Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Breaking the Tape

And so, here we are. Another show gone; the theatre dark again. Whilst Ladykillers went out with a huge emotional bang, for me Chariots of Fire ended with more of a limp over the finishing line. The feeling of disappointment was somewhat palpable: we could not escape the audience asking us why it was finishing early and there was a taste of bitterness in the air.

Personally, I felt surprisingly little on Saturday, which could not contrast more with our last closing night. There is virtually nothing I will miss about the show, and it is actually a relief to know I won’t be watching it again. Already the lines and finer plot points are melting from my mind, as if I’m waking up from a long dream.

The house was almost full for both shows on Saturday. I was working on bar, but sneaked into the back of the stalls at the end to watch the curtain call. I clapped for the members of the company who had been friendly in our seven months together, especially for wonderful Nickolas, who stripped off his academic robes and joined in with the final laps around the track! The whole audience were on their feet, even, touchingly, a severely disabled girl who was determined to show her support for the show. It really did inspire many people, which is great to know, although it was never my cup of tea.

At the end, our team would disband once again, but still I felt very little. For me, the worst had already happened. Some of my dearest friends had already left. My emotions had been drained just a few nights previously when the incomparable Klara had her last night. I cried on the street at the bus stop with her (she has gone to Chile for at least five months) and so nothing on Saturday could rival that strength of feeling.

For comparions sake: our team on the last day (we got the same shot last time)

Myles, Maria and I went down to visit Nickolas in his dressing room afterwards to say our own goodbyes. He is a very unique person; quite the most immediately open and friendly actor I’ve worked with. He is honest, generous and funny and he is without doubt the thing I shall miss most about the show. He tells us he will include Myles in his autobiography, which, if true, would be staggeringly brilliant.

Feeling deflated, and a little angry with the world, I wasn’t in the mood for the partying we had planned for afterwards. I couldn’t stop thinking about the ending of our last show, and the stupid contrast in the way everything felt. Then, I was carried on a tidal wave of emotions; I wanted to be involved in every moment of the day, soaking it all in. I wanted to run down to see the cast afterwards and find out if we could attend their party. This time, I didn’t even want to.

However, this was our closing night and so a collective decision was made to block out all the bad things and to focus on having a good time. So, as large glasses of wine and double measures of spirits were ordered in a packed bar full of people we knew, with music blasting out, I loosened up. I requested Lulu (naturally), ignored some people and focused on others and actually began to have fun. The bar we were in learnt it was our closing night and duly played the Vangelis music, dear oh dear.

 And then, a slightly strange turn of events occurred when my friend nudged me and gestured over to the bar. There, with a few friends was Stephen, who had been one of the principal actors in The Ladykillers! I hadn’t seen him since that last day and had even missed him at the end of that. It was so absurd that he should turn up all these months later when we were celebrating the closure of the subsequent show, and so incredibly amazing to see him! Being at this stage softened and merried by rose, I approached him without qualms. Being in a similar state, he was equally glad to see me, it seemed, and we hugged like old friends, chatting for ages and catching up. He introduced me to his friends and called me ‘Rach’ like he always used to.  It was all utterly surreal and wonderful.

Later, Maria and I saw him again and she asked him to recite one of our favourite lines from the play he used to say. Poor guy had some issues remembering what on earth we were talking about but we cajoled him into performing in the end. We discussed going onto the same club afterwards but in the end went separate ways. I was amazed at the random coincidence of him turning up on the last night of Chariots, thrilled to have seen him and happy in the knowledge that I have spoken to nearly all of that cast since the show closed. I still do miss them/it very much. It was even stranger a coincidence seeing as an envelope for Peter had arrived at stage door that same day (first time in months – someone really missed the boat!) and we had post there for Marcus, another company member too. It was like being in a time warp!

After that, the night mirrored our last closing night perfectly, in that we moved from the same bar we’d been in before to the same nightclub, danced there til it closed and queued in a nearby McDonalds for breakfast food (only tastes good in that specific set of circumstances). I got home in the early hours of the morning and slept immediately. When I woke, I felt a pure and satisfying sense of closure (and a very sore head).

