The empty box

It was around this time of year, only a year ago, that I drove The Soul Van up to Maida Vale full of random antiques. I parked it, paid for a few hours, and walked to my audition location. I was about two hours early. As I walked down the canal I had an animated conversation with my agent about some old sheet music I wanted to find a home for. She suggested someone.

I was wearing a grey suit of my grandfather’s, my uncle Peter’s Gucci shoes, a Rolex that granny bought me for my 21st birthday and a trilby. I was auditioning for The Tempest.

I found the location and then swore about the lack of good coffee shops on that road. I walked the streets looking like a relic of times past. I suit vintage clothes better than I suit modern clothes, and I know it. But vintage clothes don’t suit the Harrow Road.

Eventually it’s audition time and I’m in. Lucy the producer has supported my energy for years after we initially collaborated in 2012. It hasn’t worked with previous directors. My agent has said to me before this meeting “This is the last time, Al. I’m gonna tell them to stick it if they try to bring you in again.” I’ve had 4 auditions (three with the same director) and no job. I see her point.

I meet this director, and I vibe with her. She sees where I hide my mischief. There’s a collaboration here, I think. She seems to think the same. I get an offer.

That was last summer. I end up being trusted to go mental on my own in a willow tree. I think I wrote extensively about it. Hope boats and fatherhood and regrets and the responsibilities of power. The Tempest from Alonso’s perspective filtered through wonderful Zoe and with a liberal sprinkling of my brand of bonkers thrown in for free.


They contacted me immediately when we all locked down. They aren’t rich. But they are extremely well named. Creation. They want to create work. They found a way. Today 200 or more people saw our Tempest as the third day of our Easter online pop-up. It worked, so there will be more opportunities. Watch this space.

A month from now the money-places will have caught up and will be able to send high quality halogen lamps and professional greenscreens to the homes of the same old 5 actors who get to be in everything. For this labile period we can be pioneers, and hell it suits me from back in the Rabbit/Coney days. It’s always worth remembering that constraints are the catalyst for creation.

“I feel like bits of me keep disappearing,” I ended up saying one show when I was having greenscreen light issues. But this is the point. Tech is gonna fuck up. Hex is gonna go where Hex is gonna go. The light is never going to be consistent without a proper halogen on the wall behind me. I’m gonna get booted out mid show and other people will cover my absence. Our show is live, and it exists because of the constraints we are under, and it is bringing people together despite these constraints. I see the audience a lot and I see how moved they sometimes are at this rag-tag joyous thing, because we are making light in dark times. Here’s a photo from a friend’s living room!

IMG-20200413-WA0015

I guess this all means that I’m still doing my job. The Fool and The High Priestess on The Chariot. Somehow one of them has still got the reins.

And it means I don’t have to record myself doing Shakespeare in my dressing gown. Thank fuck.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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