I was 54 the other day, the same age Peter Sellers was when he died. His dying in the summer of 1980 was really the first death of someone I hugely admired. I remember I was with my dad in Wallasey that day, he'd had some business with his bank branch there, and afterwards we spent the day of doing special things, as if to mark the sad news. I always liked hanging out with me dad & especially going off on little excursions with him, that had wonderfully sometimes meant skiving dreaded school, (I remember a particular occasion when a poor dead bird found while taking me to school one day, was the catalyst to me skipping school and him, the school of Architecture, to go off on an adventure).
Later in about September when I was working in a record shop in Manc, I met up with Dad and we went to the Odeon, on Oxford road to see the new Peter Sellers movie, Being There, which had just come out. I've loved this dearly ever since, I showed this to my niece Jade a few weeks ago and I think she appreciated it's brilliance of this loverly, and in the light of even more unlikely absurdities at the top of US politics, hugely resonant film.
54 was still young to die nearly 40 years ago. Peter looked older because of heart disease that had been with him since he had been pronounced clinically dead for a few minutes on the operating table, when he was 38 in the year that I was born.
Last week Emma Chambers an actress people remember for her brilliantly comic, seductive goofiness in Notting Hill and Vicar of Dibley died at only 53, still not as rare as it should be to die so young of what her agent described rather vaguely as 'natural causes'.
And of course at the end of bad old 1980, Dr Winston O'Boogie was murdered and that hit me even harder than Peter Sellers, my two heroes gone in the spate of months. And then dad himself 2 years later. Dad frequently joked that you'll miss me when "I'm dead and gone" He didn't know the half of how much. It's a long time ago, but deaths sting-a-ling-a-ling sings stronger to me today.
Death stalks all our lives, we can't of course go round morbidly being obsessed with it, (although I've always had quite a Goth obsession with it, it's fascinated me as much as troubled me), we can't ignore it either. I fear losing those I love more than losing life myself and I do fear losing life a terrible lot, particularly because I haven't done what I want to, and extreme likeliness is looking very like, I won't.
I'm all too aware of my own mortality, death has invaded mine and so many others creative inspiration even more so in the last few years with for me particularly, with absolute heroes like David Bowie and John Hurt. Indeed at times it has been difficult to see beyond the wretched RIPERS on Facebook or twitter. How lazy an expression is RIP, how moronic! What does it actually fucking mean? Nothing! It's JUST a sheep-like meaningless mantra. Somebody I like and admire dies I will try to put into brief words what they meant to me, not bang off a thoughtless, pointless RIP! You know even if I believed in RIP, I wouldn't want to! Anyone says that to me and I'll come back and haunt them! No one will anyway.
I'm worrying with an even greater intensity these days that time ahead might be short for me. I find myself cheerily saying that within 10 years I'll either be dead successful or just dead. But I can't see myself living to be an old, old man, although I'm hoping that's just me being characteristically overdramatic, because I really want to, as life has gone faster than I take to think.
By the way If I did die now, I'll be a restless ghost, haunting The Royal Exchange Theatre, finally getting to act my bones off, literally on that stage from the afterlife and tormenting the directors there for never having wanted to know I existed!
I've always been one for taking one step forward, look ten steps back, but I've been indulging in some extreme looking back of late. well ever since I've started this anyway, and I certainly spend far too much time moping about me vanity website these days reminding myself of what I've done in the past, as if it's really wonderful, (which of course its not particularly), to remind myself that I am supposed to be an actor!
I only got 4 auditions for significant paid acting work last year,. I've just noticed one girl on twitter posting under the always annoying hashtag of #actorlife, that she'd auditioned for 42 roles in February, but maybe that's nothing to boast about if she still couldn't convince on the 42nd go!)
The one of those 4 I got was Mr Brown's Directions' a real life soap opera documenting 20 years in the life of 18th century owner, William Constable, his household and big plans for his gardens, (now part static caravan park), This was in part a promenade through his house with priceless Chippendale furniture that we were barely allowed to breathe on. A really lovely group of actors to work with, particularly Leanne Rowley, (rare, 'soul touching' interaction with her), and I liked the director Rachel Feldberg and fabulous, friendly and lovely producer Christina Lewis too.
Will this be my last ever, significant paid acting job? I've often told myself in the past that it seems like I'll never work again in acting, without really believing it, as if the Gods of acting will somehow hear my anguished plea and put some divine luck my way! Depressingly though for the first time now, I'm actually starting to believe that the prospect of me getting a good, at least month long paid acting contract ever again are scarily remote. For fuck sake I can't even get an audition for a company called 'Shit-faced Shakespeare' .....Me!!!! Well that's how desperately bad things are!
