My room is up for rent on Facebook. I have cancelled my gym membership and finally signed up to Netflix. I'm moving to Stratford-upon-Avon for six months to do the Swan summer season at the RSC.
People's reactions to my news separates into two categories. The first is common amongst my parents' North London friends. They puff up with kind pride and look genuinely impressed. The Royal Shakespeare Company. It has kudos. I'm not trying to be an actress anymore, I must really BE one. "Dame Judi started there didn't she?" Or "We went on a family trip to see David Tennant's Hamlet there. It was wonderful! Well done Eleanor! Your mum must be so proud!"
She is. Inordinately. But also a little pissed off. Rightly. Because I have a 5-month-old puppy called Zeus and have just palmed him off on her in order to stage three plays, out of London, before May.
The puppy was all part of my plan to become a proper person. I wanted to have a 'real' life that wasn't based around acting. That wasn't based around dropping everything (including my rent money) to run to a commercial audition in Soho, that wasn't based around holding canapés and trying not to look depressed as I waited for 'THE' job.
The idea of sharing a puppy with my parents seemed perfect. They needed a new dog now they had an empty nest but they also wanted to maintain their freedom and travel the world a bit. I was going to become a responsible adult. Responsible for training the puppy and having the puppy for weeks at a time and taking the puppy for walks and writing with the puppy in cafes and hey taking the puppy to the pub. If I really fancied staying out all night I could just drop him off at my parents house. Easy. Responsible.
Now he is permanently dropped off at my parents house. And I am behaving like a teenager in his bedroom watching violent video games in the morning and a kid with a giant dressing up box in the afternoon.
Mornings in the Doctor Faustus rehearsal room I am donning red latex gloves and black patent high healed shoes. There is fake blood everywhere. I am 'slutdropping'. I am pouring vodka (water) down people's throats. I am raving to German house music like it is 4am at a festival.
Afternoons in the Don Quixote rehearsal room require me to ride a hobby horse frequently. I am neighing my best neigh and baaing my best baa learning with the rest of the cast to puppeteer a flock of sheep around the stage. And then kill them in the most gruesome way possible. l am singing, I am dancing, I am clowning, I am being told to approach everything with a sense of child-like wonder and lack of self awareness.
It's crazy and it's brilliant and It doesn't look like I will be becoming a responsible adult in 2016. I couldn't be happier. Or guiltier when I get an angry text from my mother telling me that the puppy has shat on her bedroom floor twice this morning. Whilst I was raving.
The second kind of reaction I get when I tell people I'm doing a Stratford season is from those who work in theatre. This reaction is a 'WOW'. A 'WOW' that has wide eyes, and raised eyebrows, a knowing twinkle and a big smile. A 'WOW' that that says 'Dear me darling girl, what a time you are going to have! Just you wait, you have no idea what you are about to go through.'
I have some idea. That Stratford is a relationship killer. A marriage breaker. And if you are single PROCEED WITH CAUTION. Stratford is a very small town full of the most volatile and sparkly of human beings: Shakespearian actors. I am expecting to work stupidly hard, go a bit mad and sad, make friends for life and fall out explosively with at least one person. Of one other thing I am also certain, that I shall be spending a lot of time in the Dirty Duck pub.
I am nervous. I am excited. I am not worried at all. I have always wanted to join the RSC and now I'm in. Dame Judi started here. I get to dress up, play pretend, be a child and make some incredible work. The quality of the direction and the props and costumes and the overall organisation is like nothing I have ever experienced in theatre before. I am having voice classes and movement classes and lectures from experts and I feel I am getting braver in the rehearsal room every day. The North London brigade are right, the RSC stamp of approval means the phrase 'trying to be an actress' doesn't fit any more, especially with the amount of hours of acting I am putting in per week. None of which, for a change, includes walking round a corporate party holding a plate of mini burgers.
My mother is being as understanding as she can be. Zeus will be coming to stay with me as soon as we get the third show up and running in May. Hopefully. I'll keep you updated on his puppy training. And my mental health. And my relationship status. Once I've moved my life to Stratford-upon-Avon.