Chase Lorck. An unlikely name for a hero. But today, Chase – today is your day.

Those of you who know me well will recognise the  burning eyed zealous fervour with which I have scoured the country for that perfect holy grail of cucumbers over the years. Many of you have turned away from me in shame as I have made conversation after conversation all about Cucumis Sativus. Oh lord that gourd! In auditions, time after time when it gets to “Any questions?” I let myself down. “Yes … um … do you think my character might actually be a cucumber?” And then those occasions, thankfully getting rarer as I grow older, when I have innocently spoken half of that old cliche “Is that a cucumber in your pocket?” not even considering the possibility that they might be pleased to see me until IT’S TOO LATE, it’s all out in the open, sometimes literally, and once again my credibility is tarnished by my adoration for that delightful cucumiform vine fruit thing.

My last girlfriend – all those years ago. God. I remember it like it was yesterday. There she stood at the base of 30 St Mary Axe: “It’s either me or the cucumbers!” she said. I had taken her there for her birthday. There in the shadow of that lovely building I gave her a perfect bunch of parthenocarpic Persian Burpless that I’d imported from Canada. “They’re ideal for Raitha,” I tried to tell her. “Or we could just eat them now. There’s another one in my pocket.” She slapped me and left, taking the Persian Burpless with her. I never saw her again – or those cucumbers which to be honest weren’t cheap – I had got them in Borough Market off this overenthusiastic bearded man with a handlebar moustache who charged me about three times the value because – as he put it – “These are the hep-cucumbers at the moment.”  I hope she made them into raitha and enjoyed them on her own in front of Netflix. Preferably crying. I would’ve made great raitha with her. She would never have been stuck for sandwiches at Henley. The pain of recollection! The way I used to make her Instagram selfies with face-mask on just so much more on trend, using expertly hand sliced Dosakai. But sometimes we have to let these things go.

It was a long time ago. I remember that night, walking all the way home, I took out the Schälgurken that I had had in my pocket and desolately munched it. They’re better fried. But I was sad.

Today I went to The Lambeth Country Show. It’s in Herne Hill. There are sheep and birds of prey. The sheep get rosettes for being good at sheeping. There are many people milling around trying to establish where to get cider in the sunshine. None of the people get rosettes even though they herd together and join long queues making monosyllabic howling sounds. They probably ought to. I was there with Flavia and Ivo, and Eve. This information probably means nothing to most you. I mention it for documentation purposes only. They are not cucumbrists.

At one side of the fair is the vegetable tent. Oh yes, the vegetable tent. This is where the vegetables lie. I went there with a lump in my throat, a desperate surge of adrenaline. Maybe … Dare I hope … Maybe there would be cucumbers!

First I had to put up with butchery. God save me. God save us all. The carved novelty vegetables. “The artist formerly known as Quince.” “The Peaple of Lambeth.” IS THIS COMPETITION JUDGED ENTIRELY ON THE STRENGTH OF THE PUNS? More to the point, where are the cucumbers in all of this??

Just as I was losing my cool – and I pride myself on my cool – I’m very cool. As cool as a very cool thing that is cool. From the hands of Chase Lorck, to your eyes. The perfect cucumber. Right there. In my grasp.


Marvel at this rosette winner. It is not too cucumbersome. It has a darling little stem, or “cue”. It bends gently towards the viewer, reminding us that this is a vine from which things can be plucked. The body is not too shadowed, or “umber.” The shadows are balanced by the lines, suggestive of the determined continuation of human life. We emerge from shadow, we run parallel to one another, some for different lengths. Sometimes we are interrupted or shine brightly, but then we all go back to shadow. Apart from some of us, who go round the bottom end and back the other way but we don’t talk about them. Here she is. The cue and the umber blending where we can “c” it.

Chase Lorck has grown the cucumber of thunder. The gourd of the Gods. Oh cucumber. How I love thee. You are the one I have been waiting for.

