It’s difficult to explain to friends who aren’t in this industry exactly what it is that we do. Partly because the requirements of one job tend to be so crazy bonkers different from another, and partly because if you don’t do it you just don’t get it.
For starters you have to miss things. I’ve missed more than one wedding – and i can tell you that sending a photo of yourself next to the word CONGRATULATIONS written in the sand on a blustery beach in Aberystwyth, taken between shows, goes no way towards actually being part of the event with your friends in Pennsylvania, and after totally forgetting another friend’s offspring’s 1st birthday whilst on a particularly gruelling tour – at the end of which I barely knew my own name – despite having bought and addressed the card in advance in an attempt to be prepared – I was told you had time to brush your teeth you had time to call me… Now I’m aware that that sounds like an entirely valid point – but I didn’t. I’m serious. It sounds mad, but I didn’t. I didn’t have time to know I had teeth.
It’s hard to explain just how freaking BUSY it can all be.
I’ve had to move digs five nights in a row because actors aren’t happy and must be moved at once, I’ve had actors call me on a Sunday wondering if I can lend them a ladder (?!), actors call me at 3am because they’ve just thought of something, actors inform me at the quarter that they took a vital piece of costume home (WHY?) and they’ve just realised that they left it there, actors who hate each other’s guts, an actor who discovered he had cancer two weeks into rehearsal, actors who have passed out face first on stage mid show, an actor who wondered if I could buy her son a Glastonbury ticket, a phone call from a cast member at midnight because another cast member has fallen down the stairs – at which point I changed out of my pyjamas, called an ambulance and caught a cab to the hospital, where I sat white faced and shell-shocked until 5am, trying to contact her family members and the producers, after being hit with the news that she had suffered a stroke and might never wake up. I’ve had to tackle complicated calls from the director at 6pm on Sunday evening when I’m in a bar somewhere in Covent Garden and I’m two bottles of prosecco down because actually it’s MY ONLY DAY OFF, and I’ve chased him four times for this since Friday and have already sent out three apologetic emails to cast and fielded numerous messages because despite this they are certain I’ve forgotten them. I’ve had a fucking rat eat my props.
These people drive me crazy daily. A mad mix of personalities, eccentricities, egos, pride, nerves and insecurities all crashing about. But the majority of them are fucking great. And I couldn’t do what they do. And most of the time, despite all the drama, I sort of love them for it.
I’ve had staff from the office, in immaculate make up and high heels, on a regular lunch break, ask me how it’s all going in the run up to press night – oh you know! Fine! In reality I’ve probably got at least four fingers stuck out symbolising items that cast have literally just been handed and immediately misplaced, some sort of terrible wound and a host of bruises, a vital list of crucially important things to be done by 6pm which will probably take until next week – which has vanished because the director can’t be arsed to sit through the press call and has swanned off for coffee with it accidentally hijacked in her handbag, and I’m wondering how I’m going to stay conscious long enough to shower when I get in.
But I fucking. Love. It. I’ve never been so hugged and kissed in my life. And although I hugely regret that lots of things have had to happen without me and that there are a whole lot of photos and memories that I’m not in, I’ve been to places I wouldn’t otherwise have known existed, and I’ve met people who will be my friends for life. And despite the wrench of missing some things that I know are really important, I think it’s all worth it. I hope I’m right.