Line learning in a concentrated room

Another day today learning lines whilst watching people take exams. It’s been fruitful, that particular dayjob, and it often crops up just at the time when I have words to cram into my head. I am so easily distracted and as a default I like to have something for my brain to be busy with. If I’m just at home I have to work hard to stay focused on the essential but solitary task of line learning. Arguably it’s the most crucial part of this wonderful pretence we indulge in. Yes I also work with improv. But when learning is required, it is a company thing, and we all come to work with the script in our head. With the Germans I have to really know their responses as well, and their thoughts, so I can pick my honest reactions to words and revelations that come elsewhere in the sentence across the language barrier. The one I’m learning at the moment will flex that muscle too. I’m playing a historic figure, who happens to look a bit like me, but who was mostly active in a country far from his native England. Even in the short scene I’m learning today there are large sections where whoever I persuade to read in with me will have to negotiate paragraphs in an unfamiliar language.

I love that feeling of coming onto set confident and happy your learn is bedded, and ready to listen and respond to the other people who have worked as hard. That’s when you find nuance. But like with many types of homework, people don’t like to admit how much work they’re doing when you’re not watching. I like three sleeps on lines, but often that’s not possible. I’ve worked on sets where the sides for the day get pushed under the door at 6am. We do what we can. But when you take into account auditions, a large portion of my life has been spent learning things, often just to say them once.

In my flat I often stumble on scribbled scenes. I like to write them down and learn it from the physical page. I’ll find notepads full of stuff I’ve forgotten in boxes in my flat. Things I can’t even remember a single thing about, but that I know I knew by heart once, briefly. Sometimes I’ll wonder if perhaps I wrote them feverishly one night waking from a dream. Sometimes perhaps I did. But mostly they are exchanges from short and long films, historic reenactment, telly, corporate gigs – you name it. I’ve covered a lot of ground over the years.

Every job is one that I would like to get, so it’s always hard to forget them once they’re sent. My agent fixed the tape I sent last night, bless them. Now I’m running around my flat before bed trying to find my granddad’s old naval uniform to put on tomorrow… I think I’ve vacuumed it though. Hmm.

A strange way to make a living. Many strands. But I’m glad of Abigail all those years ago bringing me onto the team invigilating these complicated exams about money at my local college. To be paid to be in a focused room? Gold dust. Particularly when, like today, I luck out into a room with extra-timers. Not many of them, and we have to be super-chilled.

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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