There were loads of vegetable police officers at the festival. More than I’ve ever noticed at a gathering in London. They have their own designated area. This is in central London, and it’s a big gathering of people. We have to get used to this reality, it seems, that whenever many of us are milling around there will be loads of vegetable law enforcement officers banging around with guns watching the edges. And the vedges.

Reader, I stole it. I stole that cucumber, and I ran. Like a gazelle. Down Herne Hill I sprinted, clutching my gourdgeous trophy. Sadly with my rib as fucked as it is all that sprinting took me less than 5 foot in ten minutes before twelve vegetable police officers jumped on me and set about  me with their asparagus. Not before I had stuffed Chase’s cucumber into my mouth. Crammed it all in with its glorious perfection and crunched and slathered and drooled. Om nom nom nom nom.

Now I’m in holding for crimes against vegetables. But it was worth it. CUCUMBRIVALIS, my fellow cucumberists. Together we will rise!

Scene and Heard

Mister Gravel was a Travel Cup. He really didn’t want to spill the drink, but could carry all kinds of drinks for his owner. “Coffee, cappuccino, tea, hot chocolate, milk, Seven Up, Sprite, Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Fanta, Dr Pepper, Pepsi Free and water…..and juice.” (As you can imagine it’s a bitch to learn.)

Mister Gravel was unlucky in love. (Again I hadn’t even told 8 year old Aliyah I was single. She just smelt it.) One fine day, whilst reading “How to get a girlfriend” in the park he met Sally, the Sardine. She needed someone to help her get out of her tin. Together they fell in love despite the odd advice in the book. They danced into the sunset.

That was my first role for Scene and Heard. Based in Camden, it’s a charity that helps empower kids from one of the poorest estates in London. They work with the kids from Somers Town Estate, and help them understand that they can make an impact. I just went to see an example of their work, and it was – as always – revealing and beautiful.

Starting as early as 8, the kids can go to a club near their estate and get involved. Now, after 18 years, it’s a known quantity in the area. After a while some of them get involved in “Playmaking 1”.

I only know their journey from one angle, that of the actor, coming in on their journey and helping as we can. The programme is supported by so many volunteers: dramaturgs, composers, prop makers, costume designers, stage managers, directors etc etc. Everyone is giving their time for free for these kids. It’s about making them understand concretely that they can impact the world around them. Among other things.

Here’s how it works for an actor volunteer:

5pm on a weekday. You’ve likely been working doing something you hate. You’re struggling with the old self loathing about lack of consistent income, or you’re minted and struggling with pride and integrity and all that. You sit for an hour and talk to a child who is starting from a much tougher place than you can contemplate with all of your middle class guilty concerns. You even have time to feel bad about having the headspace to be guilty when put into perspective. Then you actually start to listen to the kid. The kid is smart and they’re listening to you. They ask really incisive questions about what matters. You find yourself reflexively being baldly honest and detailed. You tell them things you never even told your pillow. You let go of your crap.

The kid then writes a script with a dramaturg. They have to make it a scene between two things, rather than two people. It’s fair game, as long as they don’t write for Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. A necessary rule. No people.

Our job as actors is to honour their script exactly as written. The grammar we speak may be strange, and frequently it’s broken, but we have to make it our choice to express our thoughts that way. They always cut to the quick, the thoughts. These kids often have a tighter insight into how to solve interpersonal problems than we do, even if the characters are A Missile, Geography, A Pickle, Spain, Regret, A Blush, A Shoe, A Seagull. The plays they’ve written are always human.

At the end of each of the ten pieces, the actors bow once. Then the child playwright comes down from their throne (they get to sit in a throne when their piece is playing). They bow a lot more than the actors. Everything is predicated to making sure that they understand that this is their creation. It is their words and thoughts that have entertained this full house of strangers. They get some agency out of it.

