I am the Walrus!
So since my last blog, how's the giving positivity a go thing going?
Well I’m trying to keep chipper despite having no money, no home at 54 going on 55, being no nearer to finding my mermaid. Oh and a bit being fat!
I’m trying to fight flab, given up since the beginning of the year, bread, potatoes & pasta and since the beginning of February I’ve gone cold turkey on sweets, sugar, sugary drinks. This to such a sweet abuser as me is like losing my fix on cocaine or heroin, but I don’t want to look like a walrus! Which brings me very neatly to some very good news…
Very excitingly I’m going to be performing at the Royal Exchange theatre in the summer in a new play called Wrestling the Walrus!
This was good fortune. Going back to my last paid acting job in Hull 2 years ago next month, Leanne Rowley, who was so lovely to work with on that then, put me in touch with a company called 154 Collective and a new play called ‘Wrestling the Walrus’, initially they wanted a poster boy early last year then they got in touch with me in October and wanted to photograph me sitting on an intricately painted park bench over looking a lovely view in a park just above Huddersfield. Met Dan Mallaghan & he told me about the show & how it had got funding from the Royal Exchange & at the end he said he’d keep me in the loop about casting in the new year. So a couple of months later, second week of December, Dan said he was working on the music which was going to score the show and that they needed an actor to come & improv some ideas & asked me to come along to the Royal Exchange’s rehearsal studios on Swan Street in Manc.
I didn’t really know what to expect, but felt instantly a good vibe and for a few hours we played around, I sat on a chair as if the bench, with a case, inside which Dan had placed a few random items and told stories bringing in the items on a theme they had given me, about a man who had once been pat of a great dance partnership but had lost it, great stories he could remember but never quite get to the punchline.
The musicians supported me, the lovely piano player Hayley acted with me too, (the piece will be a two-hander, not including the musicians & will have filmed animation).
I improvised around their music & vice versa. I tried this a few times and lost myself completely in it, at risk of sounding really wanky, I transcended and found myself in floods of tears, it affected me in ways I could never have imagined, I think the music was a powerful cause of this too.
So the few hours ended and I said to Dan to let me know when they were auditioning, went away feeling on a high, a high that leapt even higher when Dan messaged me later that evening offering me the part!
I’m so excited about this, got a good feeling about it all and to be working at the Royal Exchange too. Determined to work like crazy to make this the best thing the Royal Exchange Studios ever seen!
They posted a picture of me that day with nice, compliment, but looking so fat it was one of those pics that makes you think I got to lose that. The only walrus in this play should be in the title!
Albert Finney… a bit of sunshine.
I loved him for years, all the more because he was one of the least showy actors out there,
I really dislike the term ‘actors actor’ it suggests someone only pleasing or loved by the industry, but yes I’ve shared big love for him with many actors over the years. He was always real, always believable, always different, always great. It seemed like he had his feet on the ground in every performance, but was still big enough to touch the stars!
I was always curious that he was a Salford lad, Pendleton, felt akin to him, the only actor I’ve ever loved who came from anywhere near me, admittedly well the other side of the Irwell! His dad’s Albert Finney seniors bookies on Cromwell Road, was still standing although closed well into the 1980s, gone now, I remember walking past it. It also notably featured at the end of the Smiths ‘Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before’ video.
Romantically because Salford was where I got my acting mojo, in an acting group on Chapel Street in the early 90’s I felt because someone as great as him had started there acting in that locality, I could too.
First thing I saw him in was Scrooge in 1970, I loved this movie for years, (although found it a little hard to watch ever since I once went out with Bob Cratchit’s daughter!)
I’ve loved British cinema from the 1950s & 60’s for years, keenly watched it in my teens. Billy Liar became my favourite movie, loved Richard Harris in This Sporting Life & Saturday Night & Sunday Morning was even more realistic. Couldn’t believe this was the same actor playing Scrooge.
