End of The Tempest

Those people still on Facebook will be aware of the way in which the platform tries to blindside us with our past when we least expect it. A photo of you and your ex with the person they left you for! MEMORIES! A picture of you and the dead parent, blissfully unaware of what was just round the corner. REMEMBER THIS TIME LAST YEAR?

Because the platform was assembled and is maintained by ghastly sociopaths it doesn’t really care about such things. (All opinions etc etc this is a work of fiction fuck you blah blah don’t sue me you monsters just because you can, yes I know money drives opinion in the long term but come on, you ARE a sociopath Mark. Deep down you know it. Whether or not you’re diagnosed as such by your pet doctor. Hush now. Go to sleep. La la laaaaa.)

More than a decade ago I posted on Facebook the words “Our revels now are ended.” I was reminded of it today.

Back then it was the last night of The Tempest at Sprite Productions up at Ripley Castle. Lucy Kerbel, our brilliant director, took a long (maybe permanent?) break from directing after the show and went into activism, from which Tonic Theatre was born, and with it many years of fucking important and timely representation towards balance for women in theatre. I suspect that part of what sent this wonderful director and (now) good friend of mine from directing to activism was one unbelievably gauche individual. His behaviour towards what he clearly saw as “just a young female director” was … well let’s just say he failed to realise the extent to which people who have had different lives from you can enhance your understanding of everything. He kind of preferred people who he felt were quite like him. He solicited my friendship at the start of the job, based on a conversation where I mentioned some of my sexy credits. He tried a few times to make me one of his “we know better than these people” crowd – (neither the first nor the last with that tactic towards me. Never works.)

Then quite suddenly my agent dumped me by email during rehearsal. In retrospect she wasn’t the right agent for me, caring nothing about the industry, but she was related to passionate people I knew and I’d mistakenly assumed she’d have their passion too, or at least understand the process of building contacts.

I told her I was gainfully employed and offered her a cut. She responded to the info by axing me from her books. I had suddenly, arbitrarily lost my agent. For a young actor seeking reputation that is psychically the hardest blow you can take.

Hindsight is 20/20. I’d still be strangled and misunderstood if she’d kept me, whereas now I’m happy and extremely well represented. But fuck me it was scary and sudden and unexpected when it happened.

“Hi, I’m working!” “Bye. It’s not working.”

And this guy I was working with.

This fucking leading actor in rehearsal with somebody who had just got perhaps the most jarring email it is possible to get as a young practitioner who cares about longevity in the industry…

This guy completely and utterly dismissed me at the very moment be heard my news.

He cancelled me. I no longer existed to him. He actually honestly and completely wouldn’t speak to me at all, from then on in. Not at all. Not even a word. He would literally turn his back to me and override my words with volume like a school bully. At the time I felt vulnerable – I’d just taken a hit – I let him kick me when I was down. I think the version of me that writes these words wouldn’t let him do it. Oh heck no. “Lemme at him, uncle Scooby”.

But 11 years is a long time.

When there’s somebody like that in a company it’s down to how good they are at the old acting. If they’re really really really good it’s a terrible disaster. I’ve seen that before – rarely thankfully – but sometimes these gorgeous cruel chameleons do exist. Usually they’re gone unless they get famous fast, as power is so important to them. Hungry destructive bastards who falsify hearts so well in the moment that it’s almost impossible to hate their work even though they’re disgusting in the green room and in the rehearsal room.

With this dude, even though it made much of the show dull, I’m kind of glad you could watch his work and shrug.

He was lumpish. At best he was workaday, absent of spark. At worst he was a smug immobile boggart reciting empty words on his own surrounded by people.

I’m not gonna name him. All this stuff is subjective. Unlike him I have no particular desire to be cruel. I thought he was a bellend though and you probably would too – because he had plenty of opportunity not to be and didn’t take it.

I saw him choose to do cruel things to people (mostly female) that he just somehow thought he was better than – (where his reference point was usually books on practice that he thought he was alone in having read). It mostly felt he was being mean to people for his own self aggrandisement and to serve his own understanding of the things he felt he had exclusively learnt.

If we were actors talking in terms of actions the main actions he was playing were “to dominate” “to belittle” “to dismiss” and “to control”. Certainly that’s what I’d use if I was playing the memory of him. Element: earth. Animal: pig. Pushing. Leading from crotch. Slow. Wide. An almost imperceptible nod to himself after each statement. Talk over listen. Never speak and move simultaneously.

I saw him. So I also saw the change in him towards me from when I was represented by a well known agency to when I wasn’t. It was huge. Now I can divorce that moment from the insecurity that accompanied it and I can see him more clearly, uncluttered by my stuff. He doesn’t stand up well.

“Well, that’s the end of you in this industry,” was literally the first thing he said to me when I got that email jettisoning me one lunchtime during rehearsal eleven years ago and, shellshocked and vulnerable, chose to share it with the company.

And that was pretty much the last thing he said to me personally. I was no more use to him in his mind.

Now I can look back and smile because time has worked in my favour. Back then I knew he was wrong. Thank  has fuck time has borne it out.

Back then he chose to say something hard instead of saying something kind. That’s always an active choice.

There is never ever ever any justification for being like that to anybody when you’re up in a lovely place being paid to do something beautiful.

Actors are mostly a bunch of beautiful generous hearts, stuck in a vocation they love for weird reasons. When you work with someone like him who is “better than the job” it’s heartbreaking to witness how they sabotage themselves, the work, and everybody around them, (although it’s more manageable if they aren’t playing the lead – then they can just be forgettable.)

But anyway, why am I writing about him so darkly? He was probably going through something himself… Why am I even thinking of the fucker?

Because, eleven years later, I’m thrilled that I’ve just finished another Tempest – without such nastiness. A Tempest full of glorious hearts.

We did our last Zoom Tempest with Creation. It’s recorded now. Sadly without Taz, although Joey stepped in and was wonderful.

IMG-20200711-WA0011

Hex was being a hilarious dick for the recording, but I’d sooner work with that sort of a snake than the one I worked with 11 years ago in Yorkshire.

What a joy the Creation Theatre and Big Telly Zoom Tempest has been. We are lucky fuckers when we work with people who really get collaboration. One last hurrah, and I’m off to bed, buzzing and glad that this happy happy memory has raised the old Creation Tempest one last time on this anniversary in order to thoroughly obliterate any remaining badness I was carrying from that knobhead in Ripley more than a decade ago. It’s amazing how long we can carry stuff until we look at it.

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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