Friday, 28 June 2013

Crying On The Tube

Do you ever see people crying on the tube?

I do. Lots.

And I always try and catch their eye and offer some kind of encouraging smile. Because I know how it feels.

I mean, we’ve all done it, haven’t we?

Well, I know I have. Twice.

The first time was when I was about twenty three and had just been rather unceremoniously dumped by my first proper boyfriend, Conor. He had broken the news pretty brusquely to me in his attic bedroom in Fulham Broadway. Ever the stage manager, I decided that the best option was just to try and deal with the issue as efficiently and quickly as possible. So whilst he loitered in the middle of the room, mumbling about ‘not being ready for commitment’ and ‘needing to enjoy his early twenties as a single guy’, I purposefully strode around grabbing any books I had lent him and shoving them into my bag along with my toothbrush and toiletries, whilst desperately trying to maintain my composure.

‘Do you want me to walk you to the tube?’ he rather helplessly offered.

‘No.’ I snapped. ‘I fucking don’t.’

And with that I stormed out of his house, slamming the front door behind me. My face was vibrant with shame and indignation and rage, but the tears of pain and hurt and confusion hadn’t come yet. I can only deal with several emotions at a time and my fury and unfeasibly short temper were currently holding court as I comprehended the situation.

It was late afternoon on a gloriously sunny day and we had just witnessed England win a football match in the World Cup. Or the Euro Cup.

Or something.

The people of London were all spilling out of pubs and bars. And the general atmosphere was one of jubilation. Every single one of those Londoners taking some sort of responsibility for our football team’s victory and celebrating with beer, post match debates and excitedly making plans about watching the next match.

I think we lost the next match. Yeah, we did. We lost the next match.

At that moment in time I must have been the only person in West London, who was in a Full Blown Strop mode. I marched along the pavement feeling every bang of my overnight bag as it slammed rhythmically against my bare leg. The bag which had been lightly packed by a girl ready to spend a sex-filled and cloudless weekend with her boyfriend was now over-stuffed and uncomfortably burdensome. The provocative lingerie and vibrating cock-ring was buried, forgotten, towards the bottom. And the whole lot was being being carried by a confused and emotionally bruised single girl who was starting to stress that she might have left her hairdryer there.

Yes. I had. I had left my fucking hairdryer there.

I pushed through the intoxicated crowds who were still enjoying the early evening heat and got to Fulham Broadway tube. The platform was thankfully empty so I made my way down to the end and hovered near the breezy mouth of the tunnel.

Keep it together, Jess. Just breathe. And keep it together.

I waited there for several moments. Breathing in and breathing out. Resolutely and stoically Keeping It Together.

And then, with no warning, I threw up.

To this day I’m not entirely sure why. I have never reacted to a personal event in that way before or since and I was definitely not hungover or ill.

But yeah.

I threw up. Badly. Lots. And loudly.

There was a group of middle aged women a bit further down the platform from me who did very little to suppress their utter disgust and horror. They obviously assumed that I was a football supporter who had got a little carried away with the day’s festivities and their wrongly formed opinion of me made me feel utterly dreadful. As did their lamenting tuts and condescending sighs and bloody horrid Radley handbags.

‘Oh will you piss OFF!!’ I wanted to scream, ‘I’m NOT a drunken, yobbish twat! I’ve just been dumped by my first, proper BOYFRIEND. Don’t you remember what that was LIKE??!! So go tut and moan about something else!! And why have you all got handbags with fucking DOGS ON THEM??!!’

I didn’t shout those things though. I just stared despondently at the little pool of outrageously orange spew and wondered what to do next. Luckily, the train blasted into the station and I guiltily boarded it, making sure I got a carriage away from the mutters and glares and brightly coloured leather scotty dogs. I wiped the vomit from my chin and placed my bag on the floor and slumped down in a seat near the door.

And that was when I cried.

I sat on the District Line and I cried from Fulham Broadway to Victoria.

And then I sat on the Victoria Line and cried from Victoria to Brixton.

And then I got home and cried for a week.

And then I got over it.

Because that’s what you do.

And that was the first time I cried on the tube.

The second time was a few years after that.

