With the ink dry on the contract and the information on my Spotlight, I can finally loose the cat from the bag: I am now an actor with an agent! It gives me very great pleasure to announce that, as of yesterday, I am in the care of Ladida Management. It’s the next thrilling step in that never-ending ramble; my fanatical endeavour to pursue a fool’s dream and devote myself to what Oscar Wilde called the dynamic life, or – better yet – the artistic life. Hurrah!
Although I now feel more accepted by Oscar, I don’t want this to melt into an Oscar acceptance speech. How much I’ll work, after all, remains to be seen. However, I do owe a very large measure of thanks to everyone who’s supported Sikes & Nancy in some form or other. It was on the strength of that play that I secured representation, and no play – not even a one-man play – can ever exist in a vacuum. So, once again, my utmost thanks to those who’ve helped me stage the production in Cambridge (Ailis, Phil, Ned, Lawrence), in York (the indestructible Mark Watson), and in London (the quite excellent team at the Tristan Bates). And an equally massive dose of thanks to those who’ve been in the audience. (A select few troopers came twice! Twice! There’s no accounting for taste…) I don’t want to make a full career of the monodrama, but I’m sure it’s a form I’ll be tinkering with for quite some time to come. Frankenstein and Dracula will eventually happen. And I can confirm that Sikes & Nancy will return; I’ll furnish you with the details in the not-so-distant future… For everyone who’s missed out so far, there’ll be another chance yet to catch the bloody spectacle!
Now, for those of you wondering ‘how the hell did he manage that?’ – and believe me, I’ve wondered this more than anyone – I still find this difficult to answer. In the end, it’s down to an invigorating tonic of compulsive letter-writing, email-composing, headshot-snapping, interview-attending, publicity-pushing, theatre-hiring, spending-money-to-make-moneying (graargh), Callow-badgering, brain-dulling clichéring, and also a little bit of acting somewhere near the end. Because it’s been spread over six months, none of this has felt like a particular strain.
My message, then, is one of hope: THIS IS ALL TRICKY BUT VERY POSSIBLE. This time last year, I would never have believed I’d have an agent by now. A fair bit has happened since then to raise my confidence: Scrooge & Marley, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Marlowe Showcase, latterly Sikes & Nancy. To varying extents, these projects were gifts of the theatre in Cambridge. But I can’t help feeling it was the frustration of creating theatre in Cambridge that’s been more useful in securing representation. For all of the giddy freedom of possibility, there’s so much in Cambridge which is life-suppressing – much which you have to make a conscious effort to screen out, in order to get at acting more purely. As much affection as I have for Cambridge’s theatre scene, there were so many things that weren’t any fun at all: poor directors (those without talent or discernable enthusiasm!), transparent nepotism, not getting cast in certain pantomimes (that one still niggles), jealousies concerning very good friends, feeling like a criminal because you’re not writing your essay and – the crux of it, in many ways – those risible characters who forget they’re learners and masquerade as experts. I’m not really annoyed by any of this. And certainly not now. Every time my Eden was spoiled, I worked like crazy to make it GOOD again.
If I hadn’t been rejected after so many auditions in my first year, I’d have never devised my first one-man play. If I hadn’t been disappointed at how compromised that play was, I wouldn’t have attempted the form again. If I hadn’t been annoyed at getting so little interest from the Marlowe Showcase, I wouldn’t have kept up my demonic letter-writing campaign. I never felt like a part of the theatrical establishment at university. I’m not sure it even exists; it might be a myth kept alive to frighten freshers. Rejection is a very underrated driving force. But you must never, never, never say ‘I’m beaten’ – you must always, always, always say ‘I’ll beat you yet!’
Now, I maintain that THIS IS ALL TRICKY BUT VERY POSSIBLE. But I think that this comes with a vital disclaimer: You have to be YOU. Well, I can’t speak for others; all I really know is that I had to be ME. One of the most heartening aspects of this process is that I’ve zipped through it in a spirit of honesty. I always knew it would be professional death to pretend to be something I’m not. Yes, I can do sturdy naturalism. When pushed to it. But it’s never been what’s really fired me in acting. Or what’s pushed me to continue it. Sikes & Nancy, for better or for worse, shows me for what I truly am: a bundle of mad idiosyncrasies, tempering naturalism with the ridiculous, the hysterical and the flat-out grotesque to produce something more Swantonian. I’m delighted to have acquired representation as such.