Saturday, March 27, 2010

An Acting Career

Now that there is a new Peter Greenaway film out (“Nightwatching”), I am reminded of my (distinguished) career as an actor.
For the Greenaway film, “The Cook, the Thief etc.”, I was invited by friends to join them and to act as a restaurant customer.
Driven to enormous studios in the suburbs, I spent much of the day at a table pretending to eat a pink crayfish. That would not have been so bad had the crustacean not been stinkingly rotten.
There was action around me as tableware was thrown about with explosive force and, I think, a fork shoved through someone’s cheek into their mouth. The latter action was contrived, with fake blood in full flow, by the visual effects and make-up departments.
At the conclusion of a long day’s acting (the whole day produced but five minutes of finished film) we were given fish and chips as payment and thanks.
When the film eventually reached the silver screen, I was, obviously, anxious to witness my skills as an actor. But sadly, I think, only just think, that I saw the back of my head. And I’m not even sure about that, either.
But I really have had a career as a serious actor.
My first job, having been to art school (The Central), theatre design school (The Old Vic) and the Covent Garden Opera House (as scene painter), was set designer in repertory theatre at High Wycombe.
Presenting a new set weekly, with reading the play, working out a floor plan, constructing a model, painting the scenery, installing the set and furnishing it with hired and borrowed items, was an onerous task, made tolerable by applause for my hard work as the curtains opened. Pay was minimal, but experience great.
Our cast was limited in number. In one scene of a play, two ambulance men were required to cross the stage with someone on a stretcher.
Our number could run to only one ambulance man, but not two.
So there I was, a genuine actor for a week, with my name in the programme – as second ambulance man.
So when I see a television drama or stage performance, I think to myself that I, too, was once an actor.
If I am ever asked to act again I will demand a better part – first ambulance man, perhaps.