Monday, 26 March 2012

Fancy A Drink?

Payment: alcohol/meeting

That's the casting that I found yesterday. On a gorgeously sunny Sunday afternoon, someone out there had cobbled together a casting with bits of old Sellotape, once-sticky Blu-Tak and a vague idea that actresses will do anything for free booze. Now, why that may sometimes be true, even the most desperate of actresses have some sort of limit. Now, I realise the notion that all thesps are just on the safe side of being raging alcoholics is one that everyone likes to keep. The world is happy believing that the acting fraternity is full of suave actors with a single malt in one hand while an actress is hanging on his other arm, desperately clutching a large glass of Merlot. And while I don't want to completely dispell the myth because yes, there are a lot of actors out there who like a drink.

I've had many a raucous night courtesy of adding actors to alcohol but I've seen office workers behaving far worse. So why don't see adverts for Accounting Executives or Receptionists where they just offer the chance of a meeting and a few drinks in return for their work? Is it because we work in a hugely unmonitored industry or because, as performers, we do very little to dispel the myth? I'd like to offer a third option where I tell you that this particular advert was, although on a casting website, was actually just a director asking for women to go out clubbing with him one night. And that's the option I would've given if I hadn't seen yet another casting this morning stating that there would be no pay but that they'd be putting on a great after-party with plenty of alcohol. Thanks guys.

I'm now going to move seamlessly into a little tale about possibly the oddest acting/alcohol experience I've had. It was way back when I was a still a training actress, full of the belief that I was just a few months away from year long runs at the National, constant flights out to LA to meet important directors and endless lunches at The Ivy. It was still a time when owning character shoes and a practice skirt mattered and when I thought the world might end if I wasn't in a constant state of voice exercises and Alexander Technique moves (it was also at a time when I infuriatingly shortened 'Alexander Technique' to 'Ali Tech' but the less said about that, the better.) It was one of our final year shows and, because most of the characters drank rather heavily throughout the play, the director decided that it would be a good idea to do a 'rehearsal' on a Friday night where he bought an alarming amount of red wine and we were shut in a room for a couple of hours and just drank and improvised in character. Had he been a director with completely scrupulous morals then I would maybe have understood why he chose this method but, to be honest, I think he liked the idea of sitting back with a glass of wine in hand, watching ten 20-somethings causing merry mayhem. And I don't think it will surprise anyone to hear that it achieved absolutely nothing. My character was the one character in the play that didn't actually drink. Bringing this up with the director he merely shrugged and said I could either not drink and see how it felt for my character to be sober in an alcoholic world or I could see what it was like for the other characters. Of course, you know which option I went with...

What ensued was a slightly awkward mess. We all wanted to seem professional so we all desperately tried to stay in character but this was coupled with the fact that it was Friday night and we'd been given an exciting amount of free booze. After about half an hour of keeping up the pretence that we were working, we ended up just sat around having a good ol' chat. Well, we all did apart from two actors who used it as a rather ill-timed opportunity to finally act on two and a half years of built up sexual tension. While eight of us sat around playing drinking games, they embarked upon an hour lip-locked rolling around on the rehearsal room floor. While we spent the next day red-lipped and delighted that the thousands of pounds worth of fees that we'd spent had finally paid off, they were red-faced for many months after.

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