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.