Comet

We are all completely sober. Four women and I. We are sitting above the village of Falking, at Devil’s Dyke. Incense and simple South American music. Cold but companionable and peaceful.

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Earlier today I was swimming in the sea, joyfully smashing my legs against sharp rocks. Now it’s the peace of the hillside and occasional exclamations; “Is that the comet?” “No, it’s another plane.”

The dark is properly closing in. The last rays of the sun are getting lost to the curvature of the earth. We need to find the plough in order to see this comet called Neowise. None of us really know what we are looking for though. But it’s fun trying, and a good coda to a different day. This view of the Dyke makes a difference from London from The Heath. “I’m really happy,” says Lou out of nowhere. Suddenly: “WHAT’S THAT UP THERE??”

It’s another plane. I’m going back to cometwatch though.


We found it. We also had a shitload of shooting stars. Tons of planes. Some satellites. And some UFOs. All in all a good night’s cometwatch. The comet itself, of course, was basically static. And mildly underwhelming compared to some of the other things.

It’s such a clear night, and not too cold either. Still some low level light pollution which doesn’t help with contrast on the comet. But we can see the milky way here. The constellations are clear. It’s good to be out. But my feet are freezing.


I’ve been lying on my back again, on this hill, looking up at the sky, for ages. Last time I did this was in Texas and for nothing like as long but my feet were warmer. When I come to write these portions it destroys my night vision. But fuck me the sky is endless. Good to be reminded of the minuscule proportion of this rock on which we play out all our hopes and dreams and loves and rages. Carl Sagan’s “small blue dot”. There’s me worrying about money which is just a tiny idea in this sea of nonsense invented and named by us to make it easier to communicate and get by, while out there – all this stuff. So much stuff. Endless impossible stuff that we will never ever fully encompass or comprehend. Especially when our feet are cold.


Warm feet again. I’m back at Lou’s. Tea and tarot before bed. It’s her birthday so she gets what she wants. I’m glad to have a car again despite the cops. With any luck the joy of easy mobility will offset the inconvenience of considerably less money. Many of the best things come for free. Good company. Nature. The sea. Ok so food and petrol cost money. But the balance of my joy today, particularly with no booze, has been in simple but lovely things that connect me to the world and to my body.

I’ll sleep well tonight. There are definite advantages to this “fuck all is happening in my industry” vibe. Not that I want it to continue.

Getting back into debt

Today has been man versus technology. Today I’ve been working all day, recording and editing. Today I gave hours of my time for no financial renumeration at all. But I was enjoying most of it. Until I got to the technical part.

It’s not so much the time taken recording stuff. It’s the time in post. This is my issue with self-tapes, and it carries through to all the “do stuff from home” malarkey.

As soon as there’s a bit of money on the table then my whole attitude changes. I’ll put the hours in tinkering. But if I’m working for free I don’t like doing the technical stuff and I lose patience almost immediately, particularly if I start getting chased for unpaid work. That’s a sure fire way to bump yourself down the list.

It’s not what I signed up for, the technical stuff. Nevertheless, something made me agree to do these things. I’m a man of my word. Today was the day I did the bulk of the work. I recorded an unpaid thing. I edited it a bit. I edited some video for another unpaid thing. I fucked with WeTransfer. It’s done. I’m not doing any more unpaid things. Well, apart from a quick easy one for Jack but that’s basically working for myself. But yeah. I’m not a graduate anymore, lockdown or no lockdown. Silly idealistic fucker. Pay me.

Exposure? Meh. A useful practical kit test? 100%. Getting better at the post production shit? Indubitably. Money? *cries* Now I’ve sorted the kit and my editing is stronger, bring me the dollars thankyouplease.

I was on a roll before lockdown, fuck it. It’ll come again. But this is getting long now, and things are mounting up.

My council tax bounced because Kitcat has only paid half her rent so far with no explanation. I’m getting seriously worried about cashflow, particularly with the fine from the coppers. But I haven’t spoken to many entertainment world people like me who’ve been used to living through graft and attention and who aren’t worried at the moment. There are a few clever ones who have found lucrative lockdown hustles. A few who aren’t earning the money they live on in the first place, and are thus always going to be fine. A few who have already banked the big money gig and are sitting pretty.

