Actor's Studio: week four

30 October 2008

This has been a week of two halves, as all good commentators say. The first part, something of a revelation: a positive mood shift. Term seemed to have calmed into a mellow lull, people were chilled and I’d begun to kick back and feel that I was getting to grips with this game. Even the Sarah Kane read through we’d done didn’t send anyone over the edge. That and the unseasonably bright days (well, one at least) made me think this really was the profession for me. When it goes well, it’s God’s gift to all show-off slackers. All the world’s indeed a stage.

Another delight is always Patricia, on particularly good form this week: a most divine and charming older lady with fabulous jewellery who coaches voice work. She’s quite despaired of me. “Quelle Horreur” she exclaims every time she catches me fumbling with my oily rags on the front steps, but I suspect she’s smoked worse. However, like anyone who’s been an actress, director and teacher in a drama school for 40 years (I’m guessing, but she could be even more well-preserved than that), she’s pretty much seen it all.

She started the class with the following quotation: “You must stop worrying about success or failure. Your business is to work, step by step, from day to day, softly-softly; to be prepared for unavoidable mistakes and failures, in a word: follow your own line and leave competition to others”. Chekhov said this to his actress wife.

Patricia went on to repeat it three times until the words were intoned into us. We nodded and smiled. Success? Failure? What of it? What did it matter? We were here to create! To perform! To embrace the artistic life!

I actually had a strangely warming conversation with Keen Bean who also seems to have mellowed somewhat: she even had an alcoholic drink in the pub, even if it was a Bacardi. All was well in the world of the stage.

Then I got home to discover that my unfeasibly idiotic flatmate (a drummer) had fitted a cat flap and bought a cat. I kid you not. So, a cat. I can’t begin to imagine where he got it. Or why. It’s not like we have mice. Anyway, I never actually saw it as it turned out.

Last night we were suddenly being burgled by a screaming child. That’s what it sounded like anyway. Wrenched from a pleasant dream of audience applause I sprung awake. My flatmate wasn’t in. It was four in the morning. Things were being thrown around the sitting room and there was screaming. I was shitting myself.

It went quiet for ages. I experienced a moment which has gone straight into my “emotional memory”, as Stanislavski would say. This is an episode I will be able to draw upon in rehearsal when my character faces the scariest thing in their life.

Not paying much attention to the thespian positives to be drawn from my immediate terror, I finally plucked up the courgage to switch on the light.

IT WAS A FOX! I kid you not. A fucking fox shot out from behind the sofa and started throwing itself around. There was fox everywhere. I know you think I was drunk, but it was not a cat. It was a fox.

Finally (I’ll spare you the details) I got the patio door open and it ran out. Poor little fucker. I gaffer taped up the flap and left a note for Jack to send the cat to a new home.

I suppose it was an actor’s dream. A real experience. Me, nature, foxes, my living room, burgulars; all at the same time. I was alive, excited, petrified, all the same time. Complex dramtic emotion!

Moral of the story: just when things seem good in your life, do not get a cat flap.