The Coward Hole

Photo by Linda Hewell

This is probably not what you are expected based upon the title. I am talking about the hole left behind after playing Otto in Noel Coward’s Design for Living earlier this month. The hole left by Coward and his play.

It was an amazing experience. Possibly my most favourite production to have worked on to date, and for many various reasons, so let’s get the vain ones out of the way first…

It was one of, if not the best performance I have given on-stage so far. It wasn’t flawless, but there were many moments where I was able to save myself, and others, and keep the show moving. It was the joy of playing a character who pushed my personal boundaries further than they have been pushed before, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I also think I looked pretty damn good with my shorter than usual hair, and it has made me admit something that many others have been telling me for a long time; I look younger and better with shorter hair… bring on the hair-dresser.

Photo by Linda Hewell

Aside from the person satisfaction and ego boost, there was the sense of professionalism and talent with my co-stars. What an awesome bunch. Everyone took their roles seriously, even the smaller one-scene-only appearances, making for some wonderful moments of dialogue.

Then there was the extra effort required of the lead who basically was the back-bone of the whole show with her massive performance, including dramatic highs and lows, amorous moments with three different men, including me (that would have been a unique challenge I’m sure) and she made it so easy for me at least. What a delight to work with someone so incredibly talented and professional.

Photo by Linda Hewell

And then there was my co-star, playing the other male interest in the triangular love affair at the centre of the play. That he was willing to perform opposite me, a heterosexual male, feigning a loving affection, culminating in a crowd pleasing snog at the end is testament to his open mindedness and skill as an actor.

This production has left a lasting impression on me, stronger than I have ever felt before. I am extremely fortunate that the director spoke to me after a night of Closer, asking me to audition for this fine show. I admired Noel Coward before, but now, there is an artistic love affair brewing with the writings of this legend.

I am mentally preparing for the next role I hope to play…

Photo by Linda Hewell

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Designed for Life

It has been a week already into the show. Three shows, with two more weeks left, and I my having the time of my life. I have loosened up as a person, and a performer, and it has affected me in such an incredible way.

Last year, Closer put me into some very confrontational situations such as domestic violence, physically intimate relationships, and somewhat exposed in-front of a live audience. Design has me playing a man with different sexual preferences than myself, yet with a similar outlook to relationships that has been slowly fermenting in my real-life mind, and the experience has been incredible.

Couple to that that the feedback I have been getting, both for myself and the play in general, has been some of the best I have heard, and the experience is simply unique and mind blowing.

When your agent tells you that “you made it look like the role was written for you”, well, that has to mean something right?

Defining a man

Originally posted on www.fearlessinc.com.au

Question: What is a Man?

The definition of a man is an evolving concept. It is influenced by changing understandings of our physiology and psychology. There is also fashionable trends that can influence what it means to be a man. For a young man, this can be very confusing. Add into this mix, strong parental figures.

Toughen up boy. Be a man.

For me, my definition of a man was strongly influenced by my father, and observing the boys at school. I was born in a small community and began schooling in a small class environment. Part way through this, we moved to the city and I was “thrown” into large classroom environments. I wasn’t ready for it. The “culture” shock was rather overwhelming. The hierarchy, rivalries, power-games, bullying, and macho-ism was utterly unfamiliar. I withdrew becoming the outcast, or no-mates character that always form in such groupings.

I began observing, and not liking very much, my own gender. They were posers, acting “tough” which actually meant being mean, and often violent. There was a clear structure where the boys did not pick on the “tougher” boys, but in order to be a part of the pack, they had to show they were “tough”, so they picked on those that they saw as weaker. People like me, and girls in general.

My father’s solution to this was to encourage me to fight back. To be “tough” like them. After all, my dad was “tough”. Yet, I had watched these displays of toughness, and I knew that people got hurt. Even the ones being tough. I couldn’t understand why anyone had to be hurt in order to be to be a man.

My mother got me into self-defence and I think the intention was to teach me some fighting moves. I don’t think they realised that the classes they had set up for me were less about attack, and more about defence. I often wonder if, had my father known what Ju-Jitsu actually was, if he might have insisted I do Karate instead. So I learnt things like evasion, deflection, pain control, and most importantly, not getting angry or aggressive. The best form of self-defence is to avoid conflict if you can. If you can’t, find a way to end it quickly without getting aggressive. Disarm, restrain, and avoid. For me, it was a match to my evolving philosophies.

I endured the teasing, the bullying, and unreasonable hatred for 12 to 13 years, and I came out stronger for it. I still recall meeting ex-students from my schooling years, ones who had been so very cruel, and many seemed to be more emotionally uncertain of their lives then I was.

Getting it right, the first time.

My father was an impatient man. Trying to help him with anything was usually a path to humiliation and distress. If I couldn’t grasp a concept, or didn’t seem to be quick enough on an activity, he would often become frustrated, take over, all the while claiming I was “bloody useless.”