I was stage managing a play. A Very Serious Play. All about politics and death and Traumatic Events. The male lead was a very well respected actor in his mid fifties and generally we had a good relationship. He was fun and flirty with a little twinkle, but most importantly of all he was faultlessly professional and not at all fussy or demanding. It was one of my first gigs as CSM and I had found the experience rather nerve wracking. Nobody had put as much pressure on me as I was trowelling upon myself. But after a couple of weeks of the run I started to grow a little in confidence and feel slightly more relaxed in the role.

But one fateful night, during the play, something had happened backstage which had called me away from my usual stage right position. I can’t entirely remember what it was. A sick cast member? An argument? A missing bit of costume?

I genuinely can’t recall what it was and when writing this bit of the post I originally thought ‘I will make something up’. But actually, the fact that I can’t remember what that emergency was is relevant. Because it was the consequence of it which is much more important and which has stuck in my mind ever since.

Well-Respected Male Lead (lets call him Paul) was due to step off the stage during a lightening quick scene change in order to have a hat placed upon his head and a teapot installed into his waiting hand. It was my responsibility to do both of these things. And out of all the complicated scene changes and pre-sets it was the part of the show I worried about the least.

I mean, honestly. A hat and a teapot. How hard could it be?

As I was dealing with whatever minor emergency was happening elsewhere I heard the cue coming up over the tannoy. And I began to run. But I ran in the futile way that one runs for a bus when you can see it pulling out of the stop and back out into the road. You know it’s probably a pointless effort but you run anyway, just in case. You run with hope and faith and, if nothing else, to show willing.

I got to the stage right wing about three seconds after I should have been there. And then it took me another three seconds to locate the hat and the teapot. Then it took me another three seconds to jam the hat onto his head and place the teapot in his hand.

Nine seconds in total. Which was just nine seconds too long. If we are talking in Theatre Time it was basically about forty five minutes.

The rest of the show continued without a hitch but I braced myself for what was almost certainly about to happen next.

And it did.

The uncontrolled rage. The terrorising fury. And even worse, the disappointment.

Paul was incandescent with wrath. When he had exited during that scene change he had spun in two full circles looking to see where I was. He could have gone on without the hat but the teapot?! The teapot!! How could he go on stage and offer tea to people without a sodding teapot?!

There is never any point in arguing. You can’t do anything in those situations except apologise and sympathise.

Apologise and sympathise.

I honestly think it must be pretty terrifying having to deal with problems and situations in front of several hundred people. And even though it almost always turns out that the audience are none the wiser, I guess it sure as hell doesn’t feel like that at the time. There is no way I would accuse Paul of ‘over-reacting’ as I guess it must have been a pretty shit moment for him. I also know that going on stage gives anyone a certain amount of adrenalin and if that turns negative, the adrenalin which usually gives you a high can very quickly curdle in your blood and turn into a temper.

Paul had been flustered and distracted for the rest of the play and that was my fault. Entirely my fault. No denying it. I had failed as a stage manager and, probably, as a human being as well. After being reprimanded for a good ten minutes and then listening to doors slamming and more swearing as he made his way back to his dressing room, I went to the office and started to cry.

Elsewhere on this planet, entire families were being made homeless. Millions of pounds were being lost due to a poor economic structure, loved ones were being lost to cancer and our brave troops were fighting in a war.

But I didn’t care about any of that. I didn’t give a shit about the war and destruction and hatred going on in other parts of the world. Because in a newly built building in a wealthy area of London, I had put a hat on a man’s head approximately nine seconds later than I should have done.

And as far as I was concerned, that was the worst thing in the world.

I sent out the Show Report along with the words ‘CSM error’ and made my way to the tube. I felt my Blackberry beep within the confines of my bag and once down underground I looked at the screen. It was an email from the director wanting to know exactly how it had come about that the teapot and the hat had not been where they should have been?  Why had Paul been late? How had I allowed this teapot-based travesty to take place? What kind of person was I?

I boarded the train and then I sat on the Central Line and I cried all the way to Bond Street.

And then I sat on the Jubilee Line and I cried all the way to Canary Wharf.

And then I got home and cried some more.

And then I got over it.

Because that’s what you do.

Paul, it turns out, got over it as well. The next day he was full of effusive apologies and hugs and warm smiles and we kissed and made up, mutually falling over ourselves to ask forgiveness and tell each other how we were both quite marvellous really. The conflict and war and pain and suffering which had happened elsewhere in the world the night before was still continuing. But we didn’t care. Because we were going to do our play to a few hundred people and I was going to give him his hat and his teapot and everything would be okay again.

