Between preparing The Pajama Game and hosting the Olivier Awards ITV Stage, Michael Xavier found time to shine a light on goings on at the first week of rehearsals for his latest production:
To commute, or not to commute? That is the question.
An actor’s life is much like that of a sausage. You start off as a keen little piggy running around the free farm of youth and ambition. You get herded into the confined pen of full-time theatrical study. A psychological butcher comes along to chop you into pieces of fragility – usually a not-so-supportive teacher – and in the end you are stuffed into a sellable, or sometimes not, neat package of what-it-is-I’m-going-to-be-in-this-industry equipped with the knowledge of your USP only to be confronted by a consumer – that’s the audiences by the way – all ready to chew you up and spit you out!
I thought of this silly sausage analogy whilst being squashed into a train during commuter hours. Forget sardines, this was like the meat inside the skin of a sweaty sausage!
Rehearsal periods are the only time we actors on the London stage have to suffer the slings and arrows of rush-hour public transport misfortune. The rest of the time we are either travelling into The Big Smoke to do a show in the evening, when all other ‘normal’ folk are travelling in the opposite direction home, or sitting at home staring hopefully at our mobiles awaiting the next, often rare, call from our agents.
I recently moved out of London with my girlfriend to a beautiful apartment overlooking the sea – address omitted for stalker-prevention! – roughly 45 minutes from London. Three weeks ago I was living just 10 minutes from my current rehearsal venue. Doh!
My first day of rehearsals for The Pajama Game did not get off to a great start. I arrived at my local train station to buy a monthly Travelcard – there goes my lunch money… for the year – when I was informed that I needed a passport photo. Not having enough time to get one done, I had to run for it. Squeezing on to a packed train I suddenly got the dreaded announcement that we were to be delayed because of ‘signal failures’. Ah, those words treat my ears like a baby treats a nappy!
The long and short of this tale – after a second signal failure further on down the line – is that I made my first day exactly one hour late. As my armpit was housing the nose of some unfortunate ‘suit’, I was having dreams of owning a jetpack á la James Bond and flying to my rehearsals. Nothing but the clouds to get in my way.
There IS a silver lining to this tale. Our multi Olivier Award-winning director –#justsaying! – Richard Eyre, was flying in from Germany and was about one hour and one minute late. Phew! I missed the coffee and croissants but I wasn’t named and shamed.
The first read-through – a terrifying prospect for many actors – wasn’t quite as terrifying as I anticipated. Being a little dyslexic I fear reading out loud but thankfully the words seemed to come in the right order. And that was WITHOUT a coffee or croissant!
Herein lies the lesson to all budding actors: Either live close enough to cycle to your rehearsal venue – lucky you – or leave plenty of time for public transport nightmares to not mar your journey.
To commute, or not to commute? It’s a question of “How much do you want the sea view?” if you ask me.