Saturday, 24 September 2011

When in Rome... - Week 9

I left Lee and Joanne on Sunday, boarded OM2 and headed for Windsor. Cuckoo wanted to stop at a fancy pants cafe just outside of Bracknell and as I was relying on his own goodwill to get me to my destination, I - as per usual - had zero clout.  Needless to say the cafe was filled with snobby sorts all ordering diccy dacca frappa chinos and bird seed omelettes made of egg whites. Al was in heaven; I was not.

            Thankfully the service was dreadful too, which meant that Cuckoo eventually got fed up. My mood perked.
            After the disappointment of Cuckoo's brunch we made our way to Staines to watch 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy'. Staines is quite pretty. The people were repulsive.
            If there are any parents of the teenagers/20 year olds of Staines reading this, please listen to me:
            Are you mad?! I had a banged up Renault Clio for my first car and it did me just fine. In fact, as we clambered out of OM2, I was nearly mowed down by a spotty, skinhead jackass cruising with his 'bitches' in a WHITE RANGE ROVER. Do you really think that he knows or will ever appreciate the value of money? Do you?! Do you???


            Back in the room.

            Tinker Tailor was (aside from lacking that Agatha Christie 'something') terrific. Great Acting, good script and beautifully shot. To top it off, Al hated it, which made me enjoy the afternoon all the more.
            We drove the short distance to Windsor and found Al's digs which came with some odd rules (don't wash up) and not the nicest furnishings to say the least.
            What wasn't so great is that his landlady had said that my digs don't really compete...
            She was wrong though. My digs are lovely and Mrs. Emery, our vivacious landlady is a cracking old girl with tons of wit and love.

            I oriented myself with the house and then the surrounding area and met up with Cuckoo for a meal. I hadn't anticipated (foolishly) just how many tourists there would be in the town. As I passed a bunch of Americans, busy studying a building, one of their party said, "It's gotta be the most overly surveillanced city in the world."
            A passing local then retorted, "Welcome to England".
            At the restaurant, things were just as touristy; everyone was eating either fish and chips or a Sunday Roast. I think (including the waiters) myself and Al must have been the only Brits in there.
            After the meal we went to Al's and watched the first of the new series of Downton Abbey. The last time we saw the show was during Madness of George - a whole year ago - which just doesn't seem possible.
            I woke late on Tuesday. I had had the best night's sleep in a long while, after which I felt totally nourished. 'Dawn comes early with rosy fingers'; funny, I didn't notice them.
            I popped over to the nearby co-op and got myself a loaf of bread and some soup for lunch (how glamorous the actor's life is) and took it back to the house to prepare. Vee, (our landlady) kept me entertained the whole time with anecdotes about her incredible life - the girl has done everything!
The 'leaning cafe'... I'm holding it up. Funny.
            Food down the gullet, I went clothes shopping. After Bracknell, it's just nice being somewhere that has shops, so I took full advantage of them. I needed some new socks and wanted to chuck some of the shirts that I'm currently lugging round the country. I have a philosophy with clothing; that as soon as you stop enjoying wearing something, to get rid of it and replace it with something you do. Those that I trained with at GSA only knew me to wear jeans and black shirts, but since then, I've branched out and - I hesitate to say - embraced fashions a little bit...? Well, maybe not fashions, but certainly things other than black shirts...

            Shopping is an experience in Windsor. The town centre is remarkably small, which means that there are an awful lot of people in a very small area. The other thing that makes it a bit different is just how beautiful it is. Unfortunately, one still sees the serialisation of high street shops that are copied and pasted across the country, but the saving grace here, is that above every W.H.Smith, or Boots, there is a picturesque period building, suspended in its own time.            