That’s the great and magical thing about theatre. It’s like a Time Machine. You fuck something up one night and then you get a chance to go back and do it all again. But this time get it right. So we entered our own little Time Machine and the events happened just as they always did, complete with teapots and hats and standing ovations. Our own little Groundhog Day ran to plan with no interruption or confusion. Because, in theatre, if you do something wrong, you always get your chance to fix it.

(Unless of course you make a mistake on Press Night. And then you get shunned for the rest of the production. And the rest of your life. And they take your first born away from you.)

I know that there are worse things and more important things in the world than theatre. But I don’t think that means we aren’t allowed to cry about it. I think it just shows that we care. At the end of the day, all of those rigorous shout checks and show reports are basically put in place to create a No Tears Situation. So when stuff happens beyond our control and we feel like we have let an actor down it genuinely is dreadfully upsetting.

Crying at work is something which is generally frowned upon. A particularly brutal CSM I worked with once was pretty open about how she just had no time for it. ‘Crying? That’s not an emotion. That’s just people leaking water from their eyes.’


Personally I always feel dreadful if I see someone cry. And I do seem to see it a lot. I have seen an actress cry for a full twenty minutes after fluffing lines on Press Night. And I have seen a designer cry in the middle of a workshop when seeing a set which does not match the plans. And I have seen a stage manager weep uncontrollably because some blackcurrant jelly had failed to set in time for a matinee. Personally, I had the most sympathy for the Loose Jelly Situation.

That was a biggie.

And you know what? I have probably made someone cry in my time. Almost certainly. When feeling pressured or downtrodden it is easy to whirl on your black Vans and take it out on someone nearby. (Usually an usher. I’m so very sorry.)

Admittedly I have mostly witnessed women crying but I personally believe that men do it in a way as well. Maybe they don’t run to a toilet (that’s what the Front of House toilets are for, right?) but they have a pretty good way of retreating into their proverbial cave (usually behind an iPad or a Mac) in order to have a full blown Man Sulk.

Oh yes.

Men may not ‘leak water from their eyes’ but they have a pretty good way of oozing frustration and upset from each and every freckled pore.

And then they think about Kylie and get over it.

That wasn’t the last time I cried about theatre. I have done it since and probably will again. And I don’t think that is a bad thing. Although now I am older and (sort of) wiser, I am able to place whatever I am crying about in The Great Scheme Of Things and eventually feel okay about it.

At the end of the day, surely the whole point of theatre is not about the people onstage or the people backstage but the people sat on the uncomfortable folding seats who have parted with well-earned, cold hard cash in order to spend two uninterrupted little hours thinking about something else. A brief little 180 minute holiday away from their own lives and conflicts and whatever personal thing it is which maybe causes them to sometimes ‘leak water from their eyes.’

Isn’t that what is important?

Anyway, my point is, when I see people crying on the tube I always wonder what it is they are crying about. Are they crying because of a lost love, a dying relative, an argument with a friend or the fact that they fucked up a scene change?  Or because their till was short of money in the cash up? Or because they sent that secret and important e mail to the wrong person? Or because their manager criticised their window display? Or because whilst waiting on tables they dropped hot food into the lap of a customer?

I sat on the tube and I cried about my Conor. The loss of my first love. And then several years later I cried because I failed to efficiently pass a teapot to a man in fancy dress. And I cried about both of these things because I really, deeply cared about both of them.

Silly, isn’t it?

In the future we are all going to make mistakes. Scene changes will go awry, show-stops will occur, lines will be missed and quick changes will take three times as long as they should. And people will get upset and shout and place blame.

That is a stone cold fact. I’m not saying whether it is wrong or right but it is the truth.

And as a result we will retreat to toilets or tubes and, however much we fight it, leak water from our eyes. Because we care and because we feel responsibility and because however much someone says ‘it’s only a play’, we will still give a big, massive, rectum stretching shit about it.

And then we’ll get over it.

Because that’s what we do.

Thank you for reading another installment of my drivel. If you enjoyed it you can click ‘share’ at the top of the page and put it on your Twitter or Facebook. You can also ‘follow’ me at @agirlinthedark or ‘like’ my Facebook page (Girl In The Dark).