The story of my acting life has been a fluctuation in belief in myself, (ego one minute, eggy the next!), and so the absence of 100% dedication, hell I might have even been successful by now were it not so. That said, even with constant dedication, I still don't really know what I have to do to be a successful actor, it's just as much a mystery to me as it always was, and I've done classes, me, met casting directors, (never helpful), read or tried to and got bored of, 'how to be an actor' books.
I'm bored of hearing myself whinge on about unfair it all is, the inability to get even a half decent agent, and this is a stigma, particularly for the almost mythical Spotlight casting website, where legend has it only the Gods get cast! And the national lottery ticket that is your average job app, with just winning an audition, never mind the job, as jackpot...blah de blah de blahdey! I keep trying to believe in keeping positive and that I'm lucky just to be still living the dream, even if the dream has never seemed more remote.
Course I used to think Oh I'll just make me own work if no one wants to hire me, but 'Beatle Mal' and not getting enough audiences, never mind an inability to find like-minded people to work on projects with, put paid to such self producing dreams, though I continue to have ideas, and a kids show about archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler, I've still got my screenplay idea set in Weymouth and frequently visualise the opening titles to the strains of OMD's 'Souvenir' Also an idea for 5 minute, comic, audio plays on youtube, (inspired in part by Piccadilly Radio's Bradshaws of Barnoldswick), about 'Piggit Farm' in the fictional Cheshire hamlet of 'Flem' are still a possibility?
I have just said no to a play offer with no money, sizable part in a play about sexual abuse in the work place, was flattered to be asked, I'm always flattered to be asked to act, but I couldn't afford the time and anyway didn't get excited by it, it would've been fun to work on, but an awful lot of effort for just a few dates at the Brighton Fringe and vague promises of others months down the line.
I just can't afford to do plays for no money anymore. Excitingly there are more theatres & theatre outlets than ever before, but depressingly money is equally tighter than ever before, and inevitably things are going to get worse with Brexshit, (everything is going to get worse with the wretched B word!), but I can't help wondering how people still expect actors to work for nothing but vague promises. There's a lot of money out there in big business, surely this can be tapped into, somehow, why can't producers get money before they even set these things up? Such times I wish I had a business mind, and I know how difficult producing a play is.
A positive is that I've worked with some good new young filmmakers in the last year, realising my first love of film, both at Manchester Film School and at Staffordshire uni, and last November spent a weekend filming a short for Staffordshire Uni students called 'Eden', playing a widowed father/farmer just before WW1 who's only child, a daughter, now she's of age has attracted some unwelcome attention from a young man at market, who's intention to take her away at gunpoint, leads my character off on a quest to find them across some high terrain, equipped with a Lee Enfield rifle. The film looks good, Sam Osbourne the director who wants to be a cinematographer, made the bleak terrain of the Peak District look beautiful, and I'm better than I was on screen, less of me gets past the probing lens these days!
Of course I'll continue to be a dreamer, (sometimes I live in an afternoon old movie dream that sees me not born in the wrong era, but rather getting work as a character actor in the post war era in British films, when surely my big eyed, gunning characters would have found commercial worth in Ealing comedies or early carry on films) But I strongly worry whether this all is just way too much of a dream.
At my mums house I watch a community of little birds clustering around their bird seed feeder, the crow coming for his, (or her) daily bread crusts and a lone wood pigeon sadly picking around for dropped seed from the feeder as he can't, or doesn't know how to, get up on the perches
It's all about survival, and you never see the bird who doesn't survive.
If I'm going to continue as I am fated to it seems, in this impossible dream, these practical survival instincts, are deffo what I need, I can't just wait around for scraps mind, I've got to soar high independently whilst being a part of that community. Whilst I do frequently doubt that I have a hunger for acting anymore, I'm still nevertheless worryingly undernourished!
Ultimately after way, far too much gloomy reflection on the miniseries miseries of me not being able to get on as an actor, I will just try and think of Peter Sellers and laugh, and maybe a lucky encounter with a hugely influential person, might make me appear to 'walk on water', or at the very least I'll 'corpse' my way through, unlimited takes of trying to get my particular long, rambling message to 'Raphael' across. I'm sure that's all you need to survive this silly fucking, life wasting charade is not to be straight faced, just to fucking well laugh, even if it's just at the sheer, silly preposterousness of it all.