Thursday, 17 May 2012

Full Circle

The first proper tour I did was as an 11-year old, and I didn't really understand the mechanics of the company or the hierachy. I mean, I spent most of my time with my chaperone, who was a retired teacher from a girl’s private school so I wasn’t in the thick of it much but anyway, it bears reflection.
Most of my contact was with the stage management team – I hardly saw the other actors out of performance. No wonder - why on earth would want to spend their time with an annoying 11-year old? Anyway, I think I preferred the earthy, practical atmosphere of the green room and the SM’s. I now realise that the swarthy, magnetic, guitar-playing, earring-wearing CSM was almost certainly conducting an affair with the pretty, busty DSM whilst already seeing the Production Manager. You have to admire his organisational skills in keeping them apart in the heat of touring. And I had a massive crush on the ASM which I wasn’t that great at concealing, and which she must have managed with tact and sensitivity, because I don’t remember getting my heart broken.
The only actor I was close to was close to was Tim, who played the central character and also my father. Perhaps we had a natural affinity, but I suppose he made an extra effort because it was so important that we were close on stage, in particular in the sections when his character is on hunger strike and they bring his son to persuade him to eat. He used to make me cry every night in that scene and he often spent a few moments afterwards making sure all was OK. A lovely man and a quite brilliant actor.
And here I am 34 years later playing a Dad myself in powerful scenes with an onstage son. My boy Matt “Alan Strang” Pattimore fills my socks with talc and ties my jeans legs in knots when I’m out of the dressing room, and I change his Facebook updates to anti-Liverpool ones when he’s in the loo, but there’s a similar emotional charge to our onstage relationship.
Whether he has a crush on the ASM though, I couldn't possibly speculate.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Road Trip

If you're staying in Travelodges all week then you're technically homeless between 12 noon and 3pm which is the disparity between check-out and check-in. Me and the boys break our journey at Great Malvern and find a very traditional tearoom called the Bluebird - apart from satisfying our hunger pangs it also gives Stuart a chance to add another entry to his exhaustive UK tearoom guide.
We stand out a bit. We're men, for a start, and also we're under pensionable age. When the waitress takes our order there's so many options - there's seven jams to have with your scone, for God's sake - that each order takes forever. When the food arrives it's accompanied by a woman who is either struggling with some new teeth or an oversized tongue, but it's worth the wait. Even considering Stuart's hamless ham and coleslaw sandwich.

The Next New Things

I had a bit of an epiphany on our last show in Derby about a section at the end of my fourth scene. It's always a little bit surprising that the sense of a line or an inflection or even something as fundamental as a motivation can elude you for well over 100 performances but it sometimes does. You have to keep revisiting whether you're still on the right page, as it were, or you'll probably end up having the Eureka moment after you finish, God forbid. Anyway, something which has been making me vaguely uncomfortable for some while is in a better place and that makes me feel GOOD.
The thorny matter of keeping things fresh vexes us all, I suppose. I once saw Richard E Grant playing Algy in That Play in the West End and he confessed that it bored him silly to repeat the same thing every night - and it sort of showed, too. I haven't seen Mark Rylance in "Jerusalem" but after 1000 shows he's as fresh as a daisy, they say. Of course there are actors whose technique is to repeat the exact same performance, move for move and line for line, night after night and presumably the illusion of freshness is worked into what they do; but that seems too artificial to me. I've also seen people turn into automatons after a few weeks doing that; a good performance turning into an increasingly mannered one with ever more awkward moves and gestures as the other actors change but they don't. There's also a terrible danger that you'll stop listening to people - and a fellow actor's unexpected pause or pace change or mistake can have devastating effect if that happens.
I'm directing a show in the summer with a cast of students, and since most of them will never have done a full week before it'll be fascinating to see how they cope with doing a run of 25 shows without a break.  

Friday, 11 May 2012

Lovely People

The milk of human kindness hasn't gone sour in Derby. Jamie's digs turned out to be populated by cats and students when we arrived, meaning a panicked call to LCT HQ and a last minute scramble for something else. Mercifully our landlord, Martin, turned out of his rooms until the weekend and Jamie now has the use of a suite including a walk-in shower. Harrumph.
We've all has some problems with digs over the weeks. Malcolm seems to be the unluckiest, and bears it with a very Dysartian stoicism - and there are an astounding number of landlords who expect you to manage with very little. I had digs last year where the washing machine was situated on the other side of the wall behind my headboard, and with a newborn baby in the house it was programmed to go off at 3am. I found this out at 3am. In the same digs Anna was expected to mount a loft ladder in the dark and sleep in a cubbyhole in the roof. Bonkers.
Mercifully there are many, many exceptions. I've never even met some of them, like Mrs Brown in Cambridge and Mrs Blindel in Darlington, but their little notes saying "Help yourself from the fridge" and welcoming bottles of wine sort of stand out as beacons in the travelling firmament.