            When I got to the theatre in the evening - which is also very pretty - things were really up to the wire. Our tech team had only two in-house technicians to help them with the get-in and focussing operations before the evening show and it just wasn't enough. They managed it, but we were only allowed on stage half an hour before the half.
            The show itself was great. I think that we were all a little nervous; it was a near full house of 500 people, which always tightens the screws a bit. I for one felt my third eye watching me; I was aware of acting instead of just acting. Sounds stupid, but it's quite a common niggle with actors. What was so peculiar was how close the front row was to the front of the stage. It felt like having a shower with the curtains open. Totally exposed.
            Anyway, despite a few initial shakes, the audience gushed with laughter and, when we went through to the theatre bar for some welcome-drinks, the remaining audience expressed their thanks for a hilarious night out.
            Guy and Bridget were on duty, having brought the hopeful first Original Theatre friends. What was so lovely to hear is that some of them were genuinely interested and above all, impressed with the company for getting to where it is now without any subsidised help.
            No small feat and a real testament to old Al.

            After drinks, a few of us were still in the mood for a nightcap and walked the backstreets of Windsor, with the Cuckoo as our guide to try and find a bar. Note to self - never trust a Cuckoo with directions. Ever.
            We got back to the digs (past 11:00pm), and were amazed to see our landlady still up. I was even more surprised to see her then go through her entire orienting chat with Rachel.
            I watched the first in a series about young officers in training at Sandhurst. It was incredible.
            A lot of parallels have been found between actors and those in the armed services, i.e. Actors jumping ship to become soldiers and vice versa. I can only speculate as to the reason for that, but would assume that both are careers that are based on the rush of adrenalin and that in order to be a decent soldier you have to be able to work long, unsociable hours and be able to take intense, immediate direction, whilst still maintaining ones own integrity. That being said, I'm not sure how I'd fare on a battleground...
            'We make war, so that we may make peace' - Aristotle
            I think I'd like the poetry and philosophy a lot more!
            Again, I woke late on the Tuesday and after a leisurely lunch; I met up with Ducky and watched her shop. Unfortunately for my wallet, my eyes started to stray towards the rails and found myself spending another wad of cash on a new suit jacket (because I don't have enough??) and a shirt.
            To make up for the impromptu spend session, the Duck bought me a hot chocolate at Carluccio’s and we stocked up on weekly provisions at Waitrose.

            Waitrose, to save a bit of money you see...?
            We met later in the evening for a meal at Wagamama's.
            I need help.
            Oh well, I've been quite well behaved so far - considering my track record - a bit of a blow out is probably deserved.
            The evening's show was tricky. The audience was smaller than the previous evening and they responded to the show far differently than we have had any other night. At some moments that are normally certain laughter spots we got nothing and at other points where we normally anticipate silence, we had cacophonies of laughter. It was very strange.
            After the show I met up with my agents, Howard and Pam (who were in, watching the show) for a quick drink before they headed back to the capital. They loved the show - which is always nice - and complimented the entire cast for their timing and performances. It's an old adage that the hardest thing to find in an agent, is implicit trust and the ability to get on well together. It sounds so ridiculously obvious, but so many actors struggle terribly to find that balance. I can happily say that I don't have that problem. We caught up, talked about the 'biz', talked about anything but the 'biz', had a laugh and said our goodbyes. I rejoined the platoon in a quaint little pub around the corner from the theatre.

            Touring life is made up of little gem places. One has to suffer concrete jungles etc to really appreciate the nuggets of grace that turn up every now and then.  The Horse and Groom is one of them.
             I walked through the old black lacquered door and was hit by a wall of warmth. A fire burned gently toward the back of the room and the ruddy, smiling faces of my mates beckoned me in by my side.
            Shiv was particularly happy - apparently the Guinness was the best that she's ever had in England.
            Content Irish girl: Tick.
            I read my sister's blog when I got back to the digs, who is charting her life travelling over the next 10 months.
            I got melancholic.
            And then, happy for her.
            I find nostalgia endlessly interesting. According to 'Madmen's' Don Draper, the word derives from ancient Greek and literally translates as, 'the pain from an old wound'. Now, pain is pain, is pain. But, pain has an origin. It has a start and an end. It also tells a story. And, at an undefined time, it leaves us. The only way we know that it has ever been is by the scar that remains.
            For me now, the pain of my sister's departure is still strong, but, in a month, two months, half a year, it will fade - not totally - but it will fade. And, when she returns home to us, what was once an open gash will be little more than a faint white line; telling a story of her entire time away.