It’s a lovely charity and I’m thrilled to be involved. So far I’ve only played to my strength by acting. But there’s lots of room for all skillsets. Before long I’ll try and dramaturg. I haven’t before because of my infinitely changing availability. I could never build props, they’d fall apart, but if I’m free then there’s always envelope stuffing to be done. The shows are always free for audiences, but always sold out. You get to see the results of a highly qualified and focused team of professionals supporting the work of a child playwright, and playing to their strengths. I have witnessed some of the funniest and most touching bits of theatre that I’ve ever witnessed through this charity.

Here’s the photo they posted after my last outing, courtesy of Ahsan.


I was a mole that helped a broken missile become a robot, channeling my ability to fix people. Unfortunately I had overlooked that the robot wanted to kill all things, so once it was fixed I was the first to go. My last words were “If you kill me, just leave everyone else alone. If you find my family … leave them alone. Goodbye.”

This evening I saw my friend Dissy as a sausage dog. I saw my friend Jo as The Movie “Corpse Bride”. And I watched numerous less close friends anarchically examine the human condition via naive strength and forced invention. It’s a beautiful charity. Worth getting involved.


Tonight’s shoot was in Chatham at the Historic Dockyard. It’s amazing, although I barely had time to explore. We were alongside the Ocelot, which is a 1962 submarine, decommissioned 5 years ago and now in dry dock as a museum piece. A sleek oily black hellhole that must have seen things in the cold war. How could anyone bear to work in one of these?


One of my dad’s best friends was a submariner. My grandad was a naval man too, but he was on destroyers. I’m sure both John and Oz would have been delighted to explore my workplace this evening. So much naval history.

Next to the Ocelot lies the Victory Dock. This is where Nelson’s flagship was built and launched. The famous boat that carried him to his victorious death at Trafalgar. Shot by a sniper. His last words were “Kiss me, Hardy.” His first mate kissed him. “Now I am satisfied.” As I child I remember a teacher telling me with the fervour of a zealot and the eyes of a child that it was in fact “Kismet, Hardy.” Because men don’t kiss other men oh no yuk yuk and certainly not men who are erected on a column near Soho. This revision, although prevalent, is obviously bollocks – the word wasn’t even in common parlance to mean fate at that time, and still really isn’t now.

Nelson was a hugely significant imaginative figure. So many stories about him, and to die on your ship when victory was assured – golden. From what I understand of him he always led from the front, and he followed his own intuition to the extent of disobeying when he felt it was right to. At Copenhagen he was given the signal to disengage, but with better assessment of the odds he raised his telescope to his blind eye and said “I really do see no signal.” He went on to win a great victory.

Trafalgar, where he died, is right down on the south coast of Spain, near Gibraltar and Tangier. It takes a long time to get back up to London from there by boat. They had to preserve his body for the journey, and they did it by putting him in a barrel of “refined spirits” – so either brandy or rum. Problem is you’ve got a ship full of victorious men who’ve been through hell and lost friends. And there’s a limited amount of booze and it’s a long voyage. By the time the boat hit London the “refined spirit” had all been illicitly tapped. The pickled body was still good to lie in St Pauls. So Nelson was buried as pickled as a tequila worm, and his men drank his mortal wounds diluted. Perhaps it’s a naval version of what Trelawney tried when he ate Shelley’s heart. The phrase “Tapping the admiral” is still used to mean sucking the dregs, in naval circles. There’s a romance there, of sorts, drinking your fallen commanding officer. “Who hasn’t had a shot of Nelson? Anyone else want to make a case for why they deserve one?” The man was worthy of his fame. He stayed in the thick of it until the sniper got him.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about as I’ve finished this shoot. But my last day worked out even better than yesterday. Amazingly, almost impossibly, I’m done already. Once again I lucked out on schedule. It’s possible they know about my rib by now and jigged it in my favour. I don’t think so. But I was expecting to finish at 4.30am. I was bedding in for a long one when I arrived this evening. And somehow … Somehow I was on the 22.03 from Chatham with everything they needed in the can. I get to have a Saturday awake! Thank you random God of filming!


