Michael Beint

Tristan had an audition this morning and showed up near mine afterwards. Sometimes it can be very helpful to decompress after an audition. He would be well cast in this one – it’s one of the classics. They aren’t on so much these days so it’s always a delicious opportunity to be in something wonderful, old and familiar. Yes we must look forward. But there is also room to look back.

He and I were on a very different energetic ticket as he arrived. Just past noon and really I was still in email land. The sunlight had previously pulled me into Battersea Park for a morning stroll and I was just thinking about how best to make use of my time when he rang to say he was near. We went to Grumbles in Pimlico for the lunch menu. Moules frites and tomato soup. Very seventies. The chips were mostly fat. I managed about four. We have eaten there before though in similar circumstances, post audition. Tristan found it through his grandfather. “He’s still going, you know. Outlasted the lot of them. No idea how.”

I love Tristan’s grandfather. Michael Beint. He’s 98. He’s an actor, although he has taken himself off active roster, feeling too old to work. But he had a wonderful career for many years.

When I last went to Swindon he showed me his shed where he was making beautiful paintings. Then we sat and geeked out about Shakespeare – something he likes to initiate with me. He knows I’ve worked with the text a great deal. He likes to talk about poetry and esoteric things and doesn’t walk in circles where that’s possible these days. He reads quietly but voraciously – something else we have in common perhaps. One christmas many years ago I drove to Wales after the Christmas Eve Carol show, and spent the next day with the family. Digs in York would’ve been awkward and someone was renting my bedroom. There’s a great photo of the two of us sparked out on the sofa after Christmas food. I can’t find it, but will pop it here if I can remember.

I think of him as a friend, although he lives in Swindon and mostly gets my love sent to him second hand. In terms of the history of this profession, in terms of continuity, I am proud to know him. There’s a joy in knowing you’re part of an ongoing line of thoughtful hopeful unusual people working over decades in this hopeful and arbitrary profession. He’s 98 and he’s still bright eyed.

I was delightfully introduced to John Mills on my first film set. Wheelchaired around but still shining with mischief. One shot and he nailed it. He had been on over 100 sets by then. I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael did as many, just having one line here and one line there. Something to aspire to. A jobber, part of the early National Theatre, showing up in major movies long before I was born, doing the work. My wonderful agent remembers him. She too has been around forever. I’m sure that’s wrapped up in why I love her and feel she’s the right voice for me in the industry. I aspire to be going for as long as I can.

There’s a camaraderie that I’m finding just with those of us from my age group who are left in the industry now. The Factory. Various close friends that share things with me. Even the voices on my social media, all coming together to build a feeling of community and shared joys and hardships.

Me and my friends are less than halfway to Michael’s age though. I’m impressed with the pals I’ve got who are still in the room. Michael? He’s still going – almost played Prospero at Sprite ten years ago, but decided it would be too much. Still, he’s getting up in the morning and reading and thinking about poetry and language and meaning expressed through words. If I was a Tarantino I’d find a way to get him into my movie for the sheer weight of life he brings. A wonderful man. I should get myself to Swindon before he gets his hundred.

Tristan and I went back to my flat and threw ideas around. I burnt some oud I bought in Saudi in ritual honour of the work I did out there and the possibility of more work like that, but also to remember that I’m here in this odd life to ply my craft, not react to the needs of everybody on an event. Like Michael… He was an “actor” all his working life. Different times of course. And I like to be occupied which has sent me all over the place doing responsive things. But he’s strong in my mind tonight, and his approach to the poetry of language. 98! Remarkable. Here’s to the next twenty years!!

Around the conversation, Tristan and I managed to fit in some games of Backgammon on dad’s amazing board. It’s the only photo I took, when I suddenly remembered I’d need one for the daily musing…

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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