There’s an actor’s nightmare where you dream about being onstage but you don’t know the play you are in or any of your lines. I have had that dream many times in the past, usually when I am stressed about something that is often not related to theatre at all, but obviously, subconsciously, my greatest fear is the nightmare scenario. So then why would I sign up to do a show that I know nothing about and even worse haven’t read the script!!!
Years ago, whilst touring the Roaring Girls Hamlet for the Women’s Theatre Group (now known as Sphinx Theatre Company), one of the cast had to drop out because of illness. This happened very quickly and to avoid cancelling performances a replacement was found over a weekend and for her first performance the actor went on with the book. ‘But where do I move? What’s my motivation?’ she gabbled a couple of hours before she was due onstage. ‘Don’t worry’ we all said, ‘we will move you around, just stick with us’. I can still remember her face as she came offstage, like a rabbit in the headlights, and before you think that was her only initiation into the part, she did receive two weeks of rehearsals, whilst performing each night.
Earlier this year at the Edinburgh Festival a show, Horizontal Collaboration, by David Leddy and his company Fire Exit called for four new actors every time it was shown. The actors walked onstage at the Traverse Theatre and read blind from the text and…I was one of them. We were all in the same boat and the audience knew the set up so, there was a feeling of support both from fellow actors and the paying public. And afterwards, when we had got though it without major hiccups and had actually got the story across, even though we had no idea what was going to happen from line to line, there was a palpable sense of achievement, of getting through it and not fucking up and… a real high.
Which must partly be why I’m going to be doing it all over again… except this time, on my own for a whole hour. I will walk onstage and pick up an envelope, which will contain a script and I will start reading and, hopefully, I will continue and not let my mouth run away with itself.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, by Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour will be at the Bike Shed Theatre on Tuesday 11 November as part of the Molino Group’s art : weapon residency