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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Planet Futon


One night I sat up late in a B and B in Inverness. The day before, Friday, I had posted a status on Facebook joking about how there was only an hour left until you could apply for Artistic Director at the National Theatre. With my tongue wedged firmly in my check I said that I rather fancied my chances and was excited about my first season ‘Plays Without Props’ and joked that it would be ‘groundbreaking’ because that’s what I think Facebook should be used for.  


About thirty odd people ‘liked’ it and it got me thinking. What if I did run the National? What would happen if a stage manager ran the National? The thought just made me smile a bit. And there was something about that thought which didn’t go away.

So on Saturday night I did the get-out, went back to my B and B and stayed up for a couple of hours tapping away on my laptop and half watching some gruesome horror on Film 4. The one with the zombie people who have been affected by nuclear radiation. My mind was mostly on the blogpost but also on the bad prosthetics and trying to work out where I’d seen the blonde chick before.

‘Lost’. That’s it. She had been in ‘Lost’.

After a while I got bored and tired so just shut my laptop and went to bed. I had to be up for an eight thirty am B and B breakfast before packing up and catching the train from Inverness to Aberdeen.

The next morning, as I threw my face wipes and pyjamas and Po (my Teletubby) into the overnight bag (I always put my big suitcase on to the truck), I realised that my laptop was still on. As I flipped the screen up I saw the half finished word document from the night before. I re read it with fresh eyes and without the murmur of deranged, mutated monsters and chuckled a bit. It was sort of funny. Sort of.

Fuck it. I’ll post it.

I usually spend a bit longer on blog posts. A few days actually. Re-reading and pondering and editing. But I could post this now and my friend’s comments and shares would amuse me on the train. Because that’s what usually happens. I post my blog and my friends read it. Maybe they re post it or send it on to other people and then my lovely little band of Twitter followers say nice things. One time Louise Brealey (Molly in ‘Sherlock’) tweeted my blog because I was working with her. I got about 2000 hits for one post as opposed to the usual 500 and it was all very exciting. Dead exciting.

Probably the most exciting thing that had ever happened to my blog.

So I posted it slightly hurriedly. The title was fairly obvious. All I needed was the punchline and that took a few minutes more. What would show that I was clearly a fluffy idiot who had no real desire to run a building? What would leave the reader with the sense that the whole thing was clearly a load of nonsense and that I was barely capable of running a bath, let alone a prestigious building.

I’ll ask for a crown.

So I posted it, boarded my train and settled down to egg sandwiches and kit kats with the rest of my company. Every now and again my phone would beep with a comment or a ‘like’ or a tweet but nothing out of the ordinary.

Once in Aberdeen I had to hang out at a Starbucks for an hour or so as my digs landlady was not going to be home for a bit. As I had time to kill I tweeted the link to a couple of directors I had worked for who had enjoyed previous blog entries. Sure enough they retweeted it and then other people retweeted it and at about 4.30pm, roughly five hours after I originally put it up, I had about six hundred hits.


Finally my landlady let me know she was at home so I went and checked into the digs and did the usual small talk. Got given keys and shown showers and fridge space before being left to my own devices. My room had a low and comfy futon and that was about it. But it was clean and airy and warm and, most importantly, there was wi-fi.

Po the Teletubby, was placed carefully and lovingly between the two pillows, as is my digs custom, and I settled down with a supermarket salad and booted up my laptop.

The computer gave me a broader view of the internet than my mobile and I started to realise what was happening and I started to really feel excited. But not just excited, something else. Now I have thought long and hard and pored over my Thesaurus but the only way I can describe the emotion is this;


It was only about this time, 5.30pm, that I started to think that actually this was going to be bigger than the usual hits and re-posts. Maybe people, important people, would read it and that would be cool. Really cool. All of the feedback was so lovely and positive and I couldn’t help but feel elated and flattered. How incredible to have so many people say nice things about me all at the same time. It was like having a birthday but with people sending you well wishes because they wanted to, not just because Facebook had told them they really should. I generally get annoyed with Twitter folk who re tweet their own praise but it was intensely tempting to let people know how much praise I was getting. It was like it was a validation of my existence.

‘Look!! I am an okay human being!! Lots of random strangers think I am cool!!’

All of this encouragement and cheer stimulated my boldness and I decided to tweet the National Theatre with the link. Again, my followers ran with this and it was swiftly retweeted all over the place. Some people also reworded the tweet to say things like ‘Come on @nationaltheatre. Give @agirlinthedark the job’ before including the link. The flattery and persuasion was profoundly intoxicating and I am happy to admit that I sat in my digs on my low futon and felt on a total high.