Men, it seemed, must enjoy pulling apart cars, being mechanical, doing laborious tasks, putting themselves in high-risk situations… basically tangible things. He would take me on site with him when he was working his own installation business, send me into the grid-work of exposed roofing supports of large work-sheds, drilling holes through concrete walls, working in extreme conditions like within the roof of someone’s home in the height of an Australian summer. He wanted me to take over his business.

I began to believe that I was never going to be good enough. I could never seem to get any sense of satisfaction from this. I felt like I was a failure, and that something must be wrong with me. I just wasn’t interested in doing the things we wanted me to do.

On the other hand, my mother was artistic. A potter, and painter. Her work inspired me, and I often tried to find my own ways of creating similar art. I tried my hand at drawing, and while I was only so good at it, I loved doing it. I loved taking pictures, and while opportunities were rare for me as a child, when they were there, I relished it.

However these pursuits would never make me a man. I’d never be able to make a career out of them. They were great as a hobby, but I needed to find a real job.

Ending the pain

Age 12, end of Primary School. The move to High School loomed liked a shadowy demon. The thought of high school, with the same punishment, the same kids, frightened me almost to death. I tried to take my life. I was deadly serious about it. I have my father’s rifle. I knew what a hollow-tip round could do. I couldn’t reach the trigger. My arms were too short. I became scared that my parents would be home soon. I quickly hide any evidence. Resolved to try again later, but fear of my father ever finding out stayed my hand from further attempts, and I endured.

I had even failed in that.

Creativity is not manly

I discovered theatre in my final year of high-school, or should I say, rediscovered. After a disenchanting experience at Primary School, theatre was never a thing I considered until it was re-introduced to me in my final year of high-school. I loved it. I wanted to do more. I wanted to study it.

I was told that I would never make a career out of it. I needed to find a real job. A man’s job. Look son, computing is the way of the future. You should do something in computing. This theatre stuff was a great hobby, but you need a real job.

Still very much under the sway of my parents, too scared to go against my father, I did just that. This would be beginning of a change in my perspective. I met new people who could see me for what I couldn’t see in myself, or was told not to see. I was shown that I had other choices. I slowly began to break the walls that I believed should define me. I began to define myself.

Redefining a life

I did as electives, theatre, philosophy, and creative writing. I was employed as a student tutor, and found that I loved teaching. Slowly, the social creature that had laid dormant for so many years, the being I had been in that small town so far away, was slowly revealed, under the layers of encrusting, hardening, and toughening up. Under the layers of false man-hood.

I continue to chip away the bits today, such is the legacy of my youth. My father has long since lamented the choices he made for me all those years ago, and likes to remind me that he was wrong, and that he he had encouraged me in my theatre, I could be something different than I am. Late comfort, but comfort all the same.

Everyday I learn more about myself for me, not to any standard or expectation of what I should be. I have my own definition of what it means to be Jeff. I am a man in physiology, but a person in psychology.

So if you were to ask me now what defines a man, I will tell you that lies define a man, because you’re asking the wrong question.

You should be asking what defines you.

Design for Living

So I can add a few details of the play now. It is Noel Coward’s controversial production titled Design for Living. I play the part of Otto, an artist living the bohemian lifestyle, very much in love with live, and with everyone. When the actions of close friends leave him feeling betrayed, so begins the tangled stories of love lost, found, then lost, hunted, and rediscovered.

Banned in it’s day, it still challenges the modern day perception of stereotypical relationships. Love is free and should be shared, but coming to terms with that is the challenge for the three close friends Otto, Gilda, and Leo.

Season starts in April. Old Mill theatre.

Design-for-Living-A4-advert_v02.jpg

Taking on a new me?

Back in high school, I had begun to envision myself as a stand-up-comedian. I was watching the likes of Billy Connelly, Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams, and so many more, and just thought it looked like a lot of fun. Thing is, I was still very much in an awkward phase and the very thought of being evaluated on my humour scared the hair off my skin.

15-naveedEven after I started doing theatre, and gained some confidence in playing characters, the love/fear fantasy of stand-up continued to thwart itself, like the proverbial snake eating its own tail. I still have a few teeth marks around here somewhere. It is different to theatre where you play a character, vs being yourself trying to be funny. Who would get my humour? Am I really that funny? You know, the type of fear that secretes glue from your feet pinning you in place, then reduces the skin around your eyes and mouth leaving you looking like a startled owl saying “who?”

trivia-night-photoQuite by accident, I found a smooth pathway to finding my glue-less footing and feeling a little more like “I can do this.” For nearly two years now, I have been hosting Trivia nights for local pubs, and ended up doing a regular gig at a conveniently local tavern. I started off cautiously, but aware that I was basically a source of entertainment for the players. It was a little rough at first as I inadvertently put a few noses out of joint. Noses that were used to the smell of the previous trout, and weren’t too sure what to make of this new fish. I wasn’t too sure what to make of them either…

It took a little while to work into a groove so to speak, and develop a style that I was comfortable with. Curiously, it was a style that previously I wouldn’t have even considered; sassy, confident, and a little offensive. Having been well known for being well spoken, I found that the more cutting and slang I was, the more people seemed to enjoy it. So I obliged bit by bit over time.

