Sunday 22nd January 2017
Now is the time for fairytales, they have let a monster into the White House, a friend said to me at the beginning of this month. Well surely If this is possible we can believe all our wildest, most beautiful and creative dreams coming true.
With all the bad elements of fairytale terror and weirdness infiltrating real life you can ask yourself legitimately, what is real? The old bad smells of prejudice, fear, hate and disrespect are returning close to home, ignorance is rife, isolationism acceptable, and an epidemic of intolerance, fundamentalist zeal and easy violence has infected large parts of our planet. Morality has been side stepped for corporate and economic gain, hypocrisy and compliancy seemingly know no ends with the people we elect to lead us. Integrity is danger of becoming an endangered word and the phrase humanitarian crises has become so widely used as to be barely noticeable in a news report anymore as widely used in fact as that ugliest new word in the English language, the appropriately terminal sounding Brexit! Oh I'm so angry that our ever so poorly, in fact chronically badly managed country is lining itself up to jump off a cliff, and our only supposed lifeline is a madman who is intent on destroying us all in a spiteful tweet! Makes me ashamed to be anything to do with this country.
And on top of all this John Hurt has died, beautiful voice and one of the actors who's inspired me most from first being transfixed by him in his tiny role, that for me was enormous, in Midnight Express. I remember doing some extra work years ago when I worked at Granada tv, I had to play part of a gaggle of press swarming around him, and I had to keep flashing a camera in his face. It was the morning after he'd punched a photographer for invading his privacy. He'd recently just done Scandal, where he played Stephen Ward, who was hounded to suicide by a ravenous press in the wake of the Profumo affair, and the part as was clear in his beautifully judged performance had understandably affected him. Anyway when the camera stopped rolling after flashing him in the face till he was blind, smiling, he mimed a playful punch in my direction!
In my little world, I still don't have my own place to live and no light in the world of acting work opportunities and I can't get an agent for the cliché of not having any gaps in their books.
Dreams of acting success are a fairytale and seem more of a far fetched one than before I entered the drama school that I left 20 years ago this year. Oh I have fun, I mostly keep positive, Toby Belch and Captain Hook kept me out of trouble last year. But I still have to convince myself I am an actor by googling myself on Spotlight and having this website and I'd be too embarrassed to admit how much money I earn from acting in an average year, even to myself as I know no one else will read this.
I'm not going to go on whinging about acting disappointments, but my point is that my personal fairytale is, although self centred, at least a good, creative even. It is the Billy Liar-like dream world of that, my favourite film. Billy as played by Tom Courtenay, who was very much associated with my theatre of dreams, the Royal Exchange Theatre early on. My Billy dreams of a major role in Manchester's real theatre of dreams. I have always believed because of huge emotional attachment to this theatre, that I'll never feel I'm a proper actor til I get to work there, but maybe in itself that is fanciful.
The Exchange might as well be a fairytale castle, that just happens to look like the Apollo moon missions lunar module. I have for 30 years dreamt of conquering but frustratingly beyond mention I am only a tourist, there. Late last year I mounted a mini campaign that looks just fanciful now, to try and get seen for their Twelfth Night this April. I contacted the director and caster innumerable times, but I knew all along that I was just playing out a fanciful hope. My only way ever in there is to be previously known and well thought of both by director and caster. But I still allowed myself to be carried along in my Billy Liar dream world, fairytale, actually believing I could get seen. I even imagined climbing up to the top of the lunar module and refusing to come down if they didn't see me!
I guess It's like the boys and indeed girls who dreamt of being astronauts but who only ever saw the Kennedy space centre, except that they grew up, got over their disappointment. I know I'm skilled enough to be allowed onto that craft, I've done my training for over 20 years but it's still just orbiting my earth and I might as well have to do a space walk to even get a look in. I'm fuming rocket fuel frustration at what I have to do to get seen. Not just by this theatre but a host of other prominent employers.
With Acting you walk a fine line between being in your own optimistic and isolated bubble, (which this vanity website wholly represents), and the very real realisation that your chances of even getting seen for tv and regional theatre are akin to winning the jackpot in the lottery!
Of course it's hideously unfair, but you get yourself in your space bubble and almost gleefully temporarily forget, before you come crashing down to earth again, and you never learn, or want to!
I may have been to Mars in a recent short film, but the Royal Exchange is still a universe apart!
Meryl Streep was right it is a privilege to act, it's actually more than a blessing, it;s a miracle that someone will pay you to do what you love. Having Sally Wainwright, Terry Gilliam, Mike Leigh or Sarah Frankcom, want me to work with them... that would be like me lying in a liquorice fountain with mermaids reclining on sugary sherbet Edinburgh rocks and my mouth watering with the taste of kisses from their cherry lips!
My biggest fairytale dream has always been the most common, love, many, many times it's got in the way of and at times completely disrupted me giving it the large with acting, sometimes I even feel I might have even been wonderfully successful by now, if I could've set it aside.
Real love took me a long time to recognise and I was in love last year for the first time in ages.
I should know, I've had more crushes than a.....? A world record crushing car crusher! I read once that if you go on having feelings for someone after 4 months it must be love, I always thought that "As soon as I wake up, any night, any day, I know that it's you I need to take the blues away" but maybe that was just Madness!
My niece said today when I was talking about monsters with her, that we're only early on in this particular fairytale and I thought that's right, the darkness before the light returns, fairytales traditionally play out well and already we're seeing people positively mobilise and come together as they generally do after a big shock!
Really what we need is to see our beautiful hopes realised like little chinks of sunlight, burning through the mist in all our little worlds.
And if I didn't believe in the prospect of those hopes I'd climb on top of the Royal Exchange's lunar module tomorrow and attempt a space walk! x