Then about six o’clock, my phone buzzed with a Twitter alert. I had been sent a tweet from a Well Known Actor. I saw his name before I read the message and instantly felt another wave of elation. By this point, people like Derek Bond and Stephen Unwin had tweeted me their support so I had no reason to think that it would be anything otherwise. This was even more exciting. A Well Known Actor was going to tweet me and tell me how great I was.

‘That’s some high-end, ill-conceived bitterness. And you’re actually sending that to people in your industry?’

To say everything came crashing down is an understatement.

It wasn’t that I came crashing down. It was more like I broke away. My little futon which was still fairly alien to me having only plonked myself down on it an hour before, suddenly felt a very lonely and isolated place. What was I supposed to do with this tweet? Ignore it? Confront it? Part of me said ‘dismiss it, let it go’ but I was curious. How had he read my blog as bitter? How had the drivel which I had tapped out not 24 hours before whilst watching a third rate horror film be considered as anything else other than light hearted bubblegum for the brain?

So I asked Well Known Actor why he thought I was bitter. He won’t reply though will he? He won’t give a shit?


‘Aside from the passive aggressive tone? All of it. Obvs you’re entitled, but I think it’s dumb.’

My futon broke even further away and went into it’s own solitary little orbit. Having just been riding on the shoulders of several hundred readers, they all suddenly placed me back down on the ground and strolled off. I was on my own, or at least that is how it felt.

I tweeted Well Known Actor several times and explained the joke. But he didn’t seem to be getting it and I was getting increasingly more and more panicked that the joke was on me. You see, any random troll could have tweeted me and I probably would have shrugged it off and climbed back on to the jubilant shoulders of my supporters. But this was Well Known Actor. And he was in Well Loved TV show. And you know what, if truth be told, I quite fancied him. As an experienced actor he knew what he was talking about and for the first time it dawned on me that the piece could be offensive or demeaning to people who actually worked at the National. Well Known Actor was baffled as to why I would write this stuff as I was a stage manager in the industry and thought I was stupid to ‘undermine and send up future colleagues.’

He did have a point. When I sat up at midnight watching that bird from ‘Lost’ running from half dead and heavily made up actors, it just never occurred to me that there was even the smallest possibility that they would read it. I mean, why the fuck would they? But the game had changed since the blog had travelled beyond the realms of my backstage mates.

However, I genuinely hadn’t written a piece which was meant to ridicule or offend. I don’t know him personally but I have a feeling that when Quentin Letts writes a vitriolic piece about someone who works in the arts, he doesn’t then reach for his Teletubby and get a wobbly bottom lip at the first sign of trouble.

It was not long before other people picked up on the argument. Although I didn’t do the traditional ‘lets tweet the nasty abuse so people come to my rescue’ thing, I did feel the need to put out a string of tweets stating that I had not meant to cause anyone offence and then people did their own detective work and located Well Known Actor’s tweets. People very dutifully came to my defence but it wasn’t long before I was being tagged in conversations which I really didn’t want to be involved in. When someone tweeted Well known Actor about the National having a sense of humour, Well Known Actor rather darkly responded with ‘Get back to me when Hytner reads it.’

Oh shitting hell.

Again, when I had bashed out my words at one in the morning the previous night (which was starting to feel several weeks ago) I had definitely not written it in the frame of mind that Hytner would read it. But Well Known Actor’s tweet made me feel slightly ill and I started to feel very naïve and vulnerable.

Someone tweeted Well Known Actor saying that I was right and that the ‘National Theatre was out of touch’. They included me and the National Theatre in the tweet and once again, I felt as if my planet was beginning to orbit further and further away from everybody else. As much as I wanted to slam the laptop shut and call my mum, I did come to the conclusion that the only thing keeping me linked to everyone else was the internet.

It was weird.

I was one hundred per cent by myself in that bare bedroom but I felt like I was in a jostling crowd of people. Well Known Actor could be on the other side of the world for all I knew but he felt scarily near. As if at any point he was going to walk in that bare bedroom for a stand up row. And the lack of control over what other people were tweeting was terrifying. I felt the need to step in and explain that I had never declared that the NT was out of touch and Well Known Actor responded just to me saying he knew that my blog was not saying that and that he was simply concerned about it.

