Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Freak Show Must Go On

Oh God. Yes, well it was going to happen wasn't it. First I get a lead actor who I hate, and now I get one who  is so drop dead gorgeous that I can't look him in the eye. Is there no middle ground ever? Plus we are working all hours god sends so that he can catch up in time for our First Night on Tuesday (argggh!!!)

They've also brought in an Understudy for us both , in case there are any more "accidents". Mine is a six foot ex model from Chelsea who is very beautiful and totally ruthless. She has already asked if she can pay me to have the night off a few times so that she can go on. I said no, thats not what she is here to do. She is here to cover me in case I get ill, and the minute I said it, I could see she was hatching a plan. Bitch. I'm going to have to keep an eye on her, I don't trust her. She's the type that would put cyanide in my tea just so she can have her big "moment".

I never thought I'd say this ,but having been back in the theatre for the last week or so,I'm actually starting to miss the office.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Once more and with feeling please (or No Pain No Game)

I know I may not have had the best run of luck when it comes to men, but it truly takes the biscuit when you cant even get on with your stage husband.So it is unfortunate for me that the man I have to kiss passionately every night for the next three weeks, who I have to declare my undying love to, is a small, balding French man named Pierrot who is actually the most dislikeable and creepy guy I have ever met .

Firstly,his years of physical theatre training at the Theatre de Complicite in Paris , (as he keeps reminding me), have turned any form of subtlety and nuance into blatant "Panto acting". There is no real emotion or feeling in his performance, just a hell of alot of "expression",

And what's worse is, not only does he take himself way too seriously, but he is also extremely camp, and although the theatre is the one place where you are allowed to suspend your disbelief, you'd have to be really fucking stupid if you tried to imagine that we were lovers, unless I strapped my breasts down and cut my hair short.

No matter how much acting skill  I put  into pretending to love this man in rehearsals, imagining he is Brad Pitt, Don Draper, Jude Law, as I stare into his hard cold eyes, its just no use.There's not one drop of love or affection between us.And I'm afraid its starting to show
 So the next morning I decide to get to the theatre early to try and have word with the Director about this,before Fellow Actor arrives. But Loverboy is there already discussing with him ,over a cup of tea,the pros and cons of Laban ( which,I had thought was an area of my genitalia until recently) or some other equally useless profound acting "technique" thought up by some out of work actor.
The Director spots me lurking by the door and takes this chance to call me over and give us a few notes whilst he has us on our own. He sits us down and kind of looks at the floor , tapping his foot furiously and then says

" Well, what can I say?". And I fumble with my script and wait with baited breath.

And then he simpers and says, opening his arms for dramatic effect,

" The chemistry between you both is lovely. Really lovely"

Whaaat?? Maybe I'm a better actress than I thought!

and then he adds tritely, "Perhaps a touch more pain from you both?" and jumps up and says

"Time for another cup of Tea??"  just like that.

Thats it? I think,and I sidle up to my dressing room feeling more bitter and twisted than ever.
So once everyone has arrived, we go through Act 1 again, and now , to indicate his "pain",Mon Amour has started doing some kind of silent movie style, hand- to- forehead gesture,and keeps staring into the distance furrowing his brow like Joey Tribiani in "days of Our Lives" .I've had enough now ,I'm just going to look really shit if he carries on like this, I think, and I can see the director is looking a bit uncomfortable and thinking What have I done??,

So I grab him in the next tea break and pull him over to one side

"Is that pain enough for you ?" I ask him loading the sentence with hidden meaning without out and out saying, "How can we get him to STOP!". Its hard trying to be professional and pleasant whilst being a bitch about a Fellow Actor ,but its a skill most actors seem to perfect throughout their career.

" Oh my," he sighs,"Between you and me, Harry, this melodrama,Its getting to be a bit of a problem isn't it?" He leans in conspiritorially."Harriett, dear", he says, "you're a professional actress with a good name in the biz. And tons of experience. I was just wondering, is there anything we can think of to shall I put it, make this better?"