I just spent the evening in Barnehurst talking to a countess. She’d been robbed. As an officer in the US army it was important for me to put her mind at rest. “We will get to the bottom of this, ma’am,” I assured her, slowly, channeling my Clooney.


This is my second day on set with this crew and they’re wonderfully efficient in a haphazard way. I was supposed to wrap at 3am, and was contemplating a long trip home, with another all nighter to follow. It’s not even 11pm and I’m on a train to Victoria. Many people would’ve kept me until 3 anyway, “Just in case.” It’s happened loads. “We might need you in the back of shot.” I’m very used to being kept on until wraptime even though I know I’ll not be needed. It’s when I’m booked to. They’re getting their money’s worth. Nevertheless it’s delightful to work with people who spend the time while they shoot, and then are confident they have what they need, and human enough to know what it means to get off early. Particularly on a night shoot, to be wrapped while the trains are still running is great.

Although the downside is I don’t get a car, which is usually standard in both directions. This is low budget though. No such luxury. Although it’s always struck me as a little indulgent. It’s lovely when the doorbell rings at 4am and you know you can look at your lines in the back, just as it’s lovely to get taken home after a night shoot. But for normal start and end times it feels closer to indulgence. But at this level it’s a rare luxury. I’m essentially slumming it. I guess I have to keep slumming it until people catch on I’m here again. (Yes I’m being glib. Although there is some loose truth in it…)

I’ve been clinging onto the bottom of the net for years. Now I’m trying to clamber my way back up past the entangled bodies, linking arms with the survivors above and below me, the ones who have almost slipped through but are still clinging. Together we can stay in this net that we might otherwise have slipped through. And then we can be gutted and cooked and put in a pie. Like we’ve always wanted.

As with most filming it’s mired in secrecy. I haven’t signed an NDA yet but it’s likely that’s because the producer hasn’t gotten round to putting the printout in my hand. So I can’t be too specific about detail.

It was an odd situation today, in that an American woman was playing an aristocrat and speaking in a version of my native accent, while I was sitting opposite her equally murdering her native accent. I don’t think either of us flinched visibly, which is a feat in close up.

We sat opposite each other for about an hour all said. We played the same scene over and over again as the camera looked at our hands, our props, the backs of our heads, our shadows, our lips our eyes. They have plenty of time allocated per short scene. They can get all the angles. At the end of the hour, we changed back into our own clothes and went our separate ways home. We said goodbye. I don’t think I can remember her name, I’d be surprised if she remembered mine. But this long forgotten footage will outlive both of our corporeal bodies. It’ll sit in a dusty server somewhere, or in a forgotten archive online, until the fire comes and this human experiment finally runs its bitter course.

Meanwhile my brother was speaking at the launch of the new main hall of The Natural History Museum this evening. He was hanging out with royalty. He had a chat with Kate, and David Attenborough. While I was in a semi derelict hospital pretending to be an American soldier.

This decision I made all those years ago, when he decided to be a scientist. It seemed so logical at the time. “I’m an actor. That’s what I am.” Now I can’t quite fathom it. I still agree with the little tyrant. I’m still so happy when I work that it makes the gaps in between worthwhile waiting. But I still struggle to make peace with the lack of consistency – financially as much as for my own happiness. Rib or no rib I want to be working. But you can’t always get what you want.

Won’t stop most of us trying though, will it? Onwards.



There’s lots of stuff on the horizon and much of it promises to be pretty full on. Tomorrow and Friday I’ll be up all night filming outside of London. Next week it looks probable I’ll be doing the Open Golf Tournament, unless a miracle happens and I land this advert. My body still hurts. Not just the rib. There’s lots of collateral. All I did was fall a short distance, dammit. But my body really wants to stop, so today I let it. Tomorrow I have to pretend to be healthy. So me and the cat have spent most of the day lounging around. We read some stuff, had some food, played some games. I lay in the bath for an hour. It has been the most relaxed day I’ve had for ages.  The most strenuous thing I’ve done is change my sheets. The hardest thing I’ve done is sneeze. God that hurt. I almost passed out. If I suffered from hay fever I’d probably have tried to drown myself by now, with this rib.

