Sunday, 4 December 2011

Reflect from the Mountain - Final Week

           I want to get this week's post right.
            It's the ultimate installment.
            The definitive entry.
            19 of 19.
            The final bow.
            I want to leave this process thinking that I had done the best that I possibly could.
            So, here goes.

            On Sunday, I left a cold and rainy Buxton and met with Pete, Seb and Speedy to journey up to Berwick. We were dropping Lucy in Sheffield on the way and after we said a quick goodbye to her, set our sights on the Scottish border and our terminal destination of the tour.
            As we whiled away the hours trawling through the sloping countryside, keeping a close eye on the company van in front, it was difficult not to dwell on the unavoidable issue that yet another job is nearly over. 5 months have gone by with a 'comic book' speed and I feel like the confused bystander; spinning like a top as Super Man flies past.
            I simply can't get my head around where on earth the time has gone.
            It doesn't seem five minutes ago that we were all meeting for the first time in a blisteringly hot Eastbourne, playing getting to know you games and trying to remember who the hell everyone was. Now, it's winter. We know one another inside and out and are soon to part ways - possibly never to cross paths ever again. It's a strange feeling.
Pete stocks up
            Seb and I chatted all the way there. Setting the world to rights and telling stories. He's a fascinating bloke and made the time go an awful lot quicker than it could have.
            When we got to Berwick (very cold but very pretty) we joined with Pete and set off on a scavenger hunt for food. We eventually came across a supermarket and aside from detouring past the open sea, which made Seb’s ‘balls tingle’, we stocked up on grub and settled in for the night at their digs. Pete put together a mean lamb roast and between us we devoured enough food to feed a 5-person family.
            As the night tiptoed along, we talked, reminisced and philosophised on all the complexities of life and hours later, when the eyes grew tired, we called it a night and slipped into sleep.
            I left them at a reasonable hour on Monday morning, thanked them for their hospitality and went in search of my digs. I'd only been kipping on their couch for the night and will be staying elsewhere with Craig and David so didn't want to outstay my welcome and was also keen to get settled and recover from a day of travelling. Many of the cast were planning to travel down on the day of the first show - something that I find impossible to do as it saps every ounce of my energy. Off I went.

            The cottage was about a half hour walk away from the theatre. Ordinarily, this might be a bit irritating, but the route along the river was so beautiful that I was actually quite pleased.
            The cottage was lovely too. From the lounge, the view from the window looked straight out onto the breaking sea. Despite the fact that I'd just been for a fairly decent walk, I decided to dump my bags and carry on. A strong sea breeze always reminds me of home - and any excuse to indulge in it I grab with both hands.
            I swung by a nearby supermarket, got myself a few provisions for the days to follow and returned to the house.
            I now have to concede that my day's activities took a radical turn to the lesser.
            In fact - they stopped altogether.
            The rest of the day was spent in front of the TV - what my Mum calls a 'slobby day'. And I must admit that every now and then, I love them. And, with no one else about, I felt a little less guilty about it too.

The Maltings Theatre Bar
Shiv and her folks
            On Tuesday, I went for another walk before David and Craig arrived at the house. I listened to Florence and the Machine's new album, 'Ceremonials'. I was plodding along the sand with the record's first song playing, 'Only if for a Night'. I love the woman - she summons up feelings in me that I didn't know existed and makes me feel like an immortal. I started thinking about the evening's performance that was fast approaching and the incredible privilege it is to be able to do what one loves for a living. Almost secretly, a lyric came that I was yet to hear, 'I'll do cartwheels in your honor' and a little tear watered my eye. It almost perfectly sums up the feeling that one has when on stage. An audience's pleasure is in turn our pleasure.
            David arrived at the house first and Craig later called to say that he'd meet us at the theatre for the show instead.
            The theatre is really sweet. It's a fairly new-build of only 20 years and has one of the BEST theatre bars that I have ever been in. Not only that, but they told me that it would be open EVERY night after the shows; a trick that most theatres miss altogether.
            There had been a bit of a technical hitch during the day involving the lighting desk, which meant that the entire show had to be re-lit the afternoon before we went up. Problems were also arising with the space itself. The wings were cramped to say the very least and we were instantly aware that it would be a show filled with irksome little problems.

