“You there! Why are you so late?” bellows Norma Desmond’s opening lines in Sunset Boulevard.
After 3 years, I realised how much I missed performing. Now, I am a character of extremes. When I became acquainted with some of the harsher realities of what a career as an actor actually means, I came to the conclusion quite quickly that there were other things I could do with life. And if I couldn’t have it all, I wouldn’t have any.
And, really, what millennial hasn’t considered a career as an actor at some point?
These days it’s hardly abut the craft and the quality of the performing as it is about celebrity. I find the whole thing utterly repulsive, to be frank.
But after 3 years, I decided it was maybe time to consider performing again. For fun. Maybe. So I took the plunge and auditioned for sunset Boulevard with a small company who are staging it in October, in a little theatre in London. It would just be for my own enjoyment, in my free time.
The truth is, I miss it. I missed the thrill and the adrenaline. Even as much as I hate the audition process, the nerves, the fear, the judgement, the dancing. Whatever happens, I felt so proud of myself for just showing up and trying. I think it went as well as it could have.
But there are other reasons, too, aside from wanting to taste a forgotten dream of applause.
What strikes me more and more about life, and life in London perhaps particularly, is that the very best things happen when you aren’t looking for them. Whether it’s guys or friends or new opportunities. If you throw yourself into the whirl and chaos of London, you’ll meet them. Or they’ll meet you. There can be no doubt that living and working in London is damn hard, but the more you give to this city, the more it gives back. In my experience, anyway. You have to put yourself out there. You have to live it and love it and breathe it and experience it.
Nobody ever got excited just sitting at home,right?
I want to create some things for myself in London that are just for me. Maybe that’s selfish, but fuck it. I give so much of my life to work, and even thought most of the time I’m happy to, I don’t want it to be the only thing which defines me. So I joined writing groups. I’ve auditioned for this theatre company. I came to London to build myself an amazing career, for sure, but I also came to experience all the other things it has to offer.
Friends, is the other reason. I think, I hope, Tom and I will always be best friends. But since he moved in with Jim it hasn’t been the same. We can’t just meet the way we used to, we don’t get a lot of time alone together any more. I think I could so easily fall into resenting their happiness when I’m alone, and it’s not a head-space I want to find myself in. So, I find other workings to occupy it. It feels like some friendships i’ve made in London are changing, perhaps moving on. I want the chance to discover new people again. Not all of them can become friends, of course, but it’s about opening the right windows. Diving into new waters and seeing what opportunities they can offer.
Although I’ve gained so much in my (almost) 3 years in London, I feel in a way I’ve lost things too. I’ve been able to express myself in so many new and amazing ways, to meet such amazing people, and yet I feel like I’ve forgotten a part of myself at the same time. We’re all so busy all the time in this city, I think we sometimes forget to have time where there’s just time. Time to be us. Time to think about ourselves and what we want.
When I first moved to London I thought everyone looked like a model; they were all so slim and gorgeous as I saw them on the tubes, making my way around. If there’s one thing we’re focused on in London, it’s the external. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met who define themselves by the superficial, the artisan, the fake. Who delude themselves into thinking they are a celebrity; an influencer; a genius. It reviles me the same way and for the same reasons as the shallowness and vanity I found in the acting world. I’ve always been someone who detested cages and restrictions; shallowness is a restriction which stifles art as surely as a law which suppresses it.
As I left the audition room yesterday, I had a brief moment of nostalgia. I thought about how amazing it would be to perform as a career, and the dormant longing awoke in me again. But my mind split. I know I couldn’t live with the rejection and poverty; the silliness and over-powdered, egotistical queens which inhabit that world. at one time I wanted it to be my life, now, perhaps, I want it to be a part of it. Most importantly, I was proud of myself simply for conquering my fear and doing it.
Some days I’ve always felt like I’m playing a character, almost from the youngest age. In a time when I feel like so much in and around me is changing, when I’m just starting to think and discover myself, I can’t help but ask…Who am I? I know who I want to be in a play, but perhaps the real question is who I want to be in life. Actors play parts so they can escape their reality. Have I been doing the same?
Is it too late to ask?