I’ve achieved so little I feel quite tired already. Being idle is exhausting. No wonder it can become addictive. I think I feel heavier

About the only thing of note I did today is go for lunch with an old friend. “Maybe you should only write your blog once a week, Al,” she said as I tucked into my Eggs Benedict. “That might be better for you and mean you have more to write about.”

“That would defeat the object.” I explained, drooling egg. “I’m doing it partly to make myself accountable to something. If I just lounge around all day then I still have to write a blog at the end of it.” Also, I’m honing my style. Once this year is done I probably WILL stop the daily updates, but only because I’ll be shifting my daily writing habit to something more concrete and perhaps marginally less self-obsessed.

“I liked it when you were traveling,” she goes on. Yes. So did I. Very much. I need to get back on that and soon. Moving around is a big part of what makes me happy. But unfortunately right now I’m not traveling. Right now I’m doing random stuff in London and occasionally wasting a day under the impression that I am in some way recuperating.

I did just get a call from a friend asking if I wanted to go to a festival in early August and perform a short one man show every day in a caravan. It would mean I have to write it for myself between now and early August, learn it and be ready to smash it. It’s tempting. I’d be in good company. And there are some good friends of mine who’ll be there doing it. It’s a potential frame for me to test some of the material that’s been roiling around in my head lately about death and gender. I get the sense I’ll probably end up doing it. But I’m going to sleep on it. I’ll probably sleep pretty well, but I’ll need to sleep strange as well to get myself ready for two consecutive night shoots.





I don’t need a car. It’s an unnecessary luxury. But I’ll likely be going to a couple of festivals this year. And I have a gigantic tent. And a table. And then I can carry loads of beer and water. And a stove. And a box with 100 glowsticks. And I can transport friends…

In days gone by I’d go to festivals and buy things like booze and water on site. I’d sleep in a tiny little tent like an oven and stagger out in the morning to buy a coffee. It was an expensive business. One sad day I paid five pounds for a glowstick.

Then I had a few consecutive years where I was paid well to go to lots of festivals. So I bought a load of kit to make it more comfortable. Flasks and kettles, tents and mattresses, stoves and tables. I found a site that sent me lots of glowsticks for cheap so I could give them to people who might otherwise waste five pounds. I had a few lovely strange bright summers in fields making things and laughing and dancing and giving away glowsticks. But recently my paid festival mojo appears to have slipped, partly because my availability is not as good as it used to be so I can’t commit to a festival in advance over the possibility of something longer elsewhere. So considering nobody is paying me to go to a festival yet this year I certainly don’t need a festival car. Which means that I shouldn’t have bought one today. But I’m calling it an act of manifestation. If you buy it, they will come. Now I have the car, bring me the job that needs the car.

I’ve bought a car every summer for years. I’ve got it down to an art. Go on Gumtree. Set filter to cars 150-300 pounds. Monitor for a few days. When something seems legit, go and buy it with cash as soon as it’s listed.

I bought this one for £300. I’m a little worried as the guy seemed shiftier than usual. Part of me is curious to see if it vanishes in the next few days as his professional team of carjackers follow the GPS, take it back and relist it in time for another mug like me to buy. But so far I’ve had about 6 and I’ve never been burnt. This one is a Suzuki. It runs beautifully. The air conditioning smells like catshit and the wipers scream as if they were babies being dragged across the windscreen, and leave as much shit behind as they go. But the MOT is good until March which is what matters. And there’s half a tank of fuel. I’ll have it sold by March for at least what I paid for it, unless it gets jacked back.

