Friday 2nd January 2015

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As is usual at this time of year, when the year is barely a few days old, a couple of people have asked me what I’ve got planned – creatively – for the next 12 months. And I’ve told them: at the moment, I have nothing whatsoever planned. And these people have laughed in my face, scoffing with derision.

To be honest, I can see their point. I made a studious point of planning absolutely nothing for 2014: I’d been fairly busy in the few years prior, and I thought that it might be a nice thing to actually see some theatre rather than always be too busy to see anything, because I was continually involved in it. It was one of the things that annoyed me as a drama student: many budding actors (and directors, whatever) were very keen to get up on stage, but had no particular desire to see anyone else on stage. I suspect my experience is not unique. I also cheerfully suspect that this sort of blinkered vision hasn’t exactly died out.

But anyway, that was the plan. To do less, to see more. Apart from anything else, I’d been directing for the last three Brighton Fringes, and that meant I’d missed out on a helluva lot of theatre, sketch comedy, and the like. So, that was an early and easy descion: I wasn’t going to be directing over May. I didn’t really expect to be acting in May, either. But then I found myself in The Crucible.

There’s probably another entry to be written about my time in The Crucible, where I was surronded by great actors, great director, and great crew, but none of that helped with the almost paralysing fear I had during the run. I studiously avoided mentioning it at the time (it’s not the sort of thing you need to hear from an actor who’s got a fair bulk of the lines in a play), but I remember coming home from performances seriously questioning if I’d ever act again. The part is one of the most iconic, most totemic of Americian drama, and obviously I very often questioned if I was in any way doing it justice. Or if I was just torturing the accent. Obviously, I’ll never really know (I reserve the right as a needy actor to always be crippled by critical self doubt) but it was fascinating to me even as it was happening just how obliterating I was finding the experience; even when I felt that I was only coming up to 50, 60% of what the role deserved. I felt like I was … well, just getting away with it most of the time. And most of the time, my fellow actors and director chose to let me get away with it, too.

This isn’t an attempt at any kind of humblebrag, by the way: the play was nearly a year ago, and does not survive in any recording of any kind. That reminds me: there are recordings of me in Art, from about four years ago, and a ten minute play I appeared in, from last Christmas. I haven’t had the courage to look at either. But it does remind me that as I get older, I’m beginning to enjoy the process (of rehearsal) possibly slightly more than the product of performance. I think it speaks to my procrastinators heart.

Actually, speaking of last Christmases 10 Minute Play provides a nears segue, into one of the major reasons that 2014 ended up not being that quiet after all: I felt that we should have a Christmas play. Not a panto, exactly, but a Christmas play for the family. Around this time last year, I went to the National Theatre to see The Light Princess. The draw was that it was a play with songs written by Tori Amos, but the takeaway for me was that it was a fairy tale with a fircely feminist vibe. I have every faith that there will have been some six year old girl in the audience who was going to the theatre for the very first time, and that will have been a transformative experience for her. And, all of a sudden, that’s who I wanted to write for.

Now, I don’t know if The Snow Queen entirely succeeded in that goal (although I’ve heard some very pleasing reports back), but I do know that the script is one I actually quite like. That’s not always the way with things that you write, occasionally it can be a bit of a hack job, or a script bound by compromise. But I actually really like this script, and am really fond of the characters. Sure, there are a few things that need tightening up: the moral gets a bit repeptive in the final scene, for instance (thanks to wonderful actors finding new ways to breathe new life into each new thought, audiences never noticed), but it’s something that I’d like to revisit in the future. I’m still not at the point where my work has been able to have a life independently of me (terrifyingly, I still don’t quite have the courage to get stuff out there), but the love and support that everybody gave to The Snow Queen has given me the courage to push on.

Don’t panic. This is just the holiday speaking. Give it a couple of days, and normal service will be resumed.

Give it a few more days, and I won’t get around to doing another blog entry til about Easter.

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