The Gatsby party was lovely. Good people in theatre connecting with old friends and celebrating a history of shared pain and passion and fun and lack of funds. There’s much that’s on a shoestring in the immersive world. In the final analysis, nobody goes to work in theatre to get rich. Gatsby worked through so many versions, and it feels like it’s a show that grew up with the makers. Experiencing it sober was an eye opener, and I still stayed up way too late. “You left at just the right time,” I was told the next morning. Still didn’t get to bed until about half four. They would have been going until dawn.
Today I was Sundaying. A little voice in my head was going *something you’re supposed to do* but there was nothing in my diary and I couldn’t bring it up on the brainstem rolodex. So it was electric blanket and book time. I didn’t really intend to move more than the trip to the kitchen to reheat my macaroni cheese. And it was all going so well until about five past five in the evening when I got the text from Charlie. “All good for 7pm?” He knows me, this man. I’m glad of it. My brain is so retentive in some ways, almost photographic in others, but God I can be forgetful about casual engagements. I’m sure there are people who are angry with me for standing them up and I’ve got no idea I did it. 7pm. Tits. He lives in N5 and the tubes are fucked. That’s an hour in Bergman.
Charlie has written a play by mistake. He’s got two kids, he went on holiday, he was researching a big story that caught his interest about a lost painting and he got distracted by a little tale of five men going in search of a woman. It’s a very good piece of writing, witty and well researched. I sat in a room with people who will be going up for the same parts as me in the wider world and we read this gorgeous play to hear it out loud so Charlie could get it out of his system and get back to the thing he wanted to be writing. This is a frequent occurrence. We need to hear our stuff. We ask our friends. I was happy to be asked.
It’s very very good. He’s a very good writer. But my head is shifting. I went to Gatsby with a new friend who is a lot younger than me and queer. I saw the Gatsby story through their eyes and we were talking after about the stories people tell and about representation – about their place in the industry. Gatsby has always been beautifully and delicately cast with an eye to representation but there’s only so much you can do with such a straight story. Still there are flags flying and there’s great kindness seeded throughout that piece. The discussions have been had. Spin the bottle felt dated though and uncomfortable. Although it’s meant to.
I made it into clothes and across town just in time. I was the last. I’m rarely if ever late. It doesn’t do to be late as an actor.
The only woman in the room this evening was reading the stage directions. It was something of a sausage fest. I was happy to be one of the sausages, but there’s that old internal conflict rearing its head again. There are some simple changes I will feed back to the writer that could make it a little easier to produce in the world we live in now, and a bit less sausagey. It doesn’t really answer any of the “Why this play now?” questions, but some pub theatres I can think of have sold out for decades without even considering that question. I like a bit of esoteric academic head driven wordplay. I like a bit of stylised witty banter. You can take the boy out of the all boys public school but …
My frame is wider now. So much wider than it was then. It still doesn’t take everything in by any means. I have huge blind spots that I couldn’t tell you about because they’re blind spots. But I’ve been trying to expand my range of human understanding almost as a matter of professional pride. I don’t know what I’d write if I was as clever as Charlie. But it wouldn’t be that.
Afterwards we all had spaghetti. Five actors who are pretty much the same casting as each other. People were whittling out their Ned Sherrin style carefully honed Theatrical Anecdotes. Even Larry came up in some. Much on Maggie Smith. A deal of appreciation for Rickman and his uncompromising diaries that have just been published. I wonder what this blog would have been like over the years if I hadn’t been aware that people might read it. Sure I try to be open, but there are people who I can’t stand and behaviours I’ve felt I can’t report back publicly. Rickman just wrote it all and then waited until after he died. Good on him.