I have to thank my lucky stars I’ve got the flat – (and kitcat will pay the rent eventually, she just forgets that other people have needs.)

Like a fucking Oscar speech I have to thank Esta Charkham and AFTLS and The Christmas Carol Team and Sylvia and D3 events and Nina Gold’s office and Netflix and Creation and Big Telly for that impossible run of work before and into the lockdown that has meant I’m not quite yet working out which foot to eat first. I thought that that money was gonna help me fly, but almost more importantly it helped me not drown.

If I hadn’t paid my credit card off entirely I wouldn’t have the buffer zone I’m now burning through. It’s frustrating as all hell to go back to where I was, as it felt great clearing the debt. But my instinct at the time was not to cancel the credit card. And evidently that was a good instinct dammit.

I hate getting back into debt but I’ve got no option for the moment. And I’ll be angling for flow again as soon as possible. If I’ve hit it once, it’s there for me to hit it again. It’s what I’ve worked for. What I’ve chanted for. Onwards.

 

Saturday heath and filming done

It’s very much Saturday night in London. An hour before midnight and I’m walking across Hampstead Heath. Off to see Hex and give him some playtime. I was filming in Archway this afternoon and then to dinner with my scene partner, around that smattering of roads north of Archway station that are named after Shakespearean characters.

The Heath on my walk home is busy with voices, rich with sound. With lockdown still not eased enough for the dogshit dance clubs where people sweat into your mouth, people are bringing their Bluetooth speakers and their shouting out here instead. Earlier there was a tree, dressed with balloons and an improvised table. “Happy birthday,” it announces still to everybody who passes, as the abandoned balloons slowly atrophy and the wind spreads the paper and crap they’ve left hither and yon.

It’s dark now, and with the echoing familiar sounds of party I might feel uncomfortable not being invited were I inclined that way. As it is I am just enjoying the sound of revelry, drinking in the smell of the dry grass where I’m lying, counting my blessings, not particularly inclined to go towards the noise but glad of it. People are spilling off in those deep involved conversations you have when you’re drunk where you spit out the contents of your head to one another without really listening. Safe venting.

Gigi cooked me an astonishing dinner and insisted I invite a friend. Thinking Gigi a vegan I invited Helen. I’ll likely be helping her out with some business before long. She’s running a retreat in the woods in August – I’ll likely be driving some bits up beforehand. I can’t attend as I’m a bloke. But I can be helpful beforehand. And helpful is my albatross.

Turns out Gigi ain’t vegan anymore. She’s still vegetarian though and gets veganism. So I’m glad I made the call on inviting Helen. Even if I noticed I was terrifically socially anxious having been to nothing even approximating to a dinner party for bloody ages. We even shared service implements. WITCHCRAFT.

A mosquito has found me here in my dark grassy hiding place on the Heath. It is catalysing me back to Mel’s flat, only ten minutes from here, containing camomile tea, honey and whisky.


I’ve stopped again. It’s too glorious here. I’m looking at the city and getting pissed off at the fact that all these closed offices are still leaving their lights on all night. How many months now? But I’m loving the atmosphere here. All the people who would usually be in a basement with damagingly loud music are scattered through this protected remnant of an ancient wood.

There’s a pocket of people down the hill teaching one another simple vocal harmonies. Nearer to me, Fun Carlos completely dominates a conversation about nothing held between four friends who are as drunk as he is. All around me come the laughs and squawks of happy fun conversation. It’s like the last night of a festival, once the music has stopped, without the ostentatious people in hi-vis putting out fires and shouting “no beats!”

I stop to take a photo. Between me and the lights of London two people sit silent and still, in harmony, looking from this ancient place at what we’ve done in the valley below.

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Home for tea now. But as so frequently in this bullshit I’m counting my blessings.

 

 

Hard line learning

I can’t make these words stay in my head. It’s weird being back in work mode. I remember this madness. But I can’t make ’em stay, these darn words.

