Category Archives: Bespoke

Joey’s Story: The Life of an Actress #1

I put the phone down ecstatically happy. I couldn’t believe it. Did that just happen…seriously, did that just happen. Who could I call, who could I tell, I needed to shout it from the roof tops. I’d made it.

‘Hiya’, I said excitedly. I could hardly contain myself. I was bubbling over like a bottle of pop.

‘Yeah, good thanks. Oh my god, you’re never gonna believe it….’

‘What?’ said my friend, ‘What Joey, what?’

‘I can hardly spit it out…oh god I can’t believe it…

‘What, what for Christ’s sake?’

‘I’ve got the job in Romeo and Juliet, mate, I got it.’

‘Darlin’ that’s amazing. Woo wooooo. Amazing. Who you playing?’

‘Well, exactly……Juliet! Bloody hell. Bloody Juliet. Can you believe it. I mean, I’m hardly a Juliet am I, hardly your traditional Juliet casting, am I. I’m over the frigging moon mate.’

I wasn’t being down on myself. It’s just that after years of endless auditions that have seen me cocking my leg up against an imaginary fence whilst crawling around on the floor barking like a dirty dog; where I have searched deeply for my inner tree certain that those on the panel have savoured in a sneaky chuckle at my expense; and where I have eagerly sight read from a script seemingly thrown together but ten minutes before. Oh yes, I have been to castings where my agent has pitched me alongside five foot eight willowy models (I barely touch five foot three and am rather fond of my sometimes slight but sometimes slightly zaftig stature) with flawless skin and legs that remind me of an adult giraffe. Reality checks are part and parcel of the game when you’re a jobbing actor. The performance world is a crazy one.

But this time was my time, and I’d finally earned my reward. I was delighted. Little ole me was about to take on the role of the gorgeously iconic heroine in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. 

My pal and I made a quick arrangement to meet for coffee the next day, and I flitted off into the sunshine, floating on cloud nine. I spent the day lying in the park making lists and starting to work through them; the usual things you need to do when you’re about to head off on a job:

1. Digs for the duration of the job. Did I know anyone near by that I could cadge a bed from for a few months, or do I need to contact the theatre about local land ladies?

2. Check bank account to see what I could afford.

3. Advertise my room in our flat to see if someone needs a London base for the duration I’m away. This will mean that I’ll only have to fork out for rent while I’m away. That’d be handy!

4. Give notice on yet another waitressing job that I won’t be able to go back to!

5. Dig out a copy of the play from my garage full of boxes, or simply buy a new copy.

6. Go through the play with a highlighter pen (my absolute favourite bit of the job) and mark up my lines.

7. Anything else that I might have forgotten.

The time between securing the job and starting it always flies by, as I end up with tonnes of things to do. There are always friends to see, cases to pack, bills to pay, work prep to do, and bits and bobs to do for pals that I’d committed to, never quite believing that a job would be around the corner! I love my friends and would do anything for them, so always manage to fulfil my promises no matter how much I compromise myself.

Anyway, as usual, I got it all done and finally collapsed into my airline seat on the train heading north to my perfect new job. Journey times were always an opportunity for me to catch up on the bits that I hadn’t quite got round to before leaving, but this time I had made sure that the single and only thing I was going to be doing was familiarising myself with my new character: Little Miss Capulet. My plan was to nail her, as best I could, before rehearsals began – but what would come out in the rehearsal room could never be predicted – and arrive at my destination with only a bath to have and a good nights’ sleep. For once, I managed it. I was relaxed and prepared for my first day of rehearsals.

As always seems the way, we sat in a circle, actors mixed with techies, techies mixed with production staff, ASMs, DSMs, lighting designers, costume people etc etc. The director starts by introducing himself and around we go introducing ourselves to everyone and informing one another of the role we are going to be playing. For me, this was going to be a joy, a real departure from ‘Hi, I’m Joey, playing second moomin from the left. No, this time I could proudly announce, in my newly-rehearsed, deep, actressy voice: ‘Hi, Joanna, playing Juliet’. Proud proud proud. Woo.

By the time all the pleasantries were done and coffee had been had, the DSM announced that our first read-through would begin immediately after lunch. Couldn’t wait. I’d practised my lines a little bit, and had made sure that my understanding of iambic pentameter was up to scratch, as it had been a while!