The whole thing culminated in Well Known Actor tweeting me saying

‘I think I’ve also taken it all too seriously. Wanna do a play at the Nash??;)’

Phew. That was the one thing I did re-tweet and then thankfully everyone simmered down. But I was still getting private messages and texts all over the place about it.

‘Jess I saw Well Known Actor from ‘Well Loved TV show’ say those things about your blog!’

‘I know. Weird.’

‘Good though! Your blog will benefit!’

Indeed, the counter was going at an even more alarming rate now and had gone into the realms of 2000. Not even my most popular posts had hit that kind of number in a week, never mind several hours. My phone was buzzing with even more well wishers. Most notably a Facebook message from a very established lighting designer who had worked at the National saying that he had enjoyed it and several other established actors were tweeting me praise so I began to think that Well Known Actor was hopefully a one off.

That certainly seemed to be the case.

Then just after midnight, as I was scanning my mentions I saw a name and once again I froze. My little futon which had been the scene of elation could once again break away into vulnerability and isolation.

Jamie Lloyd.

In my blog I had mentioned Jamie Lloyd being ‘seventeen’ which was in no way a dig. It was just a reference to the fact that he is so bloody successful but not that old. Someone must have shown the blog to him as he was name checked.

‘Actually I’m only fifteen. And I’m excited that you wanna do the Falsettoland trilogy.’

He wasn’t the only one. Fifteen minutes after Lloyd’s tweet I got another one from Jonathan Harvey.

‘I wanna do the props play x’

I responded to both of these tweets in a cool and measured manner.

‘OH MY GOD!!! Thank you thank you thank you soooooo much!!!!’

I am such a tool it is unbelievable. But I think I was just overwhelmed with the relief that neither of them had publicly slammed me or declared me an idiot or bitter. They had read the blog in the way that I had written it and that was what was important. It also stopped me from just deleting the whole thing which I was very tempted to do.

So I went to bed having put a thing up on Facebook about my ‘4000 hits!!!’ and just thought ‘What a mad day. It will all calm back down tomorrow.’

On Monday morning, I realised that the tweets and shares were picking up again. I was clearly aware that it was a Slow Twitter Day and had I been up against the riots or Margaret Thatcher’s death I don’t think I would have stood a chance but it was still going strong. Stronger in fact, than the day before. Louise Brealey once again tweeted it. As did a whole other load of industry folk including Lyn Gardner. The Birmingham Rep put it on their Facebook as did other  theatre companies. But the most exciting one was David Eldridge, the playwright. He wasn’t as effusive as other people. All he did was tweet the link and write this.


It was enough for me and I am ashamed to say that it was the one tweet I did re-tweet. David Eldridge thought I was funny. And I’m really not. There is no way I could ever be a stand up comedienne or write like Charlie Brooker. I always start to laugh halfway through telling jokes and can never compete with the incredibly funny comic actors I work with. But David Eldridge thought that I was funny.

I felt like Brad Pitt had told me I was hot.

One unnerving thing that happened was that I got a phone call from a journalist friend of mine who said an interesting thing.

‘Anyone who wants to read this as an attack on the National will read this as an attack on the National.’

She had seen on Twitter how big it was getting and thought a little intervention was required. There is nothing like the word ‘libellous’ to scare the shit out of you. So with her assistance a light edit was made, again hunched over my laptop on my little futon. This little futon which I had flopped down onto at 5pm the previous day was starting to feel like my only home. I was a typing tortoise and it was my hard, smooth shell.

I got to the theatre and joined the Get In at about two o’ clock and it was great to just get on with it and ignore the internet flurry. The only time it was mentioned was when my production manager sidled over to me and said that I should really check with him before applying for other jobs.

People kept texting me saying I was all over their Facebook and Twitter. One friend called me and shrieked,

‘Jesus Jess!! You’re fucking everywhere! You’re like the Grumpy Cat of theatre!’

I don’t mind that moniker. The Grumpy Cat is fun and frivolous which is what the whole thing was meant to be. I never wrote it to cause offence or a storm. I just wrote it to be silly and because the horror film on telly wasn’t good enough to hold my attention.

