It’s world theatre day. Everything is something day. But today (or yesterday if you’re reading this) is/was World Theatre Day.
Fuck I love theatre people. I love the community of the lost. Thousands of highly intelligent people who frequently have to jettison themselves into other professions where the money is better and where they have the advantage of being intelligent, hard working and unruffled. The shit we have to put up with in theatre. The hours. The pay. Ach. I went to the National this evening, to the Dorfman to watch Romeo and Julie, out of Sherman CYMRU with Rosie Sheehy and Callum Scott-Howells. What a piece of theatre! Not the Shakespeare, as I feared. A new play and so tightly thought through, about ambition and family and love and responsibility and pride and change and respect. It’s a really deep smart contemplation of some edges of humanity that intersected strangely with my journey through this madness of life. It’s so clear and yet so layered. Every moment was charged, no scene went for nothing. Tight scripted theatre. The medium at its best. I genuinely think there’ll be something for everyone in it.
It’s harder to achieve that as the budgets drain down. It CAN still be done. I think back over my twenty years in theatre – there for the love and the community. I am proud of so much of the work so many of us did with so little money. I am happy to have made many of the things we made. The community of it. The joy of it. Yes there were people and venues that manipulated us and our goodwill. I spent a good decade trying to make sense of things via pub theatres, mistakenly thinking that people would come and see me work. “exposure” HA. Sometimes though… A barely seen job in a stately home in Norfolk – in the hunting lodge of David Rocksavage the Marquis of Cholmondely – Victor in Private Lives and so long ago my whole cell structure has changed… That show led to friendships and connections that still vibrate now.
We are webs of connection. Actors have to cross a lot of webs. I have snags now in my web. People who, mostly because of their own shit, seek to dislike me. None of us can be all things to all people. Mostly my web is pretty pleasant, although it is frightening how many people have fallen away in the last few years and put their skills into more lucrative pathways. I get why. In my experience, actors are very much the opposite of idiots, but we frequently get treated as such.
I’m still here, with gaps in my web that will NEVER be filled. The dead, of course. And some who quit and I never knew why. For all actors there are other actors who just … do the thing we admire. I’ve seen too many of them quit. I’m always sad to see them go but I get it. One of them put a deposit down for a law conversion and then hit the big time. But mostly they drop like flies. It’s hard. You have to find and work a flexible day job for decades to even stand a chance of meeting rent. I thought I’d found one with the ribs and then BOOM. But… well my mother was the last of my parents to go and she went just before my early career launch collapsed. Some might say the two things were connected. I was just living, but I got this flat to do the living in however I chose. And I literally chose to do a decade and more of badly paid theatre. Big up to all the people I met in that period. I stand by that decision because fuck me it was fun and I made good friends. But also, what the fuck? We all thought that would help our careers. hahahahahahahaa
Now, again, I’m in the business of badly paid theatre. I’m never happy with what I’m doing until it’s over, sure. But we can try, and I love everyone on the team. Sammy and I are the only ones suffering. We are trying. And again it’s the old familiar push and pull between the “tell me what to do” and the “let it fall to chance”. There are many words that have been written down. There are also shapes and ideas in rooms. It will be what it will be. Thankfully the woman I’m collaborating with is a genius with the patience of a saint. Likely there’ll never be a full accord between the improv and the formal. We are trying to make it happen.
Happy world “theatre” day. Let’s make something live, together. It’s rare these days that we can say “hi” with strangers in a live experience without everyone demonstrably sanitising every two minutes. I hope this turns out to be a nice thing…