            Wednesday was Windsor Castle day. The town itself is little more than the castle - it takes up such an amazing amount of space. Speedy, Ducky and myself met in the afternoon for the excursion, donned our tourist hats and took a trip back to the decadence of a time when the Monarch was ruler; a ruler that answered to nobody.
            Our £16 entry fee instantly paid for itself when we entered the castle chapel to be hit by a wall of sound in the form of the royal philharmonic orchestra in rehearsal with an opera singer that made my heart ache at his talent.
            I stood, dumbfounded for 10 minutes or so, while Speedy and Ducks looked on at me in the distance chuckling as my jaw dropped lower and lower.             The rest of the journey around the grounds and halls were incredible. Almost too incredible; a bit like walking the lake district - in the end one becomes blind to the beauty of it all.
            I saw more priceless artefacts in that one afternoon than I probably will for the rest of my life. The girls were particularly enamoured with Queen Mary's childhood doll's house, which was nearly the size of a small bed-sit - as for myself (being a Great Yarmouth boy), I was blown away by seeing the bullet that killed Admiral Lord Nelson - incredible.

            I can't quite get my head around what an experience seeing such things must be for the Americans that were there in abundance, having such a short - in comparison - history to that of ours. It's a good reminder seeing the awe on other's faces that we should be far more appreciative of our remarkable history, whether it be in buildings, the arts or mere trinkets - the past has directly affected us all, for better or for worse and it is worth reflecting on such a fact.

            The show in the evening was tight - I shut my finger in one of the doors - but aside from that it was a polished performance all round.
            A few of the guys had friends in watching the show, so afterwards we all went to the pub that we'd found the previous evening and let our hair down.
That night I dreamt that we were also touring the production of Merchant of Venice that I had finished before starting the tour. Everyone was angry with me for not remembering the script and the blocking. Classic actor's nightmare. I then dreamt that Pete (our company manager) and Garreth (DSM) called a company meeting and expressed their displeasure with one of the actors:
            "We just wanted to voice something that we've been unhappy with for some time now; namely, Rhys King's attitude."
            I woke and did little with the morning other than writing and chatting to Vee.
            When I got in to the theatre, I sat on the stage waiting for our fight call while Shiv did her vocal warm-up. I must admit that I'm not someone that partakes in pre-show warm-ups. I do the occasional (what the Cuckoo calls...)'weasel noise' which I must credit to the AC/DC singer Brian Johnson which resembles something between a yodel and the scream a fox makes when it's having sex, but, other than that I shy away from the practice preferring to relax with music instead. That being said, it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy the hilarity of watching others with their preshow rituals. 

Maybe that's a priceless article that Windsor Castle will never have?
            The matinee performance was wonderful. The audience were alive with cackles and squwarks and we had a ball.

            It was another one of those moments, watching the show on the prompt corner monitor that I wondered whether - when good - there is anything better than the sound of impulsive, eruptive laughter.
              My spending spree continued in between shows, this time Shiv took Al and me to get some new shoes (my Dad's favourite thing in the world - aside from his fish...) and am very pleased with the goods. It's strange having others help you buy clothing etc as they tend to see what would look good on you and what suits you rather than what you may like.
            You can't look at yourself un-objectively.
            Anyway, I have new shoes. Bingo.
            The evening performance was tough - only because of the contrast in audience size in comparison with the packed house of the afternoon. Though, come the bows, they whooped with all the encouragement they had. It's one of the most valuable lessons that I've learnt since doing the play, during the show; one can only hear the laughs, the smiles are silent. But, it's those smiles that they take away like a little present at the end of the night.
            We had drinks at Browns in the evening (I prefer the horse and groom..) and talked. Just, talked; one of my favourite things in the world; unobstructed, thoughtful talking.
            On Friday morning I had a long, deep bath and read. Love in the Time of Cholera is still teaching me - a new lesson with every page.
            When I finished bathing, I came across something online that I have to share with you.
            (No, not like that...)

