Wednesday 25th April 2012
WHO’D be an actor, eh? The better you are at it, the more lines there are to learn, the more performances to repeat.
Imagine having to dress up as an Ugly Sister day in day out, while everybody else is having a fortnight off for Christmas. Prove yourself to be even more talented and your reward will be hour after tedious hour in a television studio or on location for weeks on end in Bakka Beyond.
Still Kicking opened at The Other Space in Cheltenham: the Everyman Theatre’s snug, side-show venue.
We had two days rehearsing there, working with the perceptive and quietly persuasive Fiona, a director whom we both knew and trusted. Her critical observations reminded me of the discipline I’d always expected of other performers, but had not had to impose upon myself for many years. Repeated run-throughs left my voice ragged and confidence wobbling. Any benefits from gargling sage tea were nullified by chain smoking during breaks.
Ask me to interview a popular public figure in front of a thousand people and I’ll not bat an eyelid. This week’s unrehearsed gig for hundreds of youngsters in Shrewsbury was a stroll in the park.
But, waiting for the house manager to cue my entry into that studio space, on the opening night of Still Kicking, was terrifying: so many things that could go wrong… and probably would.
Strangely, it wasn’t the personal revelations or emotionally demanding scenes that worried me – taking out the denture or talking about the death of my son, Gaius – but the fear of suddenly drying up or letting Jo down by missing an important cue. Who’d be an actor, eh?
Adrenalin has long been my recreational drug of choice, however, and we ended the first three shows on a high. It worked: the seemingly anarchic structure that allowed us to jump from Dame and Sir to Jo and Marcus recounting their histories, to singers and clowns, to writer-performers arguing over what was or wasn’t in the script.
It was time to bundle the props into a friend’s car and go on the road.