Anyway, it was impossible to feel too sad about leaving the Gielgud itself because I knew I’d be back there on Monday. I have worked two afternoons on stage door so far, which have been unlike anything I’ve done before because the ‘get out’ has been happening. This, for those who don’t know, means exactly what it sounds like it means: lots of blokes come in to rip out the set, and put it in a truck, and dressing rooms, wardrobe etc are all cleared out. It’s been busy, but has gone well so everyone’s been in a good mood and the box has felt like an island of calm in amongst all the passing craziness as people run in and out of the building lugging various bits of equipment.  One of the stage managers gave me a serving of Quality Streets on a plate and Nicko popped by to collect the rest of his things, to wish me ‘happy Easter’ and to give me a crème egg(!) Marcus also came in to collect his post so chatted to him for a while: another old LK face from ‘back in the day’.

It has been strange finishing work by 6.30pm and locking up by myself. Today, it was literally by myself: I was the last one left and felt a mixture of mild terror and excitement at the responsibility bestowed upon me! It was very weird being the only person in the whole building and responsible for locking it up safely for the night. With our first evening off on Monday, we went to the theatre (I know) to see ‘Privates on Parade’. It was unlike anything I’ve seen and very well done. Myles knew the understudy who was playing that night so we went for a drink with her afterwards. Tonight, I have simply enjoyed a whole evening to myself in the flat, cooking dinner at a sensible hour and watching DVDs and the first episode of Ben’s Death in Paradise. Strange having a vested interest in the programme and knowing so much about it. Funny to think I was sent messages from that set and have been shown photos of the crew there on their breaks.

Thursday is my birthday and I’m going out tomorrow to celebrate. It’ll be quite nice having the whole evening for a change: we can start as soon as I put the padlock on the stage door! I then have a long weekend in Bristol to look forward to. I’m told I should be ‘very excited’ about my birthday present! Man of mystery. I shall turn 26 which is officially closer to 30 than 20, but will do my best to remain unconcerned, do what I enjoy and hope that the year ahead will be a happy one.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2012 in the world of me.

Memorable books I read:
Life of Pi. The Road Home.

A memorable film I saw:
In The Loop

A song I sung to myself with appropriate lyrics:

I can't win, I can't reign
I will never win this game
Without you, without you
I am lost, I am vain,
I will never be the same
Without you, without you

I won't run, I won't fly
I will never make it by
Without you, without you
I can't rest, I can't fight
All I need is you and I,
Without you, without you

Oh oh oh!
You! You! You!
You! You! You!

Can't erase, so I'll take blame
But I can't accept that we're estranged
Without you, without you
I can't quit now, this can't be right
I can't take one more sleepless night
Without you, without you

I won't soar, I won't climb
If you're not here, I'm paralyzed
Without you, without you
I can't look, I'm so blind
I lost my heart, I lost my mind
Without you, without you

Oh oh oh!
You! You! You!
You! You! You!

I am lost, I am vain,
I will never be the same
Without you, without you

A memorable and defining moment:

 Tee hee.

Plays I saw:
The Ladykillers, The Sunshine Boys, Noises Off, Blood Brothers, Chariots of Fire, Goodnight Mr Tom, The Wizard of Oz, We Will Rock You, The Kings Speech, that one at the Arts Theatre I can't remember the name of, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Bodyguard

People I met whom I admire:
Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane

Holidays I took:
Lithuania, Dartmoor, Serbia/Montenegro, Sweden

Random low points:
15th April

Random high points:
14th April: last day of Ladykillers. And actually the whole of the year up until that point. Walking to work with Peter. Seeing Ben and James subsequent to us closing. Ab Fab party. Miming ‘Phantom of the Opera’ at the back of the Grand Circle there with Kieron, mirroring the actors on stage. Seeing QI, Would I Lie to You and Chain Reaction being recorded. Spotting filming in Soho and attending a lecture at the Royal Institute (perhaps a ‘crazy’ moment!)Trips eg Madame Tussauds, roller disco and Winter Wonderland. DVD ‘B.J.’ nights with the gang. The glamours of the Chariots of Fire press night. Watching the Olympic Opening ceremony in Victoria Park, with the fireworks and helicopters in real life just over the trees. Seeing the flame being carried by Eddy and Patsy, and also past our theatre, with Vangelis on a podium! Having to babysit the latter afterwards. The day we met Lulu. Viv moving to London. Lunching in an abandoned village on a hilltop overlooking the bay in Montenegro. Watching sun rise over the frozen lake in Sweden.

