. If he wasn’t old or dead he’d still not do this gig.

I’m doing it though and as with everything I ever do I’m trying to do it well. Help a girl out with your forgotten Lennonresemblance and let’s hope I can get some money to someone who will go “oh, great, I needed that” instead of “SUCKERS, I’m off to Lanzarote to get Coronavirus with my family on a resort beach! Oh.”

Because we’re all going to die. That’s the narrative. It’s got so you can’t sneeze in public without everybody looking sideways at you. Conferences being cancelled in Europe. Milan is semi shut down. Is London going to end up the same? Maybe I don’t need to worry about Lennon cos I’ll have plague.

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Club

Ahh the Oxford and Cambridge Club. Nestling gently in the hallows of Pall Mall, close to the Athenaum. Here we are, replete with the reassuring clink of billiard balls and the gentle hum of oh so much clever conversation. Here we are where expensive wine is consumed vastly by vast expensive people. Where deals are struck and feels are snuck. The panels on the walls. The roar of the fire. “I’m sorry sir, you’re not on the list ” “Yes, madam, we have a spare tie for your friend to wear.” “Get this hobo out of here he’s an actor, it’s disgusting.”

I’ve never stepped foot in it in my life. I’m just imagining.

My old friend from school has invited me, somewhat cryptically, asking for “a favour”. I like him. He was the alternative but clever one. He had all sorts of unusual ideas and became a good friend when I was at school. We saw eye to eye. He went to Oxford and now he’s a vicar and this is his club.

I’m just about to go in now. I’ll report back.

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Turns out a lot of my guesses were on point. But the fires are gas. Clean air act promoting fracking.

They have menus in there without the price. The “host” knows the cost of everything. The guest knows nothing. I’m experienced enough with menus to go with the set menu rather then get the venison from the à la carte – men of the cloth are not famously well paid. I’m not going to skin him. I still let him get me a half bottle of claret, mind. When in Rome?

He’s not drinking.

“I’ve given up booze for Lent,” he tells me. I look furtive, having not thought about Lent. “I’ve given up class A drugs for Lent,” I attempt, with a winning smile. Worried he won’t get the joke I double down. “And sex. I’ve given up class A drugs and sex. So far it’s going fine!” Jazz hands! … !!!

He’s wearing his dog collar. He’s quite serious.

You have to speak reasonably honestly to that uniform, and you feel bad when you’re glib. It’s like a more extreme version of talking to a policeman. Just a simple rectangle of white, but it’s effective. The older the uniform is the harder it’s wired into our subconscious. I respect the collar. I will be honest to the collar. The collar has no power over me but the collar must be treated well and never ever lied to. What a wonderful place to exist in. But my bad joke doesn’t land.

We talk a while about our respective ministries. I try to put into words how I feel I’m called to heal from within the darkness. “I needed to understand the darkness before I could help people to find light,” I tell him. I talk about my extremely confused but fully functioning catholobuddhist pantheism. We see eye to eye about a surprising amount. It’s just the names.

What did he want? He wants a space. God, don’t we all? It’s the conversation I have the most frequently. A central London location where we can meet once a week and do wonderful things.

I wish I was a property magnate, although I’d be shit at it because all my empty properties would be filled with burlesque dancers or Christians or Buddhist Christian burlesque dancers reading the Bible and tarot… But I would like to find him a space because he bought me dinner and he seems serious. 3 hours from 5pm on a Sunday to effect “the drama of Catholic worship in a contemporary fashion, and more inclusive in terms of gender and sexuality.”

You’ve got an empty theatre on Sunday? How about you get some powerful good vibrations coming into your building? Call me, baby. Call me.

Maccers in Guildford

I’ve just been to see Jack and Annabelle playing in Macbeth in Guildford. What a lovely chance. They never did anything false. It was a treat.