'Her hair was up in a pony tail,
Her favorite dress tied with a bow.
Today was Daddy's Day at school,
And she couldn't wait to go.
But her mommy tried to tell her,
That she probably should stay home.
Why the kids might not understand,
If she went to school alone.
But she was not afraid;
She knew just what to say.
What to tell her classmates
Of why he wasn't there today.
But still her mother worried,
For her to face this day alone.
And that was why once again,
She tried to keep her daughter home.
But the little girl went to school
Eager to tell them all.
About a dad she never sees
A dad who never calls.
There were daddies along the wall in back,
For everyone to meet.
Children squirming impatiently,
Anxious in their seats
One by one the teacher called
A student from the class.
To introduce their daddy,
As seconds slowly passed.
At last the teacher called her name,
Every child turned to stare.
Each of them was searching,
A man who wasn't there.
'Where's her daddy at?'
She heard a boy call out.
'She probably doesn't have one,'
Another student dared to shout.
And from somewhere near the back,
She heard a daddy say,
'Looks like another deadbeat dad,
Too busy to waste his day.'
The words did not offend her,
As she smiled up at her Mom.
And looked back at her teacher,
Who told her to go on.
And with hands behind her back,
Slowly she began to speak.
And out from the mouth of a child,
Came words incredibly unique.
'My Daddy couldn't be here,
Because he lives so far away.
But I know he wishes he could be,
Since this is such a special day.
And though you cannot meet him,
I wanted you to know.
All about my daddy,
And how much he loves me so.
He loved to tell me stories
He taught me to ride my bike.
He surprised me with pink roses,
And taught me to fly a kite.
We used to share fudge sundaes,
And ice cream in a cone.
And though you cannot see him.
I'm not standing here alone.
'Cause my daddy's al ways with me,
Even though we are apart
I know because he told me,
He'll forever be in my heart'
With that, her little hand reached up,
And lay across her chest.
Feeling her own heartbeat,
Beneath her favorite dress.
And from somewhere here in the crowd of dads,
Her mother stood in tears.
Proudly watching her daughter,
Who was wise beyond her years.
For she stood up for the love
Of a man not in her life.
Doing what was best for her,
Doing what was right.
And when she dropped her hand back down,
Staring straight into the crowd.
She finished with a voice so soft,
But its message clear and loud.
'I love my daddy very much,
he's my shining star.
And if he could, he'd be here,
But heaven's just too far.
You see he is a British soldier
And died just this past year
When a roadside bomb hit his convoy
And taught Britons to fear.
But sometimes when I close my eyes,
it's like he never went away.'
And then she closed her eyes,
And saw him there that day.
And to her mothers amazement,
She witnessed with surprise.
A room full of daddies and children,
All starting to close their eyes.
Who knows what they saw before them,
Who knows what they felt inside.
Perhaps for merely a second,
They saw him at her side.
'I know you're with me Daddy,'
To the silence she called out.
And what happened next made believers,
Of those once filled with doubt.
Not one in that room could explain it,
For each of their eyes had been closed.
But there on the desk beside her,
Was a fragrant long-stemmed rose.
And a child was blessed, if only for a moment,
By the love of her shining star.
And given the gift of believing,
That heaven is never too far.'           

            I've been thinking a lot about the armed services recently. It must have something to do with being in a military town. Vee,  told me the other day that she has lived here most of her life, but still stops in respect for the changing of the guards. She says that she still sheds a tear.
            "They've seen things that we could never imagine. They serve their country to give us the freedom that we so take for granted. And for that, I love them. Each and every one of them."

