Sunday, October 24, 2010

'After you left, I felt dead...completely empty...'

...says Tilly in a letter to Frank.

I've just finished the final performance in this, Tilly No-Body's first incarnation. Before the show started, Miles had already left Davis to drive back to LA, and as I watched the set being taken down after the performance, I felt dead, completely empty.

Incarnating a character is a curious, mysterious and somewhat unsettling experience. Although I know we're performing the show again in a month's time at a big conference at UC San Diego - the UCIRA's 'State of the Arts' conference - I feel bereft.

I am back in my apartment. Dead. Completely empty.

I could barely walk the mile home, my bones were so weary. I was too tired to eat, yet managed to sup on a piece of lovely fish that Miles had left in the fridge. Did I want to take myself to the movies? Not really. Did I want to compile a list of all the things that I have to do next week, now that the delicious and overwhelming distraction of Tilly has gone? I suppose so. Get some order into life. Did I want to contact my folks? Yes, that would be nice. A short email, just to let them know I'm here. Did I want to take down the pictures of Frank and Tilly that have surrounded my desk for the last 10 months, since I started writing the play? Uh-uh! Not yet. Not ready to wipe the slate that clean yet.

I can however share a few secrets with you now - things I didn't want to say before in case they spoiled the moments...

I start the play in a big trunk on stage. The only way into the trunk is through its lid. That means I have to be in the trunk before the audience arrive. So for 15 minutes before the play begins, I am scrunched in a trunk - in 5 costumes (a body stocking, a trapeze artist's outfit, a pierrot costume, a ringmaster's woollen jacket and boots, a huge fur coat and a hat ). When we first tried this in the technical rehearsal, I was worried I might get claustrophic or just simply too hot. I had a flask of ice cold water, which - even if I didn't drink it - I could cool my sweaty palms on. What I discovered, however, was that it was blissfully calming. It's like a womb in there. I can hear muffled sounds as the audience arrive. A few footsteps. The odd laugh or cough. But it's dark and cosy and zen. Often, backstage chatter before a show can be a little unsettling, particularly if you have a role involving a lot of concentration. Here, I could just be with my breathing, my imagination, and Tilly's story. The first I knew that the show was starting was the announcement to switch off mobile phones, and then...the first few notes of the opening music and we're off... Out I crawl, like a bewildered animal...

The other secret I want to share with you is the moment in the show when I....

No, maybe that should still remain a secret...

As for walking on the 28" acrylic circus ball - yes, I am as terrified as I look. In the rehearsal room it was easy to balance as there was full light, so I could spot a place out front and focus on that. Here on stage I'm blinded by bright lights and gazing out into the total darkness of the auditorium. Added to which, the sprung dance floor in the Vanderhoef Studio means that walking on the globe has a slight bounciness to it that wasn't there with the harder floor of the rehearsal room. And as for Miles, Reed and Sabba suggesting that I also play the lute and sing a song while walking on the globe...why did I ever think that was a good idea? There is no acting required at this moment. I repeat: I am as terrified as I look.

And yet, what wouldn't I do for that fear now...?

Back to the silence of my apartment. The sound of cars on the rain-drenched street. Fall has arrived in Davis, and it's as wet as it is back home in England.

Miles has phoned me a few times in the last hour on his way back to LA. But the network keeps breaking up. Communication is down. Dead. Completely empty.

I think it's time for some quiet contemplation. Although (I repeat) I'm not yet letting go of Tilly and this is just the beginning not the end, I do find as an actor that a little part of your soul is relinquished whenever a run of a show finishes. Energy, time, emotions are expended at vast rates. And then suddenly...nothing. No 7pm adrenalin kick. Instead... A minor bereavement. A brief time of mourning.

1 comment:

  1. No Bella not Dead, just Sleeping like the tiger, ready to bound back with renewed energy and to captivate and glitter.You are a star.