Another way I (don’t) make a living is by (not) working in theatre. (Is there a recession on or something???) I’m very adept at (not) directing, (not) script-editing, (not) producing and (not) doing myriad other jobs that require sixteen hour days for laughable reward. (At last – something funny!)
Of course, when I was living in France this was a(nother) line of (non) work closed to me – for some reason, they tend to employ French-speaking French people in French theatre across the Channel – but on returning to London, finding a job connected to the stage was one of the things at the top of my list.
[It’s somewhat ironic that the first time I worked with actors – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! – was as a keyboard musician for a musical. The luvvies flounced around on stage and off, extravagantly greeting each other with loud voices and louder egos, and I sat there completely horrified at the spectacle (classically-trained musicians tend to be a bit of a serious lot, quietly worthy in their mission of channelling the music of the gods to the mere mortals of the audience who have been foolhardy enough to purchase tickets for Bach’s three-hour long St Matthew Passion in the freezing cold (unheated) church in the middle of a freezing cold (unheated) London winter; one particular violinist I used to sit next to made himself extremely popular with a few of us fiddle players by passing around, in the six-hour long rehearsal in the freezing cold (unheated) church in the middle of a freezing cold (unheated) London winter, his large flask containing a delicious hot liquid, which appeared to have been liberally laced with some kind of alcoholic fortification. Thus by the time the performance started, some of us were very happy to launch into the opening chorus of the magnificent piece. Although perhaps a few in the front row did express a little surprise at the different selection of keys the second violin section in the first orchestra plumped for, but frankly, it’s quite difficult to clearly differentiate between F and F sharp whilst wearing inch-thick knitted Shetland wool gloves. OK? HIC!)]
And so, incorporated into my busy schedule of moving apartments every other Wednesday, once in London I sent around my CV to assorted theatres.
Surprise, surprise, nothing was forthcoming. Not even a rejection letter. (Look, the world’s in economic meltdown, there’s a shortage of the letters P I S S O F F. As I said, you’re lucky to get one rejection letter, never mind 7 of them).
However, one Monday morning around 11.00am my phone rang. The voice asked me if I was coming in a couple of hours to my scheduled interview. What scheduled interview, I enquired? The one we invited you to in an email last week, was the reply. What email last week? Who are you? It then became apparent that this was a job I’d applied for some two months previously, and that a crucial character had been omitted from my email address by this TOP LONDON THEATRE IN LONDON’S WORLD FAMOUS THEATRELAND JUST OFF LEICESTER SQUARE.(Oh dear. That came out in upper case). Never mind, the voice said, could I turn up in a couple of hours anyway?
What do you think???
As a (BBC) director I’m professionally trained to be calm in a crisis, and so I waited until the call had ended before I went into COMPLETE PANIC MODE.
OMG, got to wear a dress…and shoes…and tights…NO TIGHTS!!! AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!
<EXIT NOTNICEETOILE APARTMENT LEFT, PURSUED BY BARE LEGS>
Forty minutes later I was back in my flat* and ten minutes after that I was on my way to the station. [PUFF, PANT, PANT, PUFF]
Naturally, I got there early and had to mooch about for a while. On arrival at the stage door I was told I’d be met in the office. On the fifth floor. No lift. [PUFF, PANT, PANT, PUFF] (Bloody tights, who needs them in the summer???) I was then asked to wait – for twenty minutes – whilst they finished interviewing somebody else.
Eventually I was taken to meet these TOP LONDON THEATRE PRODUCERS OF SOME VERY WELL-KNOWN SHOWS INDEED. (Hmm. Upper case again). They said ‘so you’re the BBC person are you?’ and we chatted for a while, during which time I made them laugh a few times. They told me they were just seeing who was about really, but that there would be a second interview the following Tuesday, intimating I would be invited to it, and that I was ‘a joy’. Smiles, handshakes, much eye contact. Bye bye.
A few days later I hadn’t heard anything, and so I sent an email asking if I was indeed to be asked back to a second interview the following Tuesday. That was three months ago. I’m still awaiting a reply.
Of course, it’s not easy interviewing people, either. Or auditioning them – something I have quite a lot of experience with, and actually hate. But at least some people helpfully rule themselves out of the running. But I’ll leave that for the next post…
* The author wishes to thank the second floor lingerie department at M&S for its contribution to this blog post. And very comfortable they are, too.