Thursday has always been one of my favourite days of the week (the others being Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In no particular order). For one thing, I was born on a Thursday (Thursday’s child has far to go. Well, yes, I have gone far. Trouble is, I keep coming back). For another, its significance in my life can be attributed to the periodicals that are published on that day.
Decades ago (if I told you how many, I’d have to shoot you) the excitement of Jackie magazine dropping down onto the mat through the letterbox was palpable. (It closed in 1993, so I could still be in my thirties, alright?) For those of you not acquainted with the British paper, it was devoted to all matters relevant to teenage girls: in every issue there was beauty and fashion advice, a problem page written by Cathy and Claire (still awaiting a reply, if you’re looking in girls), a large pull-out poster of a hunky heartthrob and, best of all, a love story told through a succession of posed photographs.
As a matter of fact (this is true) I once had a very handsome boyfriend who was a regular model for these photo strip stories. (The relationship was sadly doomed, however, as the excitement of standing very still under a lamppost looking sultry for three hours on a Saturday night wears off after the first couple of years, take it from me).
In more recent times, the Thursday publication that has assumed an importance in my life is The Stage; the professional paper for the luvvie world.
Well, to be honest, I’ve only ever been interested in the classified section. I glance at it each week to see if there are any jobs going (which usually there aren’t, unless you’re a teccie), but the chief source of amusement has been when I’ve placed an ad in it myself to find ‘talent’.
Good word, is it not? ‘Talent’.
When I started out as a director working for a satirical show on the fringe, actors who were ‘all-rounders’ – people who could erm, act, who possessed a wide range of accents and could dance, sing in 4-part harmony, perform 20-odd sketches and 6 songs in a high-energy hour-long show, and who could learn a completely new running order in 3 days – were pretty hard to come by. We needed a large company because invariably there would be a couple of people who, in mid-run, were cast in a commercial (there really wasn’t much competition between the measly profit-share we were offering against the riches – and royalties! Yay! – of a TV ad, meaning suddenly half the cast had disappeared). And so, one time in a weak moment, I put an ad in The Stage.
The postman didn’t talk to me for three months. Sackfuls and sackfuls of mail arrived day after day, containing CVs, credit lists and photos.
Ah, you’re thinking, good old NotNiceEtoile, what a clever little director she is! (If you’re not thinking this, why not??? What have you got against me??? Is it because I is menopausal???)
Well, I’ll tell you why not. (The education continues…)
Because, my dear readers, out of the 2,000 replies we had, around ninety per cent of them were from amateur wannabees.
I auditioned 50 people in the end. Three days of hell.
One actor climbed onto the stage and launched into the first of his pieces, before going to pieces himself. That’s OK, I reassured him with a smile, it’s fine. Start again. He started again and froze. I murmured some more encouraging sounds and he tried a few more times. To no avail. And so he turned to me and proclaimed angrily and dramatically – and frankly, very plausibly – It’s shit. I’m shit. I shouldn’t be up here. I’m wasting your time. You deserve better than this! (It was a performance so convincing, we almost applauded). And with that he leapt off the stage and ran out of the theatre.
And he was one of the better ones.
How I failed to call to audition the guy from Stockport who sent me a photo portraying him sitting on an overstuffed leather Chesterfield, naked from the waist up (I’m assuming it was only from the waist up), wearing a black leather dog collar with silver studs, next to his pitbull, who was wearing (yes, you’ve guessed it) a black leather dog collar with silver studs, both of them staring meaningfully at the camera (not entirely sure what the meaning was, and perhaps that’s a blessing), I’ll never know.
And they were two of the better ones.
Of course, it’s not that easy working with actors once you’ve cast them. One particular woman – not a well-known name herself, but someone who’d played a very famous part in a very famous play in the West End (curiously, at the very same theatre which failed to give me more than 2 hours notice that I’d been called for an interview the other month…see previous post) – was something of a nightmare. She hated not being the centre of attention (an actor?! Surely not!) and so, when the rehearsal called for the spotlight to be on another member of the cast, she would take off her top to reveal her breasts, on one of which she had painted the face of a mouse, her nipple for its nose. She would then engage in a (lame) double act with this mouse, to the consternation of everyone else on stage.
And so I would have to remonstrate strongly with her. One time she got a bit shirty with me (at least that was one definition of ‘shirt’ she could grasp). I don’t know who you think you are, NotNiceEtoile! she cried, as she flounced off stage. That’s easy, Mandy, I retorted, I think I’m the director. (And do you know, I think I was right).
It was probably a Thursday. Although after that engagement, Mandy the Mouse Woman had as far to go as the Job Centre.