I sat with a pile of old friends, by coincidence. It’s lovely to see good friends working well. Annabelle sorted me out with a ticket. She’s Lady Macduff and a witch and many other parts to boot. She told the truth and worked with her usual interesting choices. It’s so hard to watch a show you know backwards forwards and inside out without making comparisons, but I enjoyed myself this evening. When you know what everybody is about to say, it’s about how they say it. Delivery…

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I find it virtually impossible to watch cheap telly because of the large obvious lies by actors who are only being monitored for look, and muffing the truth hideously. My television is very large mind you, so I get to see them lying even bigger… Once one of my flatmates put on “Made in Chelsea” and it almost made me apoplectic, watching the human zoo doing an acted staged version of their untrue truth and doing it worse than I thought possible. Through my fingers I said to my friend “I live in Chelsea – this shit reflects on me.” She was aware of my horror although not necessarily aware of the roots of it – how we were being fed staged interactions pretending to be spontaneous. “I know Flumpy!” my friend attempted as if knowing whatever nonsense it called itself makes me watching this lying fraud more palatable…

Anyway, I was writing about Macbeth. About two friends of mine succeeding in being wonderful in a Shakespeare play. Much better than the likes of Flumpy.

Uncut, Macbeth is already one of the shortest plays in the canon. It’s still a long watch, but if you go to watch a Shakespeare play you know you aren’t signing up for a quick fix. You’re more likely to get a short night with Maccers than a lot of the others. And like Dream and Twelfth Night, it’s a beautiful nut of a piece of work. It holds together. It’s made by a master. You can put it on in a school and it’ll carry almost as well as Dream.

This Macbeth is by Guildford Shakespeare Company. Like dear dear old Sprite (RIP) and good old Creation (very much alive) they’re making theatre outside of London, and reaching out into the local community as they do so.

I’ll be hanging out with Will soon, one of the lads from Sprite who I randomly taught back in the day. He’s old enough now to audition for drama school. He’s recalled to a few places, and no surprises there. He wants me to look at his speeches. It’s likely that the entirety of my job will be to help him understand he is ready for a training and build that confidence. I love that I met him back in the day on a regional theatre job. As with India. Even with Brian!

I miss Sprite. Thank God for the small creative companies like them and Creation that help tick over our strange and delightful community. Jack’s Macbeth is, at heart, a small group of talented people in a church on the high street in Guildford, using all their expertise to tell an ancient story as beautifully as they can.

It’s lovely for me to sit back and watch Jack work. Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Tempest, Much Ado, Christmas Carol … we are always working alongside one another. It’s nice to sit back and watch him without thinking that I’m about to go on in the next scene.

He’s great. An assured and layered Macbeth. And Annabelle does a huge amount with little, as is her way every time she works. Text over trickery. I heard every word from both. I’m proud to have skillful friends.

End of part one driving

The people I’ve been working with, myself included, are all a bit shell-shocked today. We’ve been loosely communicating as there is still fallout to be fixed but two shows were shot in two days, Sunday and Monday, and now we have Tuesday off-ish. I still had a car to return, and I was very upset about having lost my driving glove so I resolved to find it. And I did!

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If I’m driving for hours and hours day after day, I like to wear a leather glove on my right hand. I find my hand takes some wear just from constantly holding the steering wheel, and the glove is very helpful. It’s also a little bit of an affectation. Part of the game is to make your passengers comfortable. Little things like a driving glove exist in a confidence place in the imagination. “He has a driving glove. He is evidently serious about driving. I’m in good hands.”

Also the glove used to belong to my uncle. It’s one of the many memories of him that I carry. Perhaps I have too much of the past around me, what with decking myself in so many of Peter’s accessories, living in my mother’s flat, filled with strange esoteric items that have come to me from Dad and other people long lost. But I like making use of old things that would otherwise be abandoned. And they remind me of the ones we’ve lost. So I wasn’t going to let that glove go easily.

My car was supposed to be returned to the rental people in the morning, but I used it first. I took it shopping and then went on a glove hunt and – miraculously – found it in the gutter on one of the streets I’d parked on yesterday evening. Hooray! Now I get another two weeks of Michael Jackson jokes on the next job…

Then I phoned up the rental company and asked them what time they were picking it up: “I’ve been waiting a fair few hours now.” Cheeky, but I should’ve returned it at 8am but they dropped it off to me, as they can for corporate rental, and I made out like I thought they were collecting, which we hadn’t arranged. Thankfully they bit, although I could tell they were being merciful. I drove it in many hours late and they didn’t hit for an extra day. Good on them. Now I’m home and somehow I’ve agreed to go out for a drink tonight. There’s an imminent danger of me falling flat on my face so I figured I’d get the bulk of this down before alcohol and pancakes…


Drinks at Vault with a mate, and then pancakes and wine with a treasured old friend. If I was tired when I started this blog I’m totally exhausted now. Virtually nothing left, frankly. So I’m in another uber, splurging my ill gotten gains, luxuriating my way home through the cold, to a flat that should be warm, and a good bed with no 6am emergency phone calls tomorrow. Probably.

