When you are fighting to get auditions, change your agent, fix your showreel, cope with earning enough money in a job that lets you off for castings – it’s easy for the joy to go out of the work. ‘The world is too much with us…’ as Wordsworth put it.
But there is a joy! Remember those wonderful moment on stage when you felt you were ‘flying’? That incredible impro in rehearsal when you temporarily entered a parallel universe? How amazing you felt on location playing that role as an equal with the actor you used to hero-worship?
Do you remember playing those games, exploring in anarchic masks, crying with laughter while trying to finish the scene? The tech that went on all night so you walked home to your digs in the dawn? The sell-out first night and the unexpected roar of the applause? The smell of stale clothes, make-up and hairspray in the dressing room where those lipstick messages on the mirror wished you well? The end of shoot party when you fell into the warm pool under a Spanish moon?
Why did you want to do it in the first place? Because you loved entering that imaginary world? Because you loved language? Because you made people laugh? Because you found an escape from the roughness of life in the warmth of the drama club? Because you felt a strange power – an exhilarating freedom – a terrible pleasure in the terror? Because it felt like a wild lottery? a prize to be won? an addiction to a vibrant life inside that overwhelmed you sometimes?
Because you could stop time.
You are a five year old for ever, an adrenaline junkie, a seeker of truth.
It’s a wild and glorious game you want to play. Sometimes no-one will let you. It can be painful, unbelievably hard, send you crying to sleep. but you are alive in a rare way. The joy is still there buried under the day to day hassles of trying to make a living, to push through the barriers. But you are rare to ever feel it – even rarer to get paid to feel it.
Shut your eyes – put your hand on your belly. Do you still feel joy? Do you still want to be an actor?
You’re a lost cause. You’re hooked. Go on going on. But don’t forget to laugh, play, feel the thrill. It’s still there.
And there is a world outside too – a Spring springing, a swallow flying. There are people to love and be loved. Real people. Food, wine, friends.
When the world is too much with you – take a break – breathe – walk in the fresh air away from sets, theatres, casting suites. Then when you feel ready – shut your eyes and remember how to play. And enter the wonderful never-ending, never-to-be solved game again.