Having just got back from the Isle of Man, where my brother and I had spend a hideously busy 3 days carrying things and doing DIY and driving big vans round in circles, I went to Linklaters in The City to do a performance of Asylum Monologues to a room full of lawyers on their lunch break. One of my partners in crime were an iraqi kurdish man called Narwaz who had been brought into the mix by Emma Laird-Craig, one of the actresses who did The Performance Lab's piece at The Globe in December with me. He did some extraordinary singing between the sections read by me, Emma and the lovely Christine Bacon, who set up the network in the UK and in Australia. It was, as always, very rewarding. The piece is essentially outreach work, putting genuine testimonies about the asylum system into a loosely dramatic form and presenting it in the least patronising way possible, with minimu acting.
Emma is involved in The Actor's Temple, which was set up in part by Ellie Zeegen who is also in The Lab with me. I have already written about their production of The Three Sisters which I saw in a country house in Scotland. Ellie has been trying to persuade me to get down to The Temple for some time now, and she had already told me that Friday would be a good day to come. And Emma was going too so it seemed too good to pass up. Problem is, I really hadn't been blown away by the work in The Three Sisters. I get a little pissed off watching actors trying to achieve a state in themselves regardless of the needs of the text. We've all been guilty of it at some point, but there was a good deal of it present there and I was pretty much ready to write of the whole Meisner thing as another "acting as therapy" trap. I got bored and felt disconnected from the work as I felt like I was being told how to feel, and that the actors were working too hard making themselves feel something that was no use. As a Marcellus the fight director says repeatedly to the extent that you want to dispense with all the knaps and twat him one; "excited is not the same as exciting". But it's a good point. We are craftsmen... God I am beginning to sound like Jake. But I was willing to believe I had just come on a bad night or been in a bad mood. So hi-ho and off we go to The Temple again for a second dose.
The work was presided over by "this amazing teacher" called Marty. Oh fuck. Another amazing teacher. In other words someone who has terrible ego problems and alleviates his own self-hate by destroying the lives of others in the name of learning. Not so. Thank God. This guy is a rather camp and very bright American who seems to be an enabler, not a crusher. Good start. He reminded me in some ways of Peter Clough, who directed me at Guildhall in Twelfth Night and who makes you understand firmly that everything comes from you, but knows how to make you bring out aspects of yourself, almost unknowingly, that you were burying or repressing. So to the work. I had to watch it on a screen in the room next door, as it was packed out. Nonetheless the intensity came through on the screen. The first scene was crippled by nerves and did nothing to wake me up pretty much because of that. After that it was scene after scene of gripping stuff, not overdone, human, true and deeply moving - in many different ways. I loved it, and I was surprised how much. So now I'm going to do this introductory week that I won in the Christmas party for The Performance Lab. We're always learning and I know I have got so much better at all the aspects of this bizarre and wonderful job - even the letter writing, which I used to be excruciatingly awful at. So I'm not going to approach this as anything other than as a place to kick back and do the things that I went into the profession for.
So I stayed at the party afterwards and spoke to all the people, and found them all very interesting and diverse. And passionate. I had some very honest chats with people. Like with The Lab, I love to spend time in the presence of passionate people. It wakes up my passion, and that has been dormant for a very very long time. So all said a really good day, and now I feel a strange mixture of excitement and trepidation about stepping into something true and potentially life-changing.