I’ll manage it. I know that. I’ll sort it out. But the old muscle has atrophied a bit while I’ve been chilling out at home along with the rest of the world. It’s shrunk a bit while we were all freaking out about microscopic organisms. This is why you haven’t heard from me the last few days, dear human friends. My communications have been reduced to monosyllables and grunts as I go over and over these slippery thoughts, rebooting myself into work mode. The world is coming back a little bit, drenched in caution…

It’s written verbatim this piece, a transcript of recorded conversations. This means it’s is excellent discipline to learn. It’s how people really actually speak as opposed to the cleverly formed complete thoughts that we’re usually given to utter when the lights go on. If you turned these scripts in in a writing room for fiction you’d lose your seat in that writing room. These thoughts are beautiful and messy, contradictory and honest. A lot of the meaning is in the intention rather than in the text. Written on the page, this stuff occasionally defies logic. Spoken in the mouth the logic becomes more apparent.

But first I have to find it. I have to unpick the thoughts. A reminder of the way we substitute gesture for words. These nuances of communication that are lost in a zoom call. How we abandon a sentence when we know it has served its meaning from observing an almost imperceptible nod on the part of the listener. How we weave through ideas as we speak, dancing on the shifting patterns we observe in our interlocutors, riffing on the unexamined content of our own mad minds.

I’m going to try one last push before I go to bed. Sleep arranges these things. It’s just gone midnight and apart from the worry that the returning heat might keep me awake all night, I’m hoping that one more half hour blitz will burn in enough for me to wake up early and ninja the last of it. We film in the afternoon tomorrow.

I learnt something today which I’ll share in case it stops you getting hot potato all over your hand. You know the way we sometimes do things without knowing why? I used to make a hole in the side of a jacket potato with a fork before putting it in the oven. I stopped as I put it down to an inherited superstition. This evening the thing exploded at my touch. Not completely but enough to have me running but the cold water. You couldn’t write that either. Exploding potato as a plot device? They wouldn’t buy it. The truth is weird. We prefer fiction because there’s justice and logic in fiction, mostly. People talk in complete sentences. Potatoes don’t explode.

I still ate it. With some fish. Yum.

Now I’m going to learn this hard stuff again and then roll around mumbling for hours.

At least I took a brief break for the sunset in Battersea Park.

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Head full

This morning I drove across London and sat next to somebody in order to rehearse some filming. I’m not sure if that makes me a murderer or not. We’ll do it again on Saturday. We are both very careful about contact and about our bubbles. We didn’t make positive human contact with each other the whole time we worked. We made sure we were remote and uninvolved. It’s horrible. Utterly horrible. But we have to.

We are meant to be filming some excerpts from a book. It’s an interesting book – an observation of conversations overheard by a hitchhiker. Many thoughts within it push towards how we think we’re tolerant and we aren’t. But lovely humanist thoughts made by somebody who took the time to stop for somebody who needed to get somewhere, damaged by bad inherited thinking. I’m happy to embody it. I did a similar thing for Index on Censorship once, and ended up having to read excerpts from a manual about how to effectively torture women prisoners. Dimbleby was compere. Then it was me and an actress friend, telling the guests where best to attach the electrodes to female prisoners based on the handbook.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this..” – that wasn’t really an option. “This award and this publication is about keeping an eye on Censorship. Your personal comfort is secondary.” Big lesson. Huge lesson.

I was paid to publicly read parts of a torturer’s manual. Sure I hated it. It was nominated twice. They found another section for me to read. It was horrible to read. But I still kind of think I should’ve read the original ‘censored’ one even if it made me feel slightly sick. The whole purpose of the Index on Censorship is to prevent moral standpoints from influencing what can and cannot be published – something that is getting more and more relevant the deeper we go into our bubbles.

I guess this stuff needs to be publishable or otherwise we live in a fettered world. It’s better to have free speech. Even if the “left” desire for free speech is frequently coopted by the “right” : ‘well you want us to be able to say anything, so your mum and her whole family and race are evil and should be exterminated painfully and I’m free to say that or you’re a hypocrite with going on about free speech, get yourself out of that Ha!’

I’m sad about the guy I’m playing. He’s not the sharpest tool. He thinks he’s switched on but he’s kind of missed the point. But I’m happy to embody him, partly because his accent isn’t mine so it can never be spun as a genuine Al vox pop, and partly because it’s just fascinating to take these unheightened voices that you get in verbatim pieces and to put them out and remind us all.