Driving a car with this rib though – that throws up a whole new range of problems, mostly around reversing and changing gear. Braking hurts too though. I can’t look behind myself. And I don’t want to reach down and change gear. But thankfully I managed to get the thing to a friend’s place out in West London where there’s unmonitored parking and it’s still fairly easy to get home. I had to rush to audition for a commercial which would pay enough for me to buy a fleet of stinky cars. I had to be sensible and grounded for the casting. Win.

So I have another fucked car. Apart from the stink, as long as it doesn’t get jacked back- “Do you have the spare key?” “No, there’s only one key, sir.” “hmmmm” –  then I’ll be fine. I don’t need a car. But that’s the nature of this society. I’ve got one. So I should use it. Anyone need anything driven?

Snappy rib


I hate hospitals. Miserable clinical death houses. Full of lovely people working too hard for too little. Rife with superbugs. Places of healing turning to places of dying. I took my mother into one talking. She came out silent on a gurney. MRSA, but it wasn’t on her death certificate. Ditto my half brother Jamie. Routine check up for advanced Parkinson’s, overnight stay, low immune system, MRSA. I drove one long day to Poitiers to talk to him as he lay on his back. That night he was gone.

It was only down to my friends that I went to one this morning. I had a suspicion it was a broken rib but obviously no way of being certain. Even though that turned out to be right, I appreciate the doctors and nurses I met greatly for getting it checked out. They wouldn’t allow me to downplay it, and even as I tried to persuade them I had no need for an expensive X-Ray for the taxpayers they wanted to be sure I hadn’t punctured a lung when I told them I was short of breath. They could easily have let me smile my way out of being taken seriously but they didn’t listen to my words, they listened to the body in front of them. I’m glad to have had the chance to put my mind at rest, as I would certainly not have gone for an X-ray if I’d had to pay. Thank you, NHS.

I arrived at 11am, I was in triage by 11.20. I was in front of a doctor at 11.50, X-Ray taken by the very cheerful Fatima by 12.10. At twenty to one the doctor showed me my own chest on a screen, which was an odd experience. One of the ribs looked like a fault on the X-Ray. Jagged and distinctly out of place. There seems to be such a distance between one half and the other that I can’t fathom how in six weeks it’ll stick itself together. But that’s apparently what will happen. I’ll just have to remember to twist the other way next time I fall out of a tree.

I was out of the hospital before 1pm. Less than two hours is pretty good in my opinion. And probably good for them to have that x-ray on my record as now they’ve got a point of comparison if something goes wrong down the line. And also what price peace of mind? Well, free in this case. Thanks to you.

Pain is often about context. If I sneeze and feel a rip, it somehow won’t be as painful knowing that the rip is basically just cartilage, not my spleen. Although having just written that, I got up from lying down to close my bedroom door and momentarily felt like Wesley on the machine in The Princess Bride. I tend to be quite vocal anyway, but I’m finding a whole range of delightfully eloquent inarticulate noises. It wouldn’t surprise me if I wake up tomorrow morning to find a horny walrus on my doorstep, drawn down the river by my plaintive honking.

But my imagination was painting all sorts of scenarios where my rib was skewering all my vital organs together in some hellish kebab. Now when I worry I just have picture the sterile but strangely comforting black and white image of a cleanly snapped rib surrounded by muscle. And the doctor apologising. “Apparently it’s really painful, but there’s nothing we can do. Meh. It’ll heal. All is well. Nothing is fucked. Lucky sod. Back to work.


Back in town

Now I’m back in London I can’t quite fathom that I woke up in Wales. We all had breakfast and played a game of cricket in the sun. “Actors Vs Tractors.” The local team won, of course, despite my corrupt umpiring. I couldn’t play so I had no choice but to umpire. I realised they’d get our innings total almost immediately if I didn’t call their sixes fours. Nobody seemed to mind.