All went well in the read-through. We all went for a drink after. Tomorrow was to be our first ‘on our feet day’.

Tomorrow came. What can I say.

I phoned my friend, yes the very same friend from earlier.

‘You are not gonna fucking believe this mate.’

‘How’s it going darlin’? What d’you mean? Everything ok?’

‘Bloody hell mate, get this: I’ve spent all morning in the rehearsal room running around with my duffle coat on back to front and a paper bag on my head. They’ve only gone and set it in a mental asylum. My bloody Juliet is in a mental asylum.’

The acting world is never quite as it seems. But the Juliet that I produced, mad or not, received rave reviews, and my telephone friend cried when she saw her. I was indeed proud proud proud, and will never ever forget her.


Maureen’s Story: Falling In Love Again?

Fifty-one and going out on a date! Who’d have thought it.

He pulled up outside the house – some would say, in today’s dating world, that letting someone know where you live is a risky strategy – but I’m old school and trusting, I’m not sure I buy into all that nannying! He seemed like a nice enough man on the phone, and that’s good enough for me.

I peeped through the Venetians and hoped he hadn’t seen me. That’s fair enough isn’t it, wanting to check out if he looked as good as he sounded? Nothing wrong with that. Anyway, he did…I think. I like a man who looks after himself, and even though I could just make out a slight stretching of his shirt over the tummy area, everything else looked dandy. He still had hair, polished his shoes, and had obviously pressed his trousers and shirt. Good job he wasn’t wearing jeans, because if I’d seen any evidence of pressed jeans it would have been a no no, and my best mate come wing-woman Sandra, would have been sent a text immediately, informing her that an emergency phone call was required within the hour. That’s what mates are for, and I have played that role many a time.

Anyway, Paul sauntered up the path, pressing that key fob thing without looking (smooth) so that his car doors locked – yes, I was still nosing – adjusting his shirt and fiddling with his hair as he came and knocked on the door. I left it for a minute or so while I descended the stairs, always good to keep them waiting, and opened the door with a big smile and a sort of ‘I’m not quite ready’ (but of course I was) air about me.

‘Come on in, I’ll just be a minute, running slightly late’, I said. Poor thing.

‘Oh god, am I early? Sorry….’, he said, anxiously. Poor thing.

‘No no, it’s me, I’m a bit of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kinda girl. Come on in. Make yourself at home. I’ll be 2 mins.’ And I was gone. Poor thing.

Of course, this was all a pack of lies as I’m one of the most organised people I know, anally so. So, I was reduced to sitting on my bed waiting til I thought the time was right to reappear. I couldn’t really down a glass of Dutch-courage wine as our date was a day date. Yes, you heard right, a day date…..what’s that all about, I mean, what’s the world coming to? What’s happened to going to bar, all dolled up and getting royally slewed together. Doesn’t happen nowadays apparently, it’s all about ‘the conversation’. Anyway, I’d agreed to it, so that was that.

just as an aside, talking of getting all dolled up….trying to decide on something to wear on a ‘day date’ nearly finished me off. I mean really, how do you know what to wear? Smart casual is always safe, but it sort of reminds me of work. Anyway, I did it, and we sort of seemed to match. Weird that.

After what I considered to be the right amount of time, I breezed down the stairs and into the lounge. Paul was stood by the mantlepiece looking at some photos.

‘Nice pictures. That looks like Thailand to me. Been there then?’

‘Yes, a few years ago now,’ I said. More like twenty, I thought to myself.

‘You still look exactly the same’, he said. Flatterer, I thought.

‘Ha. Well that’s very nice of you to say so.’

I offered him a coffee, which he politely declined saying something about a reservation for lunch. Impressive, I thought, I’ve clearly got myself an operator here. That’s fine with me, nice to be spoiled. So off we went, in his nice blue car, to God knows where.

The drive was about twenty minutes. I didn’t think we’d arrived at a restaurant when he pulled up.

‘Here we are’, said Paul, and out he jumped. I looked around me, slightly bewildered, and jumped out too. My date was rummaging around in the boot, he slammed it shut and appeared with a wicker basket.


‘Uh, yes, yes, indeed, ready for anything me, ready for anything.’ I’d been totally thrown off guard. The man had prepared a picnic: ground rug, shawl, umbrella, the lot.

