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June 6, 2018

Telling myself it’s like this every time, doesn’t help. Because I don’t remember what the other times were like. I guess it’s a bit like childbirth. If you remembered this horror happening the last time, you’d never do it again.

And what exactly is this horror? It is the horror of the third off book rehearsal, when you go in thinking you know your lines, only to discover you are a million miles away from having them memorised. It is the horror of walking on stage and having to say “Line” before saying anything else. It is the horror of repeating a scene you’ve just done and discovering you still can’t remember the fucking words. It is so bloody frustrating you think your head might actually explode and you hope you don’t burst into tears before it does.

Well, that was my one, quite miraculous accomplishment last night. I did not burst into tears, nor did I run away, as much as I felt like doing both. And when I got home I hit the boxed wine, not the single malt, so I suppose it could have been worse. Hard to believe at the time.

Take a deep breath. It will be all right on the night. (Hopefully before.) In 2012, in a moment of sheer madness, I agreed (because no one else would) to take on the role of Annie Dankworth in The Housekeeper. There was only one other character. I had to memorise half the lines in a full length play. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to manage this.

2012 The Housekeeper

And the fact is the first time I got through the entire play without having to call for a line was at the Festival performance. And we got a standing ovation.

So calm the fuck down.

Every actor has a rehearsal like that one. Every actor despairs. Every actor (probably) wants to blow his or her brains out at this stage.

Many years ago, when I was working as a journalist, I interviewed Richard Harris. He told me the story of his debut with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was at the time an unknown Irish actor and he was determined he was going to show English actors how to really perform Shakespeare. He didn’t have a great deal with which to work. He was a spear carrier in one of the Roman plays with only one line, but he was determined to bring the house down with that one line. On opening night he ran on stage, completely froze, his one line nowhere to be found in his head. He ran off, having said nothing and doubtless made his way immediately to the nearest pub.

Somehow I find this story very reassuring.

It will be all right on the night. Really. It will.

And now I have to go work on those lines. Gah.

From → Black dog diary

One Comment
  1. Irmani Smallwood permalink

    Break a leg xxx

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