So now the post is about to have it’s 35,000th hit. In the two years that I have been writing ‘Girl In The Dark’ I have had 15,000 hits. So in the past 48 hours I have more than doubled that. I have loved getting so many messages from people and been in contact with people I haven’t actually heard from in years which has been really lovely. I have had a real crash course in navigating the internet and feel lucky that I had great friends offering guidance and support and listened when I just phoned them up and went ‘GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!’

The National started to follow me but they haven’t responded in anyway. I don’t know who runs their Twitter account but they probably just got a bit sick and tired of it all. They clearly know, as I do, that these things die down just as quickly as they flare up. The internet is fickle and next week we will all be sharing a meme of a cigarette smoking lobster or something. I have had nice contact from a literary agent who has said that she enjoyed the blog and the writing style and maybe I should attempt a book. It’s a fun idea. I don’t know if I have enough ideas to attempt a book. I prefer writing in blog/column style. But maybe I will sit down one day and have a go. I don’t know, really.

Do I have any regrets about the whole thing? Yeah. I do actually.

Lunch Hour Twister.

I wish I had suggested Lunch Hour Twister.





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Sunday, 2 June 2013

My Application for Artistic Director at the National Theatre.

Dear Nick Starr (Any relation to Ringo?)

My name is Jess Gow and I would like to apply to be Nicholas Hytner’s successor as Artistic Director at the National Theatre. I believe that I am perfect for the role having worked consistently in professional theatre for the past thirteen years as a stage manager. Admittedly I have never directed a play as such (small detail) but I have spent tons of time in rehearsal rooms and reckon I have a pretty good idea of how it’s done. I have also stage managed some proper turkeys so I am also fairly clued up on what not to do.
I am thirty one years of age which may be considered too young but they let Jamie Lloyd direct stuff and he’s seventeen.

So, lets get down to business. Let’s start with programming.

·         I want to start my time at the Nash with a bang; a large scale production of the popular 80’s movie ‘Labyrinth’. David Bowie as Musical Director, David Tennant as the Goblin King and Hayley Atwell will play Sarah (the role made famous by Jennifer Connelly). Whoever designs it has a lot of artistic freedom and does not have to stay completely true to the film but it is only right that, as a mark of respect to Bowie, we ensure that Tennant’s wet look leggings are as eye wateringly tight. (From what I've heard, a codpiece shall not be required).

·         As this shall have a pretty hefty budget, it will be followed by a season of ‘Plays Written For Props’. I will gather a group of playwrights (Simon Stephens, Jonathan Harvey etc) and they will all have two hours in the National Theatre props store. During this time they each select ten props which they can take away with them. Over a decided time scale (three months, six, whatever) they have to write a one act, 90 minute play using only these props. Ideally set in modern day. The plays will then be performed by a cast in rep for four weeks. Tickets shall all be ten quid as we will save a ton on props, set, costumes, pesky designers etc.

·         An avant garde piece called ‘Olivia Colman Reads Harry Styles’ Twitter Feed’. Basically, we get Olivia Colman to read out Harry Styles’ Twitter feed. Again, very low in budget but I have it on good authority from at least seven people that they would be happy to pay money to see this.

·         Once we have saved on the cash we once again put on a snazzy number with high production values. I’m thinking a stage version of ‘Clueless’ written by Richard Bean. Carey Mulligan shall be Cher and Ben Whishaw shall be the step brother. Daft Punk will collaborate with Annie Lennox and update the 90’s soundtrack. We will add in extra matinees to cope with school demand as ‘Emma’ is on the syllabus. You’re welcome.

·         I would just like to take this moment to congratulate you on ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time’. It truly was such an inspired and ingenious idea to take a well loved book and turn it into a ground breaking play. With your permission I would like to follow on from this success and commission a writer to take a popular novel and adapt it for the stage. There are so many celebrated books to choose from but I currently have Jilly Cooper’s ‘Riders’ at the top of my list. Plus it's got horses in it. Horses go down well at the National.

·         Similar to the ‘Plays Written For Props’ rep season, I would like to introduce the ‘Plays Written For Actors’ concept. Again, we get a bunch of well loved writers who get to select their own casts. 50% of them will be found during the usual audition route. But the other 50% will be sourced from drama school showcases which the writers will attend. The writers will again have a set amount of time to create the plays for their selected actors. All actors, regardless of experience, will be on the same company wage.

·         Following on from this, I would like the National to stage the complete Falsettoland trilogy. Book by James Lapine and Music and Lyrics by William Finn. Three one hour musicals which are each individual works of genius. Get it on your Ipod, Starr. And get back to me.