We talked and laughed for what seemed like five minutes, in fact, it was three hours. He’d kept a safe distance, but I could tell that he was into me. We packed up the basket and headed back toward the car. We stopped close by to the little cafe and sat on a park bench. We watched the birds, listened to the brass band playing in the band stand, and he sidled up to me getting gradually closer and closer. I played at being cool. He didn’t. I was aware that people were looking at us. Maybe it was because of our age. He rested his head on my shoulder. I stared straight ahead. He looked up at me with puppy dog eyes. I felt sick. And left. Date over as quickly as that.

All that effort, all that patience, but I couldn’t help myself, he’d made his move – and a sickly one at that –  too soon.

Poor stupid thing.

A Fiction: Life Changer

Do you ever just get in the car and drive? I mean drive without thinking about it, autopilot some might say. You can sometimes get from A to B without remembering the journey at all. Well, that will never happen to me again, never, because I will never get in a car again.

I remember the day well. It is etched in my memory until the day I die. It altered my life, irrevocable.

The sun was shining, but the day was cold. You know, one of those fiercely cold days that make you smile because you feel alive. I’d been duped by the sunshine so left the house in jeans and just a thin jumper. I turned round and went straight back in to grab my coat. Graham followed me back, as usual, but letting out an excited bark which warned me that his promised turn on The Heath was a definite goer! I wrapped my coat around me and opened the rear door for Graham to jump in, and then settled myself into the drivers side, belting up as usual.

I’ve done this journey many many times. It’s a pleasant one, one that most people would love to do, but one that I’ve now realised I take for granted. The roads are narrow and tree-lined, they border The Heath which is pretty visible no matter which angle you approach it from. I love my area, but you know how it goes when you’ve lived there for a while…….

I was working to a deadline, plus my sister’s baby had been quite ill. I was due at a party that evening, and I was thinking about the possibility of taking the next belt in my quest to dominate the Judo world. Should I eat at home before the party, or should I arrange to meet people for dinner before? My thoughts were erratic today, all over the place, and Graham was groaning in the back as he always does when journeying toward his place of freedom.

And then it appeared. From nowhere. A pushchair. I braked. It flew up in the air, or so it seemed. It flew straight ahead….or so it seemed. And also to the right and to the left. It seemed to go everywhere, and in slow motion. Why do things like this go in slow motion, why couldn’t the seconds before be in slow motion, then I’d have seen it. I know that this is an irrational request, but what the hell…..

The noise was immense, like nothing I’d ever heard. Cars were screeching to a halt. Doors were slamming. Horns were blowing. There were screams, screams like I’d never heard before, but screams that I hear all the time now.

I pulled on the handbrake and just sat, staring ahead, I simply couldn’t move. Every face that I looked at seemed to morph into what could only be described as a gargoyle, or worse, like a something from a painting by Francis Bacon that haunted me as a teen.

I came back into reality, unbuckling my seat belt as it happened, undoing the door before my belt was fully off. I was confused, stunned, incapable of saying anything even remotely coherent.

‘What happened?’ I managed. It seemed like such an inane thing to say, but nothing else would come out. I was utterly bewildered. People were staring at me, some were swearing at me. My god, what had I done? Hell was opening up in front of me. I knew that I’d run into a pushchair, and I knew that my head was full of every other kind of thought but driving. I could see a group of people kneeling on the ground, huddled around something. Time stopped. Graham barked somewhere in the background. And then she appeared. My Guardian Angel.

‘Don’t look over there dear. Stay here. Don’t go over there. I saw everything.’ Her voice was calm, as calming as aloe vera on a burn, and I immediately wanted my mother, my soothing taken-before-her-time mother. She was like my mother.

I remember being back in my car surrounded by dog noises. And then I remember being at a police station.

I was prosecuted for driving without due care and attention, but surely the mother should have been prosecuted too. I had to pay a hefty fine and my license was revoked for 6 months, at the judge’s discretion. The child died. But I had been deemed not wholly culpable because I was driving within the speed limit and my Guardian Angel had not only confirmed that, but had drawn attention to the fact that the mother had pushed the child out ahead of her so that she could check the traffic. The absurdity of that. She had come from between two parked cars, chatting to her friend, straight out into the road leaning forward to check for oncoming cars, but it was too late, I was there, killing her child.

My life would never be the same again, my life sentence had begun.

And Graham now had to walk everywhere.