Hum.

Right now I’m playing backgammon with a friend. Nice to go back to analogue. I’ll likely stay over tonight, as I have a toothbrush here. But yes… My head is full of stuff. Not sure what order. Just … stuff.

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Muggy grey St Swithin’s Day

Today has been something of a write off. There were lots of things I was supposed to be doing and I either rescheduled them or just plain didn’t do them at all. I think it’s partly to do with the state of the world and partly to do with the state of me. It’s just so hard to stay positive at the moment. I didn’t manage. I’m going to run myself a hot bath and then just call it a day. Sometimes you just have to flush one away.

It’s St Swithin’s day. Folklore has it that the old Bishop of Winchester asked to be buried outside where the rain could wet his grave. He was moved inside after a bit and there was a terrible storm. Nowadays it’s popularly held that whatever the weather is like on his day – St Swithin’s Day – it’ll be like that for the next 40 days. There’s little doubt that this is a Christianisation of an older tale for that date. But likely there’s something in it, as there often is with old wives tales. So maybe 40 days of muggy mizzly pizzly greyish ick.

Not that there’s much actual science in folkloric stuff like that. It might turn out lovely and I’d be glad to be wrong. The weather tends to shift around midsummer anyway. But I like to get stuck into the stories.

Not only has the weather been grey and nasty in in this angry frightened world, but there’s even been all sorts of strange and unsettling news coming from the lives and behaviours of friends. Add to that Six the Musical’s drive in tour has been cancelled which is upsetting when it felt like a ray of hope for some sort of pick up in the industry. There are the usual videos of various world leaders being oafish or ignorant, the handcart is rolling ever closer to whatever madness actual Brexit brings. Loads of men are shouting at each other in Battersea Park over the river right now. Oh boy, It still feels pretty weird in muggy London.

One of the people I like to listen to for interesting astrological snippets said today from his point of view that we should say to ourselves this week: “It is extremely important that I not become rigidly fixed, as a broader truth may reveal itself that my hard heart and closed mind misses.” He’s taking about how there’s more to come in terms of all this civil unrest, and I agree with him about the importance of wide angle thinking and balance. There’s a tendency to dig in and entrench augmented by the strange echo chambers that we can so easily find ourselves fed into by our smart devices. Let’s be kinder than we have to be.

I’ve had my bath now. The men are still shouting at each other in the park. I’m going to ring a friend who has had some weird news and listen for a while, but then I’m pretty happy to cross today off the board, go see if my dreams are more bearable, and bounce back on the morrow.

Riding the changes.

“Fine, I’m just going to masturbate in front of you.” That’s what I get this evening when I say it’s time to write my blog. Thankfully it’s a knowing joke. I now find myself lying on the sofa opposite a very active Tristan who is learning in “Forgotten Weapons” about double stack magazine housings for the MP40 (not adopted). Whatever the fuck that means. (Well, the Wehrmacht decided not to pick them up)? (I think my friend is a geek not a fascist…)

Most of the time these days I get away with making words in all sorts of different circumstances. Being able to eloquently write into my phone via swype integration to Google keyboard – that is pryceless. I write swiftly and eloquently into my phone, and I do it by tracing curves. It’s the perfect balance for somebody like me who loves curls and corners and strangeness but also needs to feel like it all needs to make some sort of sense. Aisleen once saw me writing like this and reacted with surprised interest. It is, to my mind, a revolution in writing. Since Apple destroyed iPad typing with multitouch, this iteration of Google keyboard has been far and away the swiftest and most intuitive writing medium for someone like me who thinks in curves.

There’s some sort of contract I don’t fully understand that I try to maintain with this blog. My main concern is consistency over time. I try not to name people because I’ve learnt. I once agreed to “promote” somebody in exchange for cheaper photographs and I very quickly realised I should’ve held back on that offer because their expectation was far from my truth. Nothing would have been good enough but for “I had my photo taken by the best photographer that has ever existed, please don’t kill me.”

This blog is just a bunch of words thrown together, but the words are mine.