What? Short of a recast. I think

"I'll see what I can do" I say

So when we get to rehearsing Act 2, and the bit where we have The Turbulent Argument, rather than letting him perform it like a soliloquy, which is how he's been playing it, I decide to force him to look at me and react to me, going all out to show my passion and angst as I lurch towards him, and grasp his shoulders intensely so that he can't physically move , but this takes him by surprise and his legs buckle underneath him (core strength non?) suddenly causing him to lose balance and tumble off the stage, taking me with him.

"Aaaargh!", he shouts as I collapse on top of him.,
 "Good good." claps the director., "Much better.Shall we break for a nice cup of tea?"
But the guy is screaming loud "Stop the shooooow" he shouts
I look around at the empty audience . He really was taking this very seriously.
"My leg" he screams. "My leeeeeeg!! And his face is contorted in agony.

"Morphiiiiine" he bellows "I need morphine" and he grabs his leg .

Whoops. I don't think he's acting .

Ten minutes later and he is in the ambulance which is about to drive off when he shouts
"Stoooooop!!!" and dramatically announces to the onlookers on the street
"MY make up!! "he says . "I cant possibly go to the hospital in make up. It is ridiculous". He says puffing away at the old morphine. And the make up artist is summoned and runs out with some wet wipes and frantically dabs at his face as the sirens go off.
"Somebody call my boyfrieeeeend. I have no credit on my phooooone.." he screams as the ambulance doors slam in his face.

Thank god. I think. They'll HAVE to recast now.

But the next day I roll up to the theatre and, to my surprise, he is there,his leg in full cast proudly standing on crutches..
"Are you going to be Ok like that?" I ask suspiciously.
"The show must go on". he says, victoriously.
Does nothing stop this guy? He is like a machine.

Three days later and we have completely rewritten the script to incorporate the broken leg. The director is pissed off, the writer's pissed off and the rest of the cast are pissed off, and then I walk into rehearsals this morning and sense a strange sort of atmosphere in the building. I'm doing my vocal warm up in my dressing room (ie fag and coffee) when the director announces through the tannoy that he would like to have us all onstage for a meeting.

When we are all gathered round, he calls for silence and then says,

" I''m  afraid we are going to be losing Pierrot. He has unfortunately got  go to hospital again...but this time its for"

And I see Pierrot look up for a second. And the director just throws his script down, in despair and looks at me and shrugs  and says
"fuck it...he has to go into hospital; because he has an Abscess on his penis.There I've said it. Pierrot is having an OPERATION ON HIS PENIS!" he shouts, and I can see he suddenly feels liberated.

And I've never seen anyone move out of a room so fast on crutches in my life.

The question is, and its one I ask myself frequently, who will be the next lucky man to play my Lover, now that he is gone?

Monday, 9 August 2010

Some Parts Are Bigger Than Others

My agent has just called . I was rather surprised to hear Christmas carols playing in the background given that we are only in August but it didn’t shock me too much. Nothing does with him these days. If I took one ounce of what he said to me seriously I would probably be in The Priory by now, a QUIVERING  nervous wreck . Sensitivity is not one of his strong points shall we say.
"You've got the part" he said
I am stunned into silence.
"The drug addict part?" I mutter in astonishment.."but, but, I was"
"Bad" is probably the word I am looking for
"Apparently you were brilliant. You were, and I quote "angry,edgy and with a very realistic air of depression and desperation" exactly what they were looking for the director said."
I sit there jaw open in amazement. Fellow Actress is going to be gutted.Her plan to distract me totally backfired. Yipeee.
"Oh, and they needed someone who people recognised from the telly" he says, and then screams
"Down Prancer,down!"
"Sorry?" I say, "Are you talking to me?"
"No, its these silly reindeer.....good boy Dancer, thats better"
"How much?" I ask
"Equity minimum darling. £300 a week, its a three week run. Oh and rehearsals start tomorrow, be at the theatre at 10.30am"
Merry fucking Christmas.
"Gotta go and feed the boys. Be fabulous" he gushes and puts the phone down.
OMG. I am officially an actress again. How the hell did that happen?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Life's a Bitch and then you Become a Writer

So I'm in the queue at the Post Office to post some more banal things like headshots of myself and my illustrious acting CV and other such narcissistic items, to potential power hungry employers, when my phone rings.