·         Theatre Swap. We take a popular yet technically simple play to a very small regional theatre to entertain people who would otherwise not make it to London to see a play at the Lyttleton. In return, the regional theatre’s local youth theatre or amateur dramatic society get to perform their show on the National stage. Many of our finest performers start their careers and discover their talents in pokey little theatres and draughty village halls. It would be nice for a wealthy and prestigious establishment like the NT to give something back to these people and offer a platform to those who might not be able to afford drama schools or university.

·         No Shakespeare for at least five years. We all know how they end plus there are only so many new and funky ‘concepts’ we can explore. Let’s just take a long overdue step away from the Bard and investigate some new or totally unknown writers who still have the ability to surprise and shock. I would rather shit in my hands and clap than sit through yet another ‘updated’ production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

That’s pretty much all I have in my head at the moment in the way of programming but it’s enough to keep me going for a while. Although I do have lots more ideas about how I’m going to run this joint;

·         The introduction of Krispy Kreme Monday. Lots and lots of Krispy Kremes get delivered. Every Monday.

·         Before the start of each rehearsal period, stage management get to pore over a Paperchase catalogue before putting in an order. Obviously there will be a budget for it but not a very tight one. Good stationary makes for a productive rehearsal period. Fact.

·         When casting people, regardless of fame or experience, we take a very close look at references and discuss the actor with their past employers and directors. If they have a history of being unreasonable, unprofessional, rude or just plain nuts, then they will not be offered the privilege of performing on our stage. Because for every obnoxious yet talented ‘name’ that can apparently perform a role, I can show you at least twenty decent, respectful and accomplished actors who will pull off the role just as well and make the building a very pleasant place to work in at the same time. I don’t give a kipper's cock about how many Oliviers they have won or whether or not they are a theatrical ‘legend’. If they are a pain in the over worked arses of my backstage team or have a habit of being excessively dramatic and causing unnecessary agro then they will not be welcome through that Stage Door. As Noel Coward once said ‘We’re putting on a play, not fighting in a bloody war. Why can’t people in the theatre behave like normal human beings?’ In fact, please can we have that framed and screwed to the wall of every single dressing room? Thanks. (I would just like to take a moment to say that I am fully aware that lots of incredibly famous and well known actors are an absolute delight to work with. This post is in no way attacking established artists and neither is it making a sweeping statement that all famous people are difficult to work with. I know that is not the case.)

·         As much as I would like to eliminate upset and frustration by instigating my new casting rules, I understand that this will not entirely eradicate the issue. So for this reason, one room will be turned into a sound proofed and padded room complete with a punchbag and boxing gloves. Anyone from any department can use this room at any point of the day. But only one person at a time to ensure that people just punch the bag. Not each other.

·         For tech week there is also a budget for Haribo, Diet Coke and M & S sandwiches. And sushi.

·         At the end of Tech Week we have counsellors on hand for Post Traumatic Tech Therapy. This is basically Extreme Bitching to an independent party who you know will not repeat it to anybody.

·         I would like to put some money into the development of a new app. This app would mean that the DSM could do a backstage call from anywhere in the building using his/her phone. If people can operate a lighting board from their phone I really can’t see how this is that difficult.

·         An on site crèche. Working in theatre as a parent can be incredibly difficult, especially if your partner does too. So why not have a facility where rehearsing/performing parents can leave their kids and ease up the stress of dropping them off or picking them up after. Broody staff can also pop in for snuggles.

·         For additional financing, take the unwashed sheets used from the beds of Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tennant etc and sell them on EBay.

·         Portaloos for the people who queue for day tickets early in the morning. The streams of piss around the car park are unedifying.

·         When deciding which plays to programme, invite your Front of House team and Box Office staff to also read the plays and give feedback. Nobody knows your patrons as well as the people selling ice creams and ripping tickets so why not see what they have to say?

·         Additionally, when in the early stage of a show such as workshops and rehearsed readings, why not ask Front of House to audition and get involved. Sometimes the biggest talent in a theatre can be serving gin and tonics at the bar. They just haven’t been discovered yet.

That’s about it really. Some stuff might be a bit new and ‘out there’ but it all seems pretty simple and achievable.

I look forward to hearing from you.




P.S, I get like a crown, right?


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