And I enjoy throwing different words together. And at least I can try to pretend to myself I’m honest so long as the market doesn’t get involved. But the longer I go the more I feel I should start to make monetary sense of this daily idiocy, or of the instinct that promotes it. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

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I let Tristan out onto a main road today. It was terrifying. He’s a contentious bastard at the best of times – that’s his special skill. But having to let him be the one behind the wheel? It required a certain level of terrified surrender. I’m glad we managed a whole two hours without dying or crashing. Now I’m round him and Tanya’s and I’m winding out. Tomorrow I’m doing a read-through that involves a reasonably good publisher, which should make me care about my material, but… Well but A: I am not writing for gain. B: If gain becomes an issue I’m unlikely to get giddy about it. Which obviates C: Profit. Sorry, C. Sorry, underpant gnomes. Keep gathering underpants. It’ll make sense one day.

The one thing I can be glad of is my recent journey out of London, down to the coast. I can think into the sea. There’s clarity in the water, if I look that way.

Home studio in a wardrobe

The Apogee microphone has one leg that has been reattached with a bit of bent safety clip. There’s a hairband attaching the top of the pop filter to the mic itself. Right now it sits squat in a wardrobe, on top of a stack of suitcases. Towels hang on the wardrobe door. The mic is nestled into the soundproofing. I perch on a little stepladder, legs wide and strangely angled to allow direct diaphragm draw and a good straight back. I can breathe well in that position, make the words the way I need to, and my iPad goes to sleep before my legs go numb, so it’s a perfectly workable home studio environment so long as nobody asks to come in with a camera and record me working for a “look at the sexy artist working” type scam show. In that case my studio would look like no money has been spent, which I’m fine with because it hasn’t apart from the initial purchase in New York at the end of a lucrative job. I guess if I was to get on one of those scam shows they’d slyly buy me a sexy studio first. Then I could be that guy who clearly doesn’t know how to work the shiny kit he pretends he always uses.

This is my travel set up. It’s a bit dark. It’s in a wardrobe. I know it well.

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It fits in one of the two suitcases that form the platform and it comes with me wherever I go. I haven’t yet worked out how to suspend the mic from the ceiling so I can work standing up, but I position my body for the height the two cases give and it works. You can overlook a lot if the stuff you make is more important to you than the stuff you make it with.

The above is a very important distinction, and one where people often fall down. “I can’t do X because I haven’t got Y expensive piece of kit.” Don’t do that. It’s so tempting. It’s how they get you. It’s also how we stop ourselves. There’d be much more stuff made if the market wasn’t focused on telling us what to make it with.

At the start in particular you don’t have to shoot everything on an Arri Alexa etc. Make something on what you’ve got, especially if otherwise you won’t make anything. And I’m speaking very much to myself here as well as anybody else who is blocking themselves with I-haven’t-got-the-right-equipmentitis. There’s lots of filming I might have done that I haven’t done. Lots of making that you might do that you haven’t done. Don’t let ideas about having the right stuff get in the way. I say that to both of us.

I have sent plenty of content out with this sound set up. Various podcasts and events and games have been happy with it. It was still expensive starting from nothing, but before I invested in it I was using my phone and it was fine. The mic was the first investment at about £250. Straight in, straight out. The proofing was maybe £40. £300 is still a whack but your phone is likely to be adequate. 

I’m constantly lending out my kit when I’m not using it. But this kit is fine and it will hold for my needs until I’m making enough money to upgrade to something sexier and to the eventual dream of an actual dedicated permanent booth in my own damn home. Money begets money begets money. The endless cycle. If I pay for an imdb it might lead to more roles that will cover the cost of my imdb. Etc.

I laid down a track this morning about being a romantic tarot reading criminal in North London. It’s a charming piece that was written for theatre, and this morning I sight read it as I went, for a guide track, so that the composer can start working on it. I’ll do a cleaner and sharper one for the final piece later on.

I also revisited the gypsy folk type madness that I was asked to attempt to contribute to. I sent a track where it was just my bits in isolation. My bits are mostly noises and patches of shouting which might make some sort of sense alongside the extremely competent sound crafted by my friend and her instrumental prowess and excellent vocal cleverness. On their own without the headphone music, my bits sound like the mumblings of an insane and ancient mystic after a bit too much dried fly agaric. Or maybe like the slack jawed utterances of a music fan who has had one too many joints and is cluelessly singing along to an album he’s just downloaded.