            They say that we never stop learning. I feel, for a reason I'm still unsure of, that I'm learning an awful lot at the moment. As my main man, Bob Dylan puts it, "I feel a change coming on."
            So, in keeping with that, I think that I should say my own, personal thank you, to every man and woman serving. You alone maintain my freedom and I could never convey in words my gratitude. Perhaps, if you ever have the time, on some rainy day evening, when you're back on British soil, enjoying the comfort of home and those that love you, Google my name and see if I'm in a show. If I am, then get in touch - there's a comp with your name on it. And, if you do come, you'll see, on that three walled, grease painted, spot lit stage, what I've done with the freedom you've given me; that, and my imperishable thanks.
            I'll be the one looking weaselish.
            And probably gurning.
            I do a lot of that.
            And over-acting.
            Still, that night I'll be doing it for you.

David didn't finish his chips.
            A group of us met at GBK for a spot of dinner before the show. It was nice. Burgers are good.
            We had a company meeting before the show to talk about the next leg of the tour I.e. performing both shows in the same week and the size of the Chipping Norton backstage area in relation to that of Bracknell's.
            'We're gonna need a bigger boat.'
            The show in the evening was terrific - the audience were terrific more to the point and over the tannoy could hear them screaming with laughter.
            As it was Jess' birthday, after the show we went to a local bar (far busier and smellier than our lovely horse and groom) for drinks. By the sounds of things - and seeing her the next day - she certainly had a good night but may have regretted her 5:00am finishing time with two shows and a get out the following day...

            Ducky and I went to visit Eton that morning after skyping my parents (hi Mum, hi Dad!). There were loads of lovely little art galleries along the way and it made me think of how (ironically) penniless I would be if I ever came into any money having spent it all on paintings.

            Paintings and food.
            Paintings and food and drink.
            Paintings and food and drink and clothes.
            Paintings and food and drink and clothes and trinkets.
            It was a strange experience, walking the little streets of the college town, seeing the faces of the young lads that in twenty years time will no doubt be running the country, who, at the minute, are nothing more than children.

Apparently it's tradition...
            Not only that, but seeing a part of the public school system that I can only ever observe and never understand. Stories can be passed around and opinions shed, but at the end of the day, only those that are lucky enough to go (subjective) will know what it's really like. The rest of us are onlookers; scrutinising a privilege that they had no say in. I feel both sympathy and contempt for them. Admiration and irritation. But what one must always remember is that they are people just like anyone else. They're made up of the same blood, flesh and bone that makes up everyone from the Queen to Bob the Butcher. In fact, I count myself very lucky to be friends with many public school graduates and would speak of them all with nothing but the upmost respect and fondness. A certain Guy and Garrett come to mind.
            I suppose it's just important not to judge a book...
            The matinee show was a packed house and didn't disappoint. We had buster the wonder-dog back with us too, to give our final two shows in Windsor that extra bit of clout.
            We had very little time in between shows (4:30pm matinee) so there wasn't much to do in the allocated time other than eat - and eat quick.
            I read an article about a boy-hood hero of mine, Rowan Atkinson. It was a fascinating interview; apparently he cries all the time (sound familiar?) and attributes it to some neglected issue that he's never unearthed.
            Let's not go there...

            He also was quoted in saying that the art of creating and performing comedy to be a "painful, serious and lonely craft."
            Well, if anyone is experienced enough to make a statement about it - it's him.
            Our final show in Windsor was a great one to close on. We enjoyed a pretty respectable audience count and went out on a real bang.
            Following the show, everyone made their way back to London/their various places of residence.
            Cuckoo and I went for something to eat at a suitably expensive curry house to top off a wholly pricy week.
            It's been a lovely stay in Windsor, full of experiences that I'll take away with me in my little memory bank called life; but now comes the real test; everyone, on the road, touring the shows.
            Mansfield, here we come.

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