Ready to go on

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Wednesday - the Curve

What a hullabaloo! Little bit of politics, ladies and gentlemen, and it really does get people going, doesn't it? Just a personal rant. It seems appropriate considering my industry has had swinging cuts of around 40% today and, according to several newspapers, the Arts are the second largest industry after Finance and create a vast revenue for the exchequer?

Still, I won't go off on one again. I think I've had my say? You are free to agree or disagree. Personally, I always find other people railing at the world quite enjoyable.

So, we're still at the Curve Theatre and I still haven't warmed to it, I'm afraid. The people working here are lovely and they play rather pleasant jazz music through the public address system, but I am old fashioned. I like a stage door and I'm not keen on the dressing rooms being so far away from the stage. It just doesn't seem to make sense? What if you have gone across to the backstage area and then discover you have left something vital in the dressing room? You wouldn't have time to get to the dressing room and back again, as you can in most theatres. Also, the dreaded moment of 'being off', when you get an urgent call from the stage manager because you have missed your call and then your entrance and your fellow actors are floundering on stage, filling until you come on. At the Curve you would be several minutes away. In other theatres, I have known actors be off, get their urgent call telling them they were off and then appear on stage, somewhat out of breath and red faced, within a couple of seconds.

I have to say, I have never missed an entrance myself. I have been close a few times, chatting in the wings and being nudged by another actor with who says' "Isn't that your cue?". Your heart is in your mouth. I have been on stage when another actor failed to come on. It's dreadful, whilst at the same time being rather thrilling. You get so used to things happening automatically on stage that you look to where you know someone is going to come on and then look like a fool because there is no one there. You instantly panic and may repeat their cue, then you tend to a hear a lot of unusual noise coming from the wings and then the actor bursts on stage, blurting out their lines in an accusatory manner, as if it is your fault that they were late. They always apologise profusely later, but at the time they are often defensive, as much as to say, "What?! Wasn't that what we rehearsed?".

The strangest thing that ever happened to me on stage of that nature was at the Old Vic. It was a while ago as you will be able to tell when I say that I was playing a young man at a Hunt Ball who falls in love with a girl who has tried to infiltrate the party in order to sabotage the next days hunt. At the end of a rather feisty scene that we had, where we argued fiercely about fox hunting's merits or lack of them, we had to suddenly kiss, passionately. At this point the butler would enter. Big laugh.

Patrick Cargill was playing the butler and from very early in rehearsals he did a bit of business on this entrance that was detailed and very funny. He entered, carrying a tray of champagne glasses, saw us in our clinch, did a huge double-take, downed a glass of champagne, turned on his heels and exited. It was outrageous but he was a master of that sort of set piece and from the moment we opened he always got a round of applause. As the applause died he would pop his head back round the door and cough, thus getting a supplementary laugh.

Patrick loved this bit of business and often practised it several times on stage before the show began, so determined was he that it would work perfectly.

We had been on tour for eight weeks and this was the opening night at the Old Vic, so a very important show, and everyone was a bit nervous. The actress that I ended up kissing during Patrick's bit told me that she had spent the day at the Actor's Centre doing some classes to help settle her nerves. I thought it couldn't have worked very well because she was doing things on stage that she had never done before and some of them were a bit strange. Still, we struggled on and got to our big fight scene. It went really well. We were at each others throats, cranking up the passion towards the snog. The moment came and I moved in for our kiss. At this moment she slapped my face and pushed me away. I was a bit shocked, but knew the we had to kiss so I tried it again. Once more she rebuffed me. I couldn't understand it?

By now it was too late. Patrick had burst on stage with his tray of champagne. He looked nonchalantly towards the fireplace ready to see a kissing couple, only to find me looking back at him apologetically and my co-actor in a huff on the other side of the room. Unfortunately, Patrick was already in to his routine. His face looked aghast while his head tried to carry on with it's normal action, nearly dislocating his shoulder. His free hand, the one not holding the tray, moved of it's own accord to the drinks and grabbed a flute. It raised it to where his lips should have been. They were still facing me and were wide apart in shock. He virtually poured champagne down the side of his face and then backed out of the room, mouthing the words, "What the fu...!"

When Patrick came back on stage to the silence that followed his bizarre behaviour he looked like he was ready to throttle us both. I shrugged in apology and then got on with the scene.

At the first opportunity, Patrick came to my dressing room and politely asked, "What the sodding hell happened there?!! You fucked up my round!". I explained that I was as mystified as he was and that I would ask the actress what had happened? At the end of the play, when I got the chance, this is what she said. "Well, I was doing Stanislavski today and they said you should feel your performance and only do what you feel is right. The way you spoke to me in that scene, there's no way I would have kissed you. No way!"

She had a point. Not a good one, I know, but it was a point. The director politely informed her at the next days note session that she had to do it because it was IN THE BLOODY SCRIPT!!

Beware of acting classes. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Keep well x

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