 

Corona nonsense

My whole life is an NDA at the moment! The last week has been particularly weird as I’ve had three simultaneous NDA projects running alongside one another. It has been a crazy and fascinating week. I’ve done so much. And out of caution I’ve confined myself to just saying how tired I am or talking about random encounters. I think if I were to break all three NDA’s I’d be liable to the tune of about 26 million dollars. It’s all on the dotted line.

I was waiting for my last pick up of the job this evening when I got a call from Tom, who is staying on my sofa tonight. “Your flatmate says she has corona virus,” he says. “She’s in her bedroom. I don’t know what to do.”

I am forced to go into a painstaking dissection of this whole thing. She doesn’t have Corona virus. She has a sniffle, perhaps. She has massive constant anxiety, for sure. She also has the delusion that she is significant coupled to the conviction that there are only about 10,000  people in the whole world, thus statistically speaking, ALL THE THINGS are likely to happen to her or someone she knows. You know the type. You might be the type. Small world syndrome.

Won’t swim in the sea because sharks. Taxi door to door in *insert notionally dangerous city / suburb of London* so not shot / stabbed. The hitchhiker is definitely a murderer.  All of this, rooted in a bad assessment of odds, until life if stifled into tiny tiny safe safe patterns.

“She was sick – she puked,” says Tom. That’s not a symptom of Corona virus. A hangover, maybe. Anxiety, yes, at this level – and she’s an anxiety ninja. Anxiety yaks are a clear possibility here. But it’s not speaking to me of anything other than that she assumes she’s got the thing because the thing is in all the papers. A&E must be FLOODED with hypochondriacs.

Ok, if she’s been kissing some guy who has since been diagnosed and he’s sent her an anxious message, fine. If she sat next to a guy with “I went to Wuhan and all I got was this stupid T-Shirt”, and he wet sneezed in her face then fine. But in those instances she could legitimately have gone to hospital and said “I should get tested,” and unless she’s mental she would have. Rather than the action she chose: swanning into the living room, announcing it like Blanche dubois would to a somewhat nervous young fellow, yawping sumptuously into the porcelain prayer pot, and retiring to the bedroom therein to languish incommunicado with the blinds down. Light the blue touchpaper…

I’ll have a word with her tomorrow. Through the door. You never know. I’ll ask her why she thinks it’s Corona. If I get “Well there was this guy called Barney and now he’s in quarantine,” then I’m calling the guys in the hazmat suits myself. But if, as I suspect, I get a list of loosely connected symptoms, maybe an “I just know,” and inevitably a whole lot of disconnected noise then I’m going to go about my business as normal and take it with a heavy pinch of salt. Until I get home to a corpse and then die horribly just before all my friends do the same with my name the last thing on their foam speckled lips. “Fkucklinghg Ahhhlll Bhlarclhhlayychchkkkkt t nnnn ….”

Tom was worried sick. His worry was not contagious thankfully. He takes people at their word. I’ve had to go into great detail about the nature of anxiety and self importance in order to step him down from his original suggestion that we both just get a hotel room. It’s neurotic imaginings, or I’m Tom Selleck.

She had cancer just a month or so ago. That turned out to be a false alarm after all the private doctors checked it out.

It’s my bedtime. I’m tired. I just sneezed.

It’s smallpox, guys. I’ll try to keep writing as long as I’m able.

Unconnected photo. Yeah. That’s how I roll.

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Why be rude?

In a moment of quiet, knowing I won’t have a pick-up for a while, I walk over to meet an actor I’ve booked that I’ve never met before. I’m considering using him for another job in a week or two. He’s pretty obvious, in his costume, surrounded by people in high vis with lights.

I go up and greet him by his name. “I’m Al,” I say and extend my hand. He looks at it. Looks back to me. “Yes?” he asks, face neutral, defensive.