I loved the film of Tom Jones, the sexiness of it all, that 18thC era has always appealed, costume, dresses, corsets, wigs, fops, rakes, country wenches & romps in the hay! I read that he didn't particularly enjoy the part, maybe because it was the traditional, young, male dashing lead. Big British stars at the time like Dirk Bogarde or the then emerging Peter O'Toole, (interesting to think that he was David Lean's first choice over O'Toole for Lawrence of Arabia), may have been more obvious casting, but certainly couldn't have pulled this off, and anyway the tone of the movie was reflecting a new wave. It needed an earthy, twinkling charm that even Richard Burton or Stanley Baker wouldn't have brought, and it got it, well ahead of it's time.
I’d read that he’d been a stage actor & whilst at the RSC in the late 50’s Charles Laughton had been something of a mentor to him, which had intrigued me, as I’d always loved Charles Laughton too.
I loved, loved, loved The Dresser, one of those films you go on quoting, particularly around other actors…
“the boom lights placed in the downstage wing are for me & me alone…you must find what light you can!” (Sir’s Lear to Fool)
I never saw it originally onstage at my very own Royal Exchange, originally with fabulous Freddie Jones. Tom Courtenay in both of course. Everything in this was movie version was perfect & great to see these two original Billy Liars working together!
Just like Scrooge, it wasn’t just the make up that made you believe he was of a senior citizen, the voice, the breathing, the manner all were exact. He was 47 playing Sir, even more amazingly he’d tackled Sir’s greatest role Lear 20 years earlier on stage!
Also there was Under the Volcano in 1984, the director John Huston for me, the greatest film director ever. It wasn’t an easy watch I remember, but I’d never seen anyone ever play a drunk so convincingly, funny yes, but mostly tragic, hugely deserving of sympathy but equally monstrous. As pissed up ex British consul in Mexico he had some great lines…
“How, unless you drink as I do, can you hope to understand the beauty of an old indian woman playing dominoes with a chicken?"
I went to see him in a play in London, about 1988 written by Ronald Harwood, (best known for the Dresser) JJ Farr, Bob Peck & Dudley Sutton were in, it wasn’t a great play, but it was great to see, (for me), this new side of him as stage actor.
I loved him in Dennis Potters last tv plays Karaoke & Cold Lazarus, (his head preserved in a future time with his brain thoughts tapped into, was an evocative image I’ve never forgotten & whilst at drama school I read that the dream team Finney & Courtenay were in this new play in London called Art & desperately wanted to go see it, but I couldn’t afford the bus fare into Birmingham city centre never mind to London & WestEnd theatre prices.
I loved him as the hard drinking Irish Police Sergeant Hegarty lusting after Robin Wright's local girl in a lovely film called the Playboys about this time too. But I never saw Millers Crossing until more recently, streamed it just 3 weeks ago, loved his Irish american mob boss Leo..
"Seein' you mope around here ruins my, whaddya call it, "joy de weever"?
And the Danny Boy sequence where he’s attacked at his home but he sees them off with a Tommy gun is one of cinemas great moments.
As Andrew ‘The Crock’ Crocker Harris is the 1993 film version of The Browning Version he was brilliant, effortlessly brilliant. I read a critic the other day saying that it was ill judged for him to take on a role Michael Redgrave had made his own in the 1950s but for me Albert’s The Crock was the finest, and in fact well judged, a truly believable reserve, no phoney stiff upper lipness. It was a hugely affecting, forensic display of understated, controlled emotion in the face of humiliation. It was for me one of his very, very best, and along with Under the Volcano, the Dresser and Saturday Night & Sunday Morning my favourite.
He was different, didn’t apparently even bother with an agent, wrote all his personal correspondence, (most recently a letter last August about a proposed commemoration of him in Salford) He didn’t care about being the big I am, the show biz star or vanity.
Mike Figgis recanted a great story the other day, about dining out a restaurant with him in the middle 1980s when he spotted Michael Douglas on a nearby table “Don’t make it obvious,” he said to Figgis, “but can you tell me if he’s eating potatoes with his steak?” he looked and said “no just some greens.” Albert nodded: “I thought so. He still takes his clothes off in movies!”
Oh and forget Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill, Albert’s is the greatest all the way to Jupiter and back!
I love the movie Big Fish where he's telling all these stories that may or may not be true, none better cast than him to make you believe totally in the tallest tall stories out there! His is an unshowy magic that shines through every time. As Tom Courtenay said of him in a very moving interview on the Radio,
"He didn’t have to have lots of tricks to make you look at him, he just came on with a bit of sunshine!"