"Hi there,all set? We are going live in 50 seconds? "

"Going live?," I say with a stutter and a nervous laugh,"What do you mean  "Going Live"?"

The woman on the other end of the phone sounds slightly stressed " Radio Ashurst? Remember? Your agent said you had agreed to do it!? We are interviewing ex Soap stars who played "the Villains" on their respective TV shows. "

I can't remember actually. But that doesnt surprise me. My agent has a tendency to forget important details like asking me if I want to do something or not. Its something he and I are working on.

"Right well....."  I start, but its too late, I am suddenly listening to the dulcit tones of Radio Ashurst's daytime DJ introducing me against a background of Luther Vandross.

"Hello Harriett!" he bellows," Thankyou for joining us"

"Its a pleasure!" I bellow back,

"Not interupting your busy schedule I hope?" he says

"No, no, just having lunch with my agent" I say charmingly, and the man in front of me turns and gives me a funny look.

"So Harriett, you played the Villain in a Soap on Primetime TV for a number of years.Tell us more"

"It wasn't a soap it was a TV drama" I say sweetly trying to hide my annoyance at his downgrading of my career

"Suuure" Mr DJ gushes."Anyway,tell us,Harriett, do you think you are anything like your character?" he guffaws

I'm sorry,do i think I'm a bitch? Er...let me just think about that for a second....

"No" I say calmly, "It was a part I was paid to act out"

"Yeh, thats what they all say" he shouts and laughs heartily.

ha ha ha.

 "Soooo, can you run us through what happened in your storyline again? I mean she had quite a journey didn't she?"

"Well," I say sighing and then taking a long, deep breath to prepare the rattling off of "The Storyline", which i can now do off by heart, I begin.

 "She had an affair with her friend's dad, had his children, and then drowned her sister in the Thames when she found out she was pregnant with his love child ,got arrested, fell in love with her inmate who was actually a voodoo witch and put a spell on her, which she broke by doing the 12 steps in AA where she met the man of her dreams, and finally she met a sticky end when she was bulldozed by an errant  lawnmower whilst on a weekend break in Cambodia with his brother."

The old lady standing behind me grabs onto her shopping trolley to steady herself.

"What a gal " the DJ says smarmily

"Yeh, she was a total bitch" I say

And there is Silence. Oh god. I've just said Bitch on Live Radio.

A few more seconds of silence , which on Radio time feels like hours, and Mr Funny who has obviously been told to "wrap it up" quickly by the producer, comes back with a hurried,"Well, Harriett, thanks for joining us,and oh what are you up to at the moment? Any new projects you'd like to tell us about??"

Shit.Fuck. Bollocks. Quick, Harriett, Quick,Think. Whatever you do you must not utter the career ending words "nothing." Think. Think. Think.

"I'm er, I've er just written a novel" I blurt out


"A Novel? Thats fantastic! Will it be on our bookshelves soon?"

"Yes. yes it will indeed be published soon" I say through clenched teeth.

"Can you tell us what its about?"

"Er.No. No I couldnt possibly. Its a secret" I say coyly.

Great . I am now officially writing a novel. My mother will be so pleased.

And the old lady behind pokes me in the back and points to a bored looking postal clerk sitting there, waiting for me .

"Till 3 love.You're next"

"Must go!" I scream into the phone. And hang up and go over to the window.

" Can I send these first class please?" I say plonking down my six brown envelopes

The man's sullen face suddenly lights up

"Recorded delivery?"

"No thanks", I say breezily,"Just normal post"

"Do you want them to get there next day? For this we recommend recorded delivery. Guaranteed to arrive on time"

"No thanks I just want normal mail" I say again, trying to be polite

"Ah, but is safer recorded delivery, better for valuable items. What is the value of your contents?"

I stare at the brown envelopes in front of me , containing my sad sorry, dead end career and I  lean in so close that I can actually see the condensation of my breath on the partition window.

"No value." I say slowly and firmly. "Absolutely No Value Whatsoever." And I bite my lip to stop the tears."Just first class please, that will be all"