My friend will likely find a use for it. Meanwhile I’ll keep looking for ways to monetise this portable studio until I can make it into a better portable studio. Living the dream.

It’s like one of those computer games where you work hard and spend time just to get stuff that makes you better at playing the game next time you play so you can get more stuff that makes you more efficient at getting more stuff etc. That’s the home studio kit progression game. The good thing about it is, unlike playing computer games, if you do it exclusively and get really good you don’t starve to death in your own bedroom surrounded by crisp packets. You make money. Voicing computer games. That’s where it’s at.

I have a more static studio, for PC. It’s on loan in Guildford at the moment and has been used towards voicing a computer game that’s gathering momentum on Steam ahead of a release. I prefer the Apple software so I don’t really miss it, plus my iPad has no noisy fan so it’s a much easier soundproofing process.

The PC mic is a bit sexier than the iPad mic and was intended for when I’m home, but even in lockdown it seems I’m not at home. The portable studio is fine – (AND YOU ARE FINE WITH AN ANDROID PHONE, AN IPHONE, WHATEVER!).

I frequently sink my earnings into stuff that might help raise my earnings. At least the PC kit investment has been earning a crust – it has been helping build a beautiful thing that just wouldn’t exist at all without my friend Dan. He uses better kit than me. He’s got my best mic and I literally don’t miss it all and wouldn’t be using it in this instance anyway so I’m glad he has it.

If you’re a gamer, keep an eye out for “The Captain is Dead!” Partly helped out by my best kit. Looking very sexy. Possibly involving some sounds by yours truly if the initial release goes as well as it should. Roger and out.

Snake chauffeur

Hex and I are back in Hampstead. After his hard work as Gonzalo in The Tempest last night it was only right to give him a tasty mouse as reward and they are in the freezer up here. I’m glad he still had an appetite after the state of him when I took him into my care just before lockdown. He almost took my hand off tonight. When I met him he basically had an eating disorder. So I don’t want to cause him unnecessary stress. But the internet is not working in Hampstead and the green screen and lights are all in Chelsea so he needed to be driven to the studio for his star turn. Just as well I have a car now. That would’ve been £50 in ubers up and down.

I chauffered him to Chelsea in the car yesterday morning, he did The Tempest twice with my humble assistance, using my ape mouth to speak words whilst everybody marveled at his lithe ancient serpentine beauty.

Once the acting work was completed he very eloquently protested about being back in his travel box for a night by ensuring that every inch of it apart from his little haven under his rock was soaked with water from the bowl.

Then his driver took him back here late morning while he slept. The driver was surprised that he didn’t object to the cricket playing loudly on the car radio.

In the early afternoon he was reintroduced to his happy home in Hampstead and by evening he was enthusiastically crushing a dead helicoptermouse that he pulled out of the air almost immediately. I’m thrilled.

I’m also glad that nobody pulled the car over. I’m paranoid now. Every time I see a squad car I worry. Ok, so all the boxes are ticked as far as I’m aware, but: “What’s that?” “It’s a python, officer.” That’s not a conversation I relish.

Jack came to Hampstead for the afternoon and we had one of those days where we dream into each other. Hex seemed to like Jack.

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We went onto the Heath and then stayed on Mel’s balcony. Music and company on these clement summer evenings and what a blessing to be able to live in both of the bits of town I’m currently able to move between. I’m a lucky son of a bitch.

It was only after we had consumed a spot too much beer that I remembered I’d agreed to send a track of some Gypsy Punk singy shouting fun to Hastings. We crowded beerily into my little improvised booth and made some noises that felt a bit like singing. I haven’t listened back yet as my listening muscle dies before my generating muscle after booze (as I guess it does with everybody).

We were aiming for fun over accuracy. I’ll listen back in the cold light of day tomorrow and either marvel at the fact we hit the timing, or re-record it on my own sober. Drunk boys might help the style if the timing works though…

 

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.

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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.