Every now and again, I sit myself down and give myself a good talking to, or burden the dog with it. He’s a good listener, though he does have a tendency of wandering off in the middle of the conversation leaving me to, well, talk to myself.
Todays’ sitting down to talk to myself topic was ‘work’ and how I got to where I am now, which sometimes doesn’t feel all that far from when I started. Over the years I’ve done various jobs, window cleaner, though I’m not very good at heights, Postman, I’m not very good at getting up early, especially in winter. I’ve been a Civil Servant, I was good at being Civil, it was the Servant bit I didn’t get. Good job, lovely people to work with, but my heart wasn’t in it. Sheet metal worker, bloody dangerous job that. Well it was when I did it. Barman. I liked that, have to say.
Finally, after putting it off and not thinking I was good enough, let’s face it, I wasn’t good at any of the jobs I did, apart from Barman, really did enjoy it, I bit the bullet and became an actor. A professional actor at that. One that gets paid.
It wasn’t easy at first, and financially it was bloody stupid. But I did it.
I say, ‘I did it’. With a lot of help and support from family and friends I was lucky enough to be allowed to do it.
So, at the age of 35, I went to spend 10 months training at
DSL, Drama Studio London.
Actually, before we get to that bit, how about I go back a few years to explain why I wanted to be an actor.
In 1969, (or was it 1970? Let’s go with ’69. Sounds a bit more retro.), I was taken to see ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at the Preston Playhouse, home of Preston Drama Club.
My Dad was playing the part of the Wizard, and for the weeks leading up to it we’d hear him go through his lines and songs, but best of all we got to see him use the Wizards magic wand. A simple device, a roll of thin metal that at the touch of a button expanded into a wand, then took ages to fold it back up again. I found this out one day when I was playing with it, wasn’t supposed to be, but who can resist a magic wand. I couldn’t.
And so, for the first time in my life I saw a real live stage show. A real land, were people not only spoke but sang, with music. They lived in a beautiful bright yellow and green land. They sparkled and shone, they danced and sang and no one told them to be quiet. Who were these wonderful people and how could I go and live with them in this wonderful land?
After the show we went back to see my Dad who took us all back stage. The land was gone. Folded up and put away. How could that be? My dad tried to explain, but I didn’t listen. Obviously they’d all been kidnapped, or moved. Yeah, that’s it, they moved. All these real people from Oz moved. I can sleep better now knowing that.
Anywho, back to my story. From that moment on I knew what I wanted to be. An Actor, in capital letters. My first appearance was in 1972 for the Preston Guild. I played a goose boy. Didn’t have any geese though, so I guess I was just ‘Boy’.
I’ll be writing more about that nearer the time of this years’ Preston Guild. Every 20 years you know. All I’ll say is, I loved every minute of it, which spurred me on. I was going to be an actor. Now, all I had to do was wait until someone discovered me.
Only one draw back. Painfully shy when it came to standing up in front of people. This was going to take me longer than I thought.
When I was 19 I went to audition for the mighty
RADA. I learnt two speeches, borrowed my best mate Rolfs’ Late Uncles suit, got my ticket for the train, and off I went to be discovered.
I came home that day with the words of one of the Tutors ringing in my ear. ‘Why don’t you try Amateur Dramatics Dear, you might have a good career there.’
And so I did, six years after being rejected by
RADA that is. I’d given up any thought of acting, I was going to be a window cleaner, or Postman, or both, for the rest of my life. But I still talked about acting, and secretly carried that torch for it.
A friend of mine had joined Preston Drama Club, for easier purposes we’ll call it P.D.C. from now on, and asked if I’d meet him after his audition, and could I wait in the theatre. So I did. I didn’t know at the time that my friends had actually conned me into going to try and get me to join.
The play was ‘The Matchmaker’, the director was Stella Judson. I sat in the auditorium smugly watching these amateurs who obviously didn’t know the first thing about acting, bless them, but who was I to criticise them. Thinking back, I was a big headed, pig ignorant bugger at times. Nothing changes.
Stella then looked out into the auditorium and asked if I’d like to read. Laughingly I said no, I wasn’t into that kind of thing. Stella’s quite a persuasive Lady, and before I knew it I was on stage reading for the part of Barnaby Tucker. Which, I’m glad to say I got. My mate dropped out of the play a week later.
Jump forward nine years, I’ve been in over 90 plays, co-written a couple of Pantos, set up a theatre group, Navigation Theatre, with my friends Kate and Dave, and was now running workshops on a Monday night in teaching people all my techniques. As I say, big headed bugger. And it was because of the workshops that I applied to
DSL. Basically, I’d run out of ideas, who the hell was I to think I could teach people to act, I needed help and quick. I’d read an adverstisement in The Stage for DSL and how they held a one day audition and workshop. Perfect, I thought, I’ll apply, I obviously wont get in, but I can nick their ideas, come back to Preston and the next few workshops are sorted.
I got in. Still nicked their ideas for my next workshops though.
And so it began, my life as An Actor, in capitals.
I won’t bore you with my C.V., but I’ve been lucky, a lot luckier than some of the very talented people I trained with, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible people and doing some quite diverse work, suprising myself sometimes. I’ve even written a play, a good one too.
I can’t say I’ve worked solidly, I haven’t, and that’s when the Pub calls out to me and off I go to work behind a bar until the next acting job comes along. Thankfully I’ve not had to do that for over four years now, but something tells me I may have to brush up my beer pulling skills soon.
Being an Actor is the best job in the world, for me anyway, but it’s not the most secure profession, though you could probably say that about a lot of professions these days. And there are times when the work dries up, and I sit down and have a good talk to myself. Do I continue trying to make it, going through those auditions, learning a script or song in an afternoon, having to put yourself through the feeling of rejection again and again, having to do what is required for the job. There comes a point when you’ve had to walk around a casting room in nothing but a thong listening to people say ‘Is he fat enough?’ or worse still ‘Can you turn around and really bend over in front of us as if you’re picking something up?’ (honestly, this did happen to me), that you think, ‘Can I do this anymore?
Then there’s the writing. I do enjoy it, not made any money from it, probably never will, and I can go through periods of not being able to write anything. I still write though.
I was in the Civil Service for ten years before I decided to leave. I’ve been acting for eleven years now.
Could be time to rethink the career, try and push myself a little harder, take some classes, branch out a little more, take a risk.
Could be time to have a complete change, do something new, or old, I’ve said I like being a Barman.
Could be time to move, get out of
, live somewhere else, do something else. London
Could just be the weather.