“I thought I’d come over and shake you by the hand.” He looks down at it again. His hand remains deliberately completely still. It’s a studied insult. He looks back to me “Why?” he responds, and is that hostility already in his eyes? My my, I think it is. I look at him for a while, right into those eyes, curious. Eventually: “Because I recruited you for this job and I wanted to get a sense of what you’re like.” And the veil goes over the darkness.

“OH! Hello,” he effuses, and a smileish thing switches on and he’s shaking my hand too late, too late, far far too late, I’ve already seen him now. But I’m smiling, and jolly.

It’s not a long conversation. He apologises at the end of it. With a dismissive gesture I throw away the idea of him needing to apologise. “It’s fine,” I laugh, and it is – for my pride, but not for my faith in him to fill this role.

He won’t be getting a call. The job I’m looking to fill needs someone with charm. I don’t care how cold or tired he was, if that’s his default talking to a stranger behaviour then it doesn’t matter how polite he is once he knows there might be some work at the end of it, it’s not work he’ll be good at. My instinct is my guide and in two words he eloquently talked himself out of a job. I’m sad about it. But somebody else will be glad of the work.

Outside of going and talking to some of the actors I booked, I have just sat in a car. Flashes of activity when the team get back to me and I have to race to another venue, but mostly just waiting. The day came and went, the rain came down, the sun came back. I waited. The sun went down. I waited still, and then some more. Waiting waiting waiting. Now it’s dark and I’m waiting outside the building where I did Christmas Carol. I think I’ll be up early tomorrow and it’s almost nine so I decided to start writing so I can just fall flat on my face when I get home tonight.

I’ve been fortunate to be driving a very pleasant man around town. We get on, although his brain is evidently flooded. I’m hoping we won’t be at it too much longer but I’ve got a feeling it’ll go until midnight. When I get home I’ll likely have an immediate bath, a glass of red wine, draw a line through a potential actor’s name in the notepad on my desk, and fall flat on my face again…

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Sleepy driver

Last night when I got home I carbonised some leftover pizza and then picked out the few edible bits with my fingers. This evening I was no more inspired, if marginally more successful. Baked beans on toast. Even this tired I couldn’t fuck that up. Thankfully I had stopped and had a proper lunch at Bone Daddy’s in High Street Kensington so I’m nourished already. Best ramen in town, and quick.

My phone is going constantly, usually people needing information or needing to have their mind put at rest or both. Having just discovered that my call time is surprisingly late tomorrow, I’m thinking I might do something that I never normally do. I’m thinking I might switch off my phone as I sleep. Then I won’t be woken by the buzzing of the morning message swarm. I’ll still go in to work long before my call time, but I’ll take my lie in when it’s offered, especially as I’m likely to be one of the last cars on the road tomorrow, doing my usual thing of picking up the slack. If I’ve got the energy I’ll spend it. That’s always been the way. But I’ve got to make sure I’ve got enough energy to spend.

Tomorrow is crunch time, when this huge team of people comes together and something happens. I’m really hoping it doesn’t rain in London tomorrow evening. We will be working in the dark, frequently outdoors. Everybody will be much more cheerful if they’re dry. Including me.

It’s hard to believe that I had a cleaning lady come to my flat just two days ago. My bedroom looks like a volcanic eruption of clothes. Digging around for audition clothing, finding spare bits of costume for friends of mine who are working in costume tomorrow. Getting home, immediately taking all my clothes off, and falling face down on my bed without putting them away. I’ve had the place to myself the last two nights and you can tell.

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My favourite thing about this job is that I get a car for the duration. Even in this town, I find driving therapeutic. But this town really is weird to drive in.

The weekend drivers were out in force today. My favourite was some old guy in his brand new Merc. I’m in an eight seater. I was trying to get off at the lights quickly enough to nip in front when my lane got blocked. He thought I was racing him, so he powered in front of me and then stopped across both lanes. Then he pulled aside to let me pass, and then did it again. He looked at me with a strange mixture of rage and triumph the second time. I was so weirded out I just kind of … shrugged. It didn’t seem to warrant an insulting gesture. It was a kid showing me a toy. I let him go ahead and then took a different route. I’ve seen too much road rage in this city and I didn’t want the insurance hassle if he kicked the panels in. Alone. Neat haircut. Clean shaven. Expensive car. Sharp suit. Those guys have the most stuff buried I guess…