Tuesday, 25 October 2011

So Close

Today the 'So Close Bug' has swarmed into town. Every job I see today, on first glance, appears to be perfect. The role sounds like something I could do and they actually involve getting paid. Imagine that? A role that you could play and they'll give you a few pennies for being so god damn perfect for the part too? With each casting call, my heart has skipped several beats as I read down what the role entails. I start forming my perfect cover letter, content in the knowledge that the part is mine. That's until I read the final requirement. And damn, you can always bet on that final requirement being the one thing you can't overcome.

So far today I've got excited about roles that finally reveal that they require you to be black, 5'9" and blonde, have access to your own small child and be an astronaut. Even with the best will in the world, these are insurmountable requirements. Even if I didn't sleep for a week and did everything possible to work on these, there is no way that I can change race, grow an extra 5 inches, give birth to a small person or train to fly to the moon. Although frustrating, there is something quite nice about the 'so close and yet so far' casting calls. There is absolutely nothing that I can do about it. I can't feel guilty about the lack of time I'm putting into making myself a more versatile actor because these are aspects about myself that I can never change.

It's the qualities that you probably could have that are the annoying ones. The fact that I can't speak fluent Arabic is totally unforgivable on my part and means that I've lost out on quite a few roles because of it. If I'd bothered to keep up my flute and oboe classes at school then those casting calls that require the actor to play a portable instrument would be accessible to me. If I'd saved up my money for singing lessons rather than spending it on countless trips to London Zoo so that I could gawp at penguins for hours on end then I wouldn't have to shirk away from pleas for actors who can sing. These are the things that I beat myself up over and make me realise that there's always more that I could be doing. I've bought language tapes, various instruments and various sets of juggling balls but all get used for a couple of days until my annoyance at not being able to master means that they are consigned to a life under a thick layer of dust, fluff and receipts.

But it's not unknown for me to try and gain these skills in time for an audition. A few years back I was asked to audition for a very good play with a very good theatre company. They asked me to prepare a five minute story telling piece, to be prepared to show them a skill that they could possibly use within the performance and also a bellydancing a routine. Sorry, a what?! Why would they ask me to do that? Why would they be so cruel as to just throw that in? I checked back over the casting call and stupid Miss L had missed that one of the requirements was that the actor be proficient at belly dancing. Oh god. But instead of holding my hands up and saying that I'd messed up, I decided to use the week that I had to try and learn. This would be the perfect opportunity to finally add a new and interesting gift to my very sparse looking 'other skills' section on my CV. I bought a couple of belly dancing DVDs and then spent nearly every waking hour desperately trying to teach myself how to undulate my stomach without looking like I was midway through a seizure.

The day of the audition came along all too quickly and I was terrified. I was totally unprepared and had somehow convinced myself that I'd be able to wing this one. I had a piece of bellydancing-esqe music downloaded which I'd managed to listen to a couple of times and apart from a couple of moves, I had pretty much no idea what I was going to do. I went in an aced the storytelling part and then played the piano for a bit which all seemed to go down well. They then said that they were ever so sorry but unfortunately, because they were overrunning, there would be no time to watch me shimmy and shake in their faces. I was more relieved than a relief worker relieving herself on a sculptural relief while watching Comic Relief.

Thankfully I never heard from them again so my bellydancing days were shortlived. I may not be able to juggle and I'll never be able to play the lute but 'not being caught out' should almost definitely take pride of place on my CV.

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