            I was right.

            The house was packed which was a real treat and right from the off the audience were rippling with laughter. Unfortunately though, the show was just too tainted to really get into and enjoy. Some scenes were hampered by a total lack of lighting and every entrance and exit was presented with a myriad of obstacles from fellow cast members to tripping hazards. That all being said, the punters didn't seem to mind - and at the end of the day - it's them that matter most.
            We were treated to a drink after the performance by the Artistic Director of the theatre and congratulated him on his fantastic achievements since taking over the place a couple of years ago.
            We went to the Holy Island on Wednesday. Arthur, Ducky, Partridge and myself set off in Bostrom's car and journeyed the short way to the very often-unreachable town.
            If I am totally honest with myself, the crossing to the island was perhaps the most interesting part of the trip. Once we'd crossed the impressive watery expanse from the main land, whilst everything on the island was pretty and old - nothing was open to really be able to go poking about in. and appreciate. The priory was shut - the castle was shut.
            Still, the views were magnificent and from the highest hill, we spied Banburgh Castle in the misty distance and decided to go a little further to take it in.
            It was worth the extended drive. The castle was again - closed - but the beach that lay beneath it was truly spectacular. For a period, we all reverted to child-hood and spent a half hour running about the pools like headless chickens on a speed drip.
            When we were soaked through from the spitting rain and exhausted from all the activity, we traipsed back to the car, dried ourselves off and drove back to Berwick.
            I was shattered by the time the show came around and spiked myself with caffeine to get my energy levels up for the performance. There were a few less in than the previous evening, but as a show, I certainly felt a hell of a lot more secure with the space.
            We had a token drink in the bar afterwards, but by that point, all I wanted was the warmth of the cottage and the snugness of my bed sheets.
            We had a very quiet matinee on Thursday. In fact, it may well have been the record-breaker of the tour - 17 people in watching the show. Ouch.
            Afterwards, we went our separate ways and got ready for what would be the FINAL performance of Twelfth Night.
            Everyone who has been reading this blog with any regularity will understand how much I have been dreading this day. From day one I was gripped by the play and more specifically, the part. Aguecheek has done something to me. He has buried himself into my innards, guts and soul and it's going to take a while for him to leave.
            If he does.
Ducky's impression of a hippo

            He's taught me so much. About myself, about life and about the pressures that one has being the flesh and sound of such a famous part.
            He is and will always be the immortal object - I, simply the puppet to portray him.
            That being said, it's been an honor and a privilege to give him my own take on things. 
            I think that I feel so close to him, for a very simple, honest reason - something I remember Mr. Abineri saying to me a while ago on a long lost, lonely evening whilst sipping an inky glass of shiny Claret. He said, 'No one appreciates courage more than a coward.'
            We all at some point must fall from the throngs of Herodom. Some stay strong for all but a few days of their lives. Others, can never quite claw their way from a life a fear. They remain imprisoned in their lonely world of worry. Scared, afraid and isolated.
            This is Andrew.
            I prepared early for the evening show, determined to catalogue in my mind every detail of the final hoorah.
King of the Castle
            Unfortunately, in typical 'Rhys King' fashion, I had decided not to eat before the performance to build up my appetite for the company meal that we were going to be enjoying after the show. This directly affected my sanity and - especially in the second half, found myself reeling and light-headed with hunger. It meant that I didn't have the fairy tale, romantic finale that I'd anticipated in my head. Predictably, I'd dramatised the occasion and was brought down to reality with far less a thud than a plod.
            It was the end and it had passed me all too quickly without even the glimpse of a shadow.
            I took the final bow, left the stage, walked to the dressing room and quietly undressed.
            Despite being in a room full of people, patting one another on the back and smiling at a job well done, I struggled to find the energy to participate. It was as if I were underwater, floating in glitzy darkness, trying to remember the night in Eastbourne that we had skinny-dipped in the sea, euphoric with life and giddy with the infection of starlight.
            I needed a poetic signing off and was saddened that I was to be denied one.

