Adversity and anger
May 23, 2012
So. Have I been preachy recently? Not my intention.
Several thoughts: when you are trying to learn your understudy lines, does your main part suffer a little from the split focus? I think it doth. And when you are far from home, does loneliness, excitement and, conversely; boredom make you drink more than you should? I think so too.
We are in Stratford and it is all getting heady and exciting. Looked at the set in the RST yesterday and... hello butterflies.
I am not by nature, a nervous actor. I love this profession and think I am very lucky to occasionally get paid for doing something I love and enjoy. Most people don't ever get that chance. But the focus in Stratford on the RSC gives you a weird feeling of power and helplessness. And that can express itself in a slow creeping of nerves as each quick second ticks by.
As a sidenote, I am noticing more and more that I am using antithesis in my everyday speech. Now, why would that be? Hmmm...
Anyway, all very exciting. My car tyre got slashed the night before I was supposed to drive down to Stratford. Or is it up? Across? Anyhoo, it meant a panicked dash across south London as I tried to find a replacement. Which meant I committed the cardinal sin of being late for a rehearsal. Horror of horrors. And joy of joys. Because that rehearsal was in the Ashcroft room! Named after some middling actress who you may have heard of (if you don't know Peggy Ashcroft, Google her. She was amazing).
All I could think of as I raced down the M40 was: 'Am late! For rehearsals! At the RSC! In the Ashcroft room! Above the Swan! And they pay me!' (No more use of exclamation points. I promise!!!)
The RSC, it seems to me is very good at adjusting to slight adversity. All the stage management team were lovely to me. Especially my awesome company manager, Ben Tyreman. And I got there an hour late, but safe. Ben even helped me unload my car. It's the small things that count.
Talking of small things. We filmed Caesar as regular readers of this blog will know (are there any regular readers of this blog?).
Whilst we were filming, which was an extraordinary experience: there was a moment when I overheard a discussion about death. Specifically blood and costume. They were talking about suicides and how were the two suicides in the play going to be done.
My ears pricked up (along with, I confess, my hackles) Two suicides? Really? Are we sure there are two? Cassius. Yes. Brutus. Yes. But isn't there someone else who makes a speech? Someone else who throws himself on his sword in the Roman fashion? Who could that be?
I will just say here that the man who really turned me on to Shakespeare, Prof. Peter Smith, was thrown momentarily when I asked him this and he knows Shakespeare pretty darned well. I was furious. Titinius is small, granted. But what he lacks in size he makes up for in heart! He dies for one he loves. Not with honour. But because he can't bear life without the one he loves.
How could they have forgotten? Even the fight director apparently had apparently forgotten the fact that he had choreographed my death. Livid was I. Was I really that bad? Apoplectic. What was the point of acting if the people you were working with didn't appreciate what you were doing?
But hold on. The fight director had been a model of skill and professionalism since I had met him. Polite, amusing, and knowledgeable. How could he do this to me? The costume person in question is quite simply, one of my absolute favourite persons connected with this show. Intelligent and resourceful. Incredibly, ridiculously hard working. Cordial and clever. Just lovely. How could she do this to me? Well, the answer is: they didn't. They just forgot. For a moment.
We were all working very hard (especially the costume department, who were just heroic) and a small thing slipped through. So what? Big deal. Once I had mentioned (as calm as I could) this oversight, everyone bent over backward to accommodate me. Which is always nice.
Why was I so angry? A wise person once said to me that fear and anger are the same. They create the same reactions in the body: heart rate, sweating, adrenalin. The same. So what was I frightened of? Not being deemed good enough to be noticed. Nothing to do with anything or anyone else. My fear. Mine. But I think that sometimes it's good to be frightened. Reminds us that we live. And that we care. We are all scared. All of us. There is at least some comfort in that. Isn't there?
by Andrew French
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