Perhaps more than any other actor I love, I feel he’s closest to me, in so far as the roles he played certainly since The Dresser I could go for myself, (with notable exception of Churchill) Maybe it’s telling that most of my favourites of his roles are his older ones.
I think of him as my casting dreams, but I’d have to be day dreaming dreams wilder than Billy Liar to ever be as good and would be hard pressed to conjur anything near that sunshine!
Tom Courtenay also told how these 2 giants of early 1960s film had only really become huge friends when working on the Dresser...
"I'd say I was always in awe of him, and he loved to say: ‘He STILL is!”
"He didn’t have to have lots of tricks to make you look at him, he just came on with a bit of sunshine!"
Gammons & lemons
I don't want to hate anybody or compete in any intellectual contest, that I probably wouldn't win or couldn't be bothered to compete in anyway. I can be a little dim, alot of people are dim, regardless of their level of education or how much they might or mightn't have achieved. The EU referendum was fed by popular ignorance stoked by newspapers & perpetuated by hatred and or prejudice. The hatred is on both sides, I even had some fellow Brexshit opposers rounding on me after I jokingly contributed to a childish debate stoked by the BBC’s daft political editor calling remainers, remainiacs & I posed the light hearted question, would the opposite to that be a Brexiterrorist? One even called me a gammon, ME! A left leaning, EU supporting vegetarian, yes I do go red in the face, but more down to too much lubrication of the tonsils than emotion. Anyway I'm much more beetroot or tomato!
I neither understand economics nor want to, and that ignorance I share with a very large majority of people, It's the complete ignorance of the economic ramifications that we're all finding out about now, and that the people elected should have known about and so not thrown the dice out amongst the people with a referendum.
Because of both lack of finance & lacking significant other, (I don’t like travelling alone), I don't even get to go out of the country much nowadays but have always felt at home in European countries & love to think that I could travel to France or Italy, Germany or Spain & even settle there without hindrance.
Brexshit is really all down to arguments in both of the two main political parties that dominate UK politics & they’re still arguing. We look for wisdom in this who govern, supposedly! To paraphrase something Napoleon said of the British Scots Greys cavalry (well at least Rod Steiger said it in the movie Waterloo!) The UK is the noblest county in Europe but the worst led! The 2016 referendum was a narrow win for those who wanted to leave & now a lot of MPs are either so desperate to leave at any cost to the countries well being, (and Ireland’s), or apparently so scared to defy this so called will of people, even though it was nearly 3 years ago and we’ve had 2 such defiances of the will of the people with general elections in the last 4 years!
Sadly we can never look to Westminster to save us. Here, today, gone tomorrow politicians can only see as far as their careers and have form in being woefully short sighted & ignorant of history.
Anyone of any intelligence knows that leaving the EU is a stupid, stupid idea which will cause a whole new recession, just when we’ve been apparently come to the end of a 10 year one.
Shat upon by Tories, shovelled up by Labour. I think of that line from Withnail and I and we are and have been for too long. Let hese parties break up, lets have permanent coalitions of smaller parties, inevitably this will let the racist nutters & bigots in, they’re already there in the big parties anyway. And let 16 year old that’s can join the army but still can’t vote, vote!
There are things in life I find so mad that I wonder why it is there is a general acceptance of them and this Brexshit nightmare ranks highest in this long, dull, painful moment. Not our finest hour, I’d like to think Churchill would say, a lot of debate about him just now, hero or villain, almost certainly both, but for all his flaws he was a student of the past in a way that dopey Boris Johnson might claim to be, but isn’t and look at what a shameful embarrassment this is to the European stability that Churchill helped create. This country should be at the head of the table rather than having been seen as a begrudging party pooper! Britain, UK i use these terms that only the English call themselves, loosely, the Americans used to call us Limeys, but really we’re complete lemons!
Another great actor Bruno Ganz died today (tweet from time of writing, 16th Feb)
Bruno Ganz was so great, everyone remembers him as Hitler in Downfall, but for me he'll always be Damiel in one of my favourite movies: Wings of Desire. Makes you believe in Angels x
"Is life under the sun not just a dream?"
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