            On cue, at my bleakest moment, I was given one.
            It came in the most repulsive, stinky, slimy and truthful way possible. It came with the object that we had all joked (he hopes...) was the basis and bulk of my performance:
            It was of course, the Wig.
            The fucking wig.
            The wig that now, after 5 months, smells like the underside of prostitute's mattress and is clotted and slick with a tub's worth of Brylcreem. The wig that would paste itself across the width of my face and - very occasionally - find it's hairs creeping into my mouth and winding its way down the fleshes of my throat. It is the wig that almost from its appearance has been nothing but a hindrance, but nevertheless has secured a timeless place in the fondness of my heart.
            I tugged it off my head, opened it's plain cardboard protective box, placed it inside and, with a gradually creeping smile, gave it one last longing look to take with me on my travels and sealed shut its lid for the final time.
            And with that, I was content.
            We left the theatre, had a lovely night at the nearby curry house, toasted the show and with that simple gesture, came the end of the Original Theatre Company's critically acclaimed production of Twelfth Night, 2011.
            Friday was a quiet day, I didn't leave the cottage until the evenings show and spent the afternoon in front of the box watching Moulin Rouge.
            I may have cried a few times...
            The show itself was a bit testy. A few things went tits up; at the end of the first act, the lights blacked out as intended, only to instantly pop up again catching the actors mid flow through a scene change and one very unsuspecting Jess... I also ran straight into Garreth at prompt corner, after hurdling Speedy at the top of Act III. In fact, I charged into him with such speed, that I knocked him off his chair and caused him to activate one of the coming sound cues a whole page early.
            Sorry, G.
            Despite the fuck ups, we received a standing ovation at the end and enjoyed a drink in the theatre bar afterwards with a few of the hugely appreciative audience.
            The next morning bookmarked the beginning of the last day of the tour. David and I took things easy till we walked to the theatre for the matinee and eased ourselves into what would be a long and in some cases, emotional day.
            The matinee was absolutely fine. Nothing more and nothing less. It was - to be frank - exactly what I'd expected; a precursor for the evenings performance.
            We returned to the cottage, ate some dinner, relaxed and regrouped for the 7:30pm show.
            When it came around for show time, I was ready for it. Ready to go out with a bang and also, ready for the tour to finish too. It's been 5 months. Five very enjoyable, but long months nonetheless spent slogging it up and down the country living out of a suitcase. I'm ready to be still for a while. I'm ready - if I'm honest - to move on. I don't know what the next project will be, but I'm excited about what the New Year may hopefully hold for me. Even in a very personal way, I'm looking forward to being in one place long enough to start a relationship with someone. It's been an awful long time since I've been in such a position and, with my hand on my heart, think it may be the one thing that could make me an even luckier, happier person.
            So ladies, if you fancy getting to know a sinewy, funny looking bloke that many call, 'The Weasel', you know where to find me...
            In the meantime, we had a show to ignite.
            I sat in my dressing room, blocked out the hubbub with my headphones and listened to the band that can always - without fail - get me in the mood for anything... ACDC.
            'For those about to Rock' battered my eardrums for five minutes and then, with that, I was ready for the show.

            It was a great one to go out on. The auditorium was packed and aside from the constant stating of, 'this is the last time we'll...' the cast were on fine form. We pushed ourselves too - making sure that the performance was as good as it could possibly be - we wouldn't have the peace of mind that any mistake made could be rectified with the next showing. It was 'all she wrote'.
            After the show we said our goodbyes and - compliments of the Theatre Manager, Miles - toasted the end of the tour with a couple of bottles of champagne.
            It's probably at this point that you would expect the tears to come, the declarations of seeing one another again soon and the promises of loyal reunions to follow. You'd be wrong.
            Sadly, it's part of an actor's life to accept prolonged departure. Goodbyes are a thing of necessity and every actor knows that the easiest way to say goodbye is to do just that. No promises, no illusions, just honesty.
            So,here I am. I'm sat on a cramped bus, bound for Norwich. I've already endured 3 hours worth of train travelling and still have another 3 to go. I'm sat next to a smelly old lady (who can probably read this) and am steadily succumbing to travel sickness at having to look down at the keyboard. Tardis is locked up in the hold, getting cold and contending for space with all of the cooler suitcases and I'm left to ponder on what's been and what's to come.