I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I’ve done myself an actual injury of some sort. But I’ve had enough people on my back (figure of speech thank god) telling me to go and get it checked that I’ll get a book and head to a&e in the morning. Now the adrenaline is out of my system I’m left not wanting to move very much at all. Yawning and laughing are out. Sneezes are hell. Thankfully according to the internet, if it’s a bust rib it’s only bad for a few weeks. We shall see about that.

Three of my friends, perhaps mimicking shades of my own brand of home brewed ridiculous blind kamikaze optimism have made comments like “It’ll be valuable for you to have to take things slowly for a while.” Problem is I doubt I’ll manage. I expect I’ll find the right cocktail of high grade pain medication, and trade my pancreas for still being able to jump on tables. Although maybe… maybe I’ll be smarter than that. After all, I didn’t go skinnydipping last night. I made it to the river with everybody else but even in the state I was in a little voice cried “Your dressings are still on you ridiculous moron. And you won’t be able to pull yourself out of the water.” Stupid inner voice. But fair. I shouldn’t take risks right now as my poor long suffering guardian angel is limping around with two black eyes. And skinnydipping in an unfamiliar river drunk in the pitch blackness with a fucked back and dressed wounds technically constitutes a risk.

Macbeth feels good though. Early stages. We are learning and refining the game while introducing new players to how it plays live. The two shows we have had have deepened our shared knowledge. Now we’ll go back to training, and before long I hope I can say that there’ll be some shows in London, on the old pop up basis. Past projects have run in such a way that you can take whatever other acting work comes as all the parts are shared many ways, but if you are free you can put yourself in the mix. It’s one of the reasons there are so many of us. We are likely to go back to that way of playing. The advantage is that we can then pursue our careers outside of this fellowship and know that it’ll be there when we’re free. The concern is that you can never predict who you’ll play on any particular night so inviting family is a crapshoot.

Already at The Willow Globe there was a feeling of shared ownership of the work though and shared connected spontaneous invention. I was glad to be a part of these beginnings. And which other company would immediately think of it as an interesting advantage having a slightly injured actor in a major role?

I only took one photo today. Anne-May stayed in Wales. She’ll be staying with a local family, exploring, and then hitching a lift back to London. The kids who saw the show were thrilled they get to keep her. It’s like when you come to the zoo and your ask if you can take one of the animals home. Here they are, taking one of the actors home. It’s unlikely she’ll eat them alive. She’s a vegan.



Doldowlod and Macbeth

IMAG1081In 2006, Phil Bowen and Sue Best planted a theatre near Llandrindod Wells. They built it from a living willow tree. It’s deep country, and it’s glorious. Since 2007 The Factory have been coming out once a year to bring something new. It’s a way of breaking in new members to the nature of the work we do. We have a loyal audience who are completely behind the way we work. It’s become a part of my theatre calendar that I’m always sad to miss. Last year I was in Dubrovnik. This year, though, I was free. I came up and played Banquo.

I’m not sure why I’ve often been Banquo through the years. “Doomed nice guy” was my suggestion when I was asked. He’s got edges though. It was lovely to explore those with the guys.

Unfortunately it hurts. I think I might have cracked or broken a rib. I’m in quite a high level of pain most of the time. If I’m honest, it really really fucking hurts. Thankfully there’s plenty of painkillers. I’ve just munched a load of codeine so I’m feeling pretty good right now. And I’ll probably have a glass of champagne on it so comprehensibility is going to be waning from here on in.

The shows were exactly what I love from Factory shows. People working together in the moment to create ephemeral joy. I hid my pain in the first show, and would’ve done so in the second as well, until Maz suggested I just use it. And fair point, it’s real. So Banquo was an invalid in the second show, which informed the fact that he didn’t expect to be able to go very fast on his horse.

