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Back to work after a couple of weeks away today.

Sort of comfy and yet horrible as the wave of emails and messages broke over the desk and the telephone started to warm up.

The van I used to drive when I worked in theatre parked up outside my office window.
I worked in and around Theatre for twenty years before I took the job I now haveĀ and there were two theatre companies rehearsing in the spaces around the office today.

I took my first paid job in theatre in 1989 and left my last one in 2009.

The first was a few quid for shifting and loading things in a van but within a year I was touring up and down the Welsh Valleys doing lights and sound for a theatre company that paid badly in cash but well in beer and all the Ginsters Pasties they could hilariously buy me.
At every petrol station.
At every shop.
No matter what I asked for.
Always.
This would happen after Lectures had finished for the day and by the end of my time at Drama College I was working in most of the venues in Cardiff, even depping as Duty Technician in one of the larger studio theatres.

I was never exactly encouraged to work in theatre at school.
I was definitely encouraged to ‘get a trade’ before trying anything so ethereal as the performing arts.

I think I hold myself back from encouraging or discouraging the Proles from doing anything because of this.
The one thing that would leap to the front of my head whenever anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up was something I had been told was near impossible to make a living in.
When I actually started working it slowly dawned on me that as long as you turned up five minutes early, worked hard, didn’t complain and weren’t insane you could probably work anywhere you wanted to.
Actors, I was always told, spend 80% of their time unemployed but I worked for at least five years straight through without a holiday.

I say no holiday, of course I would make sure I had Flora day off.
I have only missed it once in the last thirty years.
I think priorities are important.

I was not entirely happy all the time.
I had my doubts about theatre which I think is important in life.
There are things you must wrestle with.
The problems were encapsulated in that song “There Is No Business Like Show Business” the one Ethel Murman used to sing.
I used to believe that song, I used to believe those lyrics.

“There’s no business like show business
Like no business I know
Everything about it is appealing
Everything the traffic will allow
No where could you have that happy feeling
When you aren’t stealing that extra bow
There’s no people like show people
They smile when they are low”

The problem occurs when I started working in theatre and realised the lyrics are not about joy and magic, they are all about vanity and self service.
They are all about the pursuit of fame over happiness.
They do not deal with the aspiration of the human should to better itself, only the aspiration towards ‘stardom’.

And that line about no people being like show people and them smiling when they are low, isn’t that just a blatant admission that they are all liars and not to be trusted, physically or emotionally?

Was I really working in an industry that shallow?

I could wrestle with Ethel Murman as often as I liked though, I kept on getting work, much against the odds my careers advisor had laid down.

If anything the Theatre stuff was a bit overwhelming.
I left college and set my sights on working for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Within three years I had finished my second run of shows with them as crew and had just turned down a full time contract as RSC Stage Management.
They were nice people, it was a horrible machine.
Devoid of an un-attainable goal to drive me forward I decided that if I could work at the Globe Theatre, which was being built at the time in London, then I could leave theatre happy.
Within a year I was hired as the Globe Theatre’s first Stage Manager.

I didn’t even do anything. I just carried on working at a theatre down the road and it sort of happened.

It frightened the life out of me.

For several years after I did set myself the goal of winning the Lottery but so far no dice, power of positive thinking has it’s limits.

I don’t go to the theatre willingly any more.
It was my one great love and passion, I absolutely adored it, I really did.

I read about it, I thought about it, I dreamed about it, I talked about it and I lived it every day.
It was everything I did and everywhere I went.

It is a brilliant, versatile, unknowable art form and way of life and it was a privilege to have been involved with it for as long as I was.

I actually start getting panicked if I go and see a show these days.
It was always something I contributed to.
Now I just sit there feeling nervous and useless.

It starts when I pick up my coat to leave the house and continues, getting louder and louder until I can leave the theatre and by the time I get home it has calmed right down again.

I can still look a show over and see the mechanics of it and appreciate the hard work involved but I cannot go any where near it as a punter any more.

So the cafe being full of Theatre types was a little nerve wracking today.

I had my hand on the door handle and nearly, nearly did not go in.

If I had been in London I probably would not have done it.

Fortunately this being Cornwall and all it was actually quite lovely to see them.

Two companies I had watched perform when I was still at school.

And of course I could not escape the lovely stories I attribute to all of them in that room.

 

Theatre is not all flowers and air kisses.
When you get inside it’s guts it is as dangerous and horrible as every other aspect of human existence.

But like everything else in human existence, there is joy there too.

What I liked about the people I saw today was that my history with them went right back to before I started working in theatre, it was touched by them through out that time and carries on now I have finished.

I may not enjoy seeing Theatre but I take great joy in seeing it’s people.

I may not be part of that world any more but I still feel supported by it.