            My reputation precedes me as a blabber. Where one word will suffice, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll find five 5 more to indulge in. 'Words, words, words - I can never find the words.'
            However, as this is the last post I'll be writing, it seems unfair to deprive you of such a torture...
            Firstly, I would like to say something about the blog itself. When Alastair first asked me 19 weeks ago if I would like to contribute to the process, I agreed quite readily to oblige.
            I had one condition: honesty.
            If I felt shitty about something, I didn't want to edit myself, if I felt unhappy about something then I wanted it to be known. There would be no censoring and above all, no lies. By and large I have kept to this rule. Everything I have written down has been truthful. I have not elaborated anything and everything that I have written about did happen.
            Naturally however, I did fall into a censoring manner. When one is talking about a company or of ones fellow colleagues for that matter, it would be totally irresponsible of me to name and shame anyone from my little soap box especially when it is based on nothing other than opinion. Would I have liked to at times? Sure I would. Do I regret NOT doing it at times? Sure I do. It would be a fantasy to think that we all get on all of the time and that everyone’s piss smells of roses, but that is for me to know and me to deal with. At times, I feel I may have written things that I maybe shouldn't have and may have broken my own set of rules. I can do nothing but apologise. If I have hurt ANYONE during the course of this process I offer my sincere and heartfelt respects and hope very much that the damage I may have caused has and can be mended. It was never and has never been my intention to do anyone offence and I hope very much that I have managed to tread the right side (by and large) of a very thin, often invisible line.
The Priory

            Secondly I would like to say a few thank you's. I would like to thank all of the unseen members of the team that are only ever scolded if things go wrong and never praised when they go right. Pete, G Moss and Jess you've been an exemplary team from start to finish and I salute the fact that you conduct yourselves in such a manner that means that the usual tekky/actor divide has been blurred and in fact unseen for the duration of the tour. Good luck with the future and remember that I'm the best actor that you've ever worked with...
            Also, a big thank you to the Original Theatre Company for again putting on a stellar show and employing me! Cuckoo, what can I say? You've done it again. We've done it again. I doff my cap to you mate and implore any of my stinking rich readers with a cool Mil or so to spare to give it to this man. He may be a ridiculous person with silly goggly eyes and ridiculous birdish tendencies but if you invest in him he will turn that money into magic!
            Finally, I must say a very humbled thank you to you, the reader. This has been a very personal, often rickety, always balls-out account of a very real journey. I would bow down to you all if I could and am touched that so many people have found interest/happiness/confusion and hopefully entertainment of a young actor's account of what it's like to be just that. A young actor. This was always going to be an experiment in writing and I thank you for giving up your time and patience every week to read it. If any of you happen to be big newspaper editors, I'm always game for a challenge... But I really do mean it, the fact that this silly little blog has been regularly followed by so many and in many cases, by complete strangers, is very touching and I prostrate myself at your attendance!
            The last subject I want to touch on, is the fellow actors that I have been on the road with for the past 5 months of my life.

            I've mentioned before the song, 'Hard Rain's Gonna Fall' and how much it moves me on a daily basis. One of the final lyrics of said song depicts a man concluding his Odyssey:
            'And I'll speak it and hear it and think it and breathe it,
            And reflect from the mountain so that all souls can see it.
            And I'll stand in water till I start sinking,
            But I'll know my song well before I start singing.'

            I don't know what my song is yet. Perhaps that's why I ramble so much and why the song affects me so. What I do know is that I have met people on this tour that have always humored me and never insulted. Encouraged and never disrespected. People who already know their song and have helped me in forming the basis of my own. On stage and off, they reflect. They reflect their warmth, love, talent, happiness and humour everywhere they go and I love them for it.
            If the only thing I learn to do in this world is reflect for others, I'll be a very happy man.
            Very happy.

            Until then, there's nothing to do but keep writing the song.
            Thank you for reading everyone.

            See you in the flow.

            This weeks blog is dedicated to the birth of my cousin's first child, Harrison Miller, born today on the 4th December. That and the life and times of Willie Briggs (above). The uncredited character of See How They Run; never seen but always heard. Ha.

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