Listening to the scenes I wasn’t in, some of the thoughts and arguments in Macbeth are so clear, so concise, so human. It’s an interesting play about the nature of bad ambition. I’m looking forward to digging deeper into it. These shows in Wales are just teething the project. Now we have a better sense of what this piece is we can dig deeper.

Now I’m heading back to Doldowlod Hall, where the direct descendant of James Watt is letting us stay in his mansion, with the continuation of his ancestors industrial revolution lucre. It’s the most beautiful place to stay, and they’re the most beautiful people to stay with. Loads of room, a swimming pool, long walks, sunshine, plenty of oak trees to fall out of. I’m in a minivan full of slightly tipsy actors who have just done two shows. I should probably get stuck into the singsong, as it might be a while before the 27 of us get together and do another beautiful crazy clear spontaneous show. But we will some time.

For now though I’ll shut this down and get on with being sociable. Here’s the theatre. God it’s glorious. And the perfect time of year to be here. Had it only been clear skies tonight, the full moon would’ve been visible and rising directly above the stage just as Duncan was murdered.


Taking a tumble

“You see,” says our host. “There’s a reason why, when we get to a certain age we stop climbing trees.”

Dammit. It seems I might appear to be a “certain age”. I will fight it down to the very marrow of my bones. But I did just fall ten foot and land on my back. Apparently at this time of year you can’t trust oak trees. My host continues: “They push their limbs out at this time of year, you know. That’s what would have happened.” Yes. I know that now! I witnessed that in terrific technicolour slow motion. A big old perfectly good living limb came off in my hands. Oooooooo noooooooo nooooooww fallllllllliiiing bang.

When I was 8 until I was about 12 I did judo at school. Classes were almost all about practicing breakfalls endlessly. I used to get so bored “I want to do throws” but I got good at breakfalls “You can’t be thrown until you can break.” I’ve often since then given terrific thanks for that dogma. I’d send my kids to judo. I’ve instinctively rolled safely through terrible forward tumbles. And I always break when I go backwards. This is the best example yet. There’s no skin left on either of my forearms but I still have the use of my legs. And it was a long drop. I now know what it means to be winded. My breath still isn’t back fully yet and it’s been an hour or two. I’m shaky too. I’m probably a little bit shocked.

Thankfully I wasn’t alone up that tree. Will, Carter and Kaffe were with me. Some of the lads had just had a profound bonding chat in an oak tree in Wales. Then I almost crocked myself. My first thought on landing was “Do my legs still work?” As soon as that was established (phew) my second thought was “How do I downplay this?” Pride comes before a fall. It seems it comes afterwards as well.

Will and Carter hung out with me as I lay in a bubble bath and tried to remember how to breath through the pain. I’ve done something very odd to the muscles in my back. I’ll probably curse myself for weeks.

So yeah. Idiot aside, I’m in Wales. Tomorrow I’ll be playing Banquo. Thankfully Banquo has just come back from a war. He clearly took a hit. It’s very useful for me to have my ability to run around and jump up and down temporarily curtailed. Means I can be properly grounded and just let the text work through me. So long as I get my breath back by then.

It’s a hell of a thing, being winded. For a while after landing it was everything I could do to get air into my lungs. I’ve seen people on videos make that noise, but now I know what it means. Ow. Right now though I’m still feeling a bit weird. I had some Ibuprofen and then Caroline told me with the solicitous tone of a doctor “You absolutely mustn’t mix Ibuprofen with alcohol. It destroys your pancreas.” Fuck my life. At least the drugs numb most of the pain. Only the awareness that I’m perceived as being too old to climb trees. Dammit. It’s a lie! I’ll have to numb that with sleep.

I love this place. 25 actors in a stately home. They’re all in small groups right now speaking verse and I’m sitting surrounded by their muted geekiness occasionally interjecting my thoughts on their discussions and mostly getting this written so I can go upstairs and crash. Here’s a photo of the digs taken from the tree about a minute before I stacked it. As far as actors digs go, I’ve definitely been in worse. 🙂