Greatest achievement:
Getting a piece of writing shortlisted to the final 8 of a competition run by Virago publishers.

Proudest moment:
Attending Joseph’s first birthday party. Being missed by various important people. Winning a hamper at the Gielgud Christmas Quiz!

Craziest moments:
Supping drinks at the ‘after-party’ of the RI lecture. Partying with Stephen Fry at the press night. Relaying messages and keeping secrets for celebrities. Helping Lulu tweet. Drinking champagne and gossiping backstage at Nicko Grace’s birthday party. Having royalty at our Christmas do. Wearing an Olympic Gold medal. Writing to Ian McEwan and Hugh Grant.

A first:
Becoming a Godmother. Driving a car (sort of). Tasting a cigarette. Stage door keeping.

A last:
Impossible to say any more.

A defining food:
Focaccia bread!

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

Crawling out of the dusty woodwork as the turning of another new year is a good excuse to get writing. The few months since I last wrote have chugged along with no great dramas, with nothing much to report really. Chariots still ran. Usual front of house craziness happened. A few fun events were attended but in general it’s all been quite quiet. I have been trying to bust out of the theatre and almost managed it on a couple of occasions, but it didn’t work out. My target for leaving by Christmas got blown well out of the window but there was the sad glimmer of the glamorous temptation of Helen Mirren in February. Then, just before Christmas, we were hit with the news that after all ‘that’, this show was to close early, shortly after the new year.

I don’t know what lies ahead at the moment. I’ve been saved slightly by the offer of some stage door shifts in the upcoming few weeks but this really should be my catalyst to finally move on in the hope of finding that ‘proper job’, or at least the first step towards it. I cannot afford to stay in London without any income to support that search though, so went through a very rough few days after hearing the news, thinking I’d be so suddenly forced to move away. As it is, I may be able to hold out now til the end of January, and so maybe therefore Helen Mirren. I know I need to leave the theatre, but there’s no point in doing that unless I have something to go to; at least as it stands I have a job of some description.

So, the future looks a little uncertain at the moment, but, being a new year blog, I want to use the opportunity to look back. Last year, I did a roundup of 2011 and want to do the same again now. I’ll also post a summative account using exactly the same prompts as I did a year ago, collecting some of the high- and low- lights!

Once again, I see 2012 as being a year of two distinct parts. They can be separated almost to the hour, and the line between them is the last day of The Ladykillers. It’s strange how at the time I even knew just how momentous that occasion would be. Before was happiness, security, friendship, a job I loved, glamour and laughs. Afterwards was the unknown. I wrote a lot about it at the time, and so won’t repeat my feelings in depth here, but suffice to say things have never been quite the same since. I muddled through, worked at Her Majesty’s and learnt what the real pull of the Gielgud was. We counted the days til our return for Chariots, and the play certainly came with its fair share of amazing moments: working there over the Olympics was an honour; we met Vangelis; we had the Torch come by our theatre as the music drowned Shaftesbury Avenue; we met medallists from Team GB and I tried on a Gold medal; the press night was incredible and we’ve had loads of fun getting to know *some* of the actors, especially Mr Grace.

There have been ups and downs with the front of house team. I’ve experienced extreme frustration and there was even a period when I actively disliked coming to work. However, we’ve come through all that too and we finish the run again with a fantastic group of people whom I will miss. My close group of friends have got even closer and some of my favourite times this year have been sitting up with them all night talking and laughing til we cried.

Yes, I still feel the pressing need to find a new job and to earn more money; yes my income here doesn’t quite support me and yes I need to work out a way of being able to see my boyfriend more often. The close of this show (this weekend) feels completely different to last time. With The Ladykillers there was that desperation for it not to be over, because I loved everything about that job. Now, I feel no emotional attachment to the production at all and no great desire to keep in touch with anyone involved as I have The Ladykillers. However, Saturday will mark the end of yet another era as our team is yet again scattered and I’m not sure how many more times I can come through that. I will miss the ‘family’ here terribly, but know it won’t mean the ending of my most precious friendships. What will be will be, and although things may never be quite the same again, I have made more than one ‘friend for life’ (to quote the show). So I shall try not to be afraid of the unknown and remember that if all else fails, 2012 has given me great memories and true friendships which will hopefully last for years to come.