On thing that did throw me off for a while was the hecklers. I really did not have a lot of experience with that. In theatre, you rarely if ever have a heckler, yet I always admired actors who could work with the Audience.

jon-english1John English immediately comes to mind. I went to see a Pirates of Penzance show with him in it, and unfortunately I was late. Having front and centre seats made for an interesting entrance. John stopped the production and from to front of stage, and watched me as I made my way from the back of the auditorium, across the front row, to my seat. Once I was seated, he asked me if they could continue, to which I replied with a quick. “Yes please. Thanks for waiting.” That got a laugh. John did one of his famous ‘double-takes’, gave me a hard look, evoking even more amusement, and I just smiled back up at him. After a second, I waved my hand saying “Carry on.”

He then made sure to cast a few one liners at me for the rest of the night, to which I enthusiastically riposted, much to the glee of those around me. I then had a great chat with the man after the show, and he told me about the numerous other experiences he has had with late comers. I remember him saying with was refreshing to have someone push back instead of getting all embarrassed.

It’s a memory that remains so very strong. I have had a few opportunities to emulate his example, but Trivia nights have been a real experience and experiment. So I started watching comedians again, but not laugh at their jokes, but to see how they handled hecklers. Jimmy Carr became a core role model, who actually makes heckles part of the show.

I admit, that I have pinched and re-written a couple of his to suit my needs, to great effect. It has changed my approach to Trivia nights, to performances, and even to engaging with people on a day-to-day basis. The spread of effect this has had is rather marvellous, and people have even been pointing that I should consider stand-up…

I think 2017 may be the year I brave the solo limelight and unleash the spirited young comedian inside this aging ham.

Me and My Accents

I have had a long love of character voices and accents. As a young boy, I discovered comedy radio shows such as The Goon Show where the actors would put on exaggerated voices to great comic effect. I tried to replicate these characters and in a way, they become the closest thing I had to invisible friends.

As I found my love for theatre and acting, the transition to picking up accents was relatively easy, and for the sake of Community Theatre, I wasn’t expected to be spot on. The fact that I could do most of the mainstream accents (English, American, Australian… particularly English) was rather useful in getting parts.

I would be able to listen to accents, and in most cases I would pick it up quickly. I think this was because of my years of Goon Show impersonations. There were always a few which challenged me. For example, when trying Irish, I would often drift into Scottish, and some of the regional English accent would all become generic Cockney.

Naturally, I had an accent which was somewhere between Common English and Australian, which explains why so many of my school friends thought I WAS English…

How is it done?

It was only a few years back that I realised that even though I could do a number of accents, I couldn’t really tell you the mechanics behind them. I was asked to help a very Australian lady develop an American Accent for a stage play. Everyone else was doing good American, so having one “okka” Aussie was rather striking.

I struggled at first trying to get this actress to use a similar accent to the rest of the cast. Her natural accent was just too strong, and my skill in explaining was to simple. I did manage to get her to put on a reasonable New Yorker accent, and we went with that.

But I was motivated to learn about how accents were done, by people who could instruct. As I wasn’t in a place to be able to afford classes, I instead researched books and videos online. I found a lot of common themes , but found much of it was minimally helpful, and felt as vague or rough as my own attempts at teaching had been. Most of it was tailored for the American actor doing international accents.

Some of the most useful texts came with audio CD’s that broke down the process to repeating various phrases, talking about diphthongs, consonants, vowels, when to drop certain letters, and so forth. I didn’t feel any of this helped.

Then I found Bruce G Shapiro’s Speaking American – The Australian’s Guide to and American Dialect.

This book does more than provide vague exercises and phrases to recite, it has a significant focus on mouth shape, muscular control… Now this may have something that other texts also covered, but I found this clarified a few things that others didn’t. It helped me become more aware of how my mouth, tongue, throat and nose all worked together.

With this increased awareness I was able to experiment a lot more than I had and work out the problems I had with other accents in the past. All this lead to me acknowledging a couple of key principles in doing accents.

Two Basic Elements

While there is no doubt a lot that separate one accent from another, and there are subtle variations even within one type of accent, most accents can be quickly reached by the manipulation of two aspects of your voice.

The Point of Resonance

When I say the Point of Resonance (PoR), I am referring to the position in your head that vibrates most when you speak. Most people I talk with are initially unaware of their own PoR, so I get them to put on a nasally voice, which we all can do. Regardless of what your voice is naturally, except maybe naturally nasally voiced people, once you do this, you should be able to feel the difference. In some people, this will tickle their sinuses, and maybe even make them sneeze.

The blue circle represents the American’s point of resonance and the red is the Britain’s point of resonance.

In order to achieve a nasally voice, you are changing the part of you that the sound of your voice resonates, or your Point of Resonance. This helps even with the general accents such as Received Pronunciation (standard English), General American, and General Australian.

These three accents actually make for an interesting progression with American often being higher and slightly more nasally than English, which in turn is higher than Australian which is moving to the back of the throat. The broader the Australian accent, the further back and down the PoR goes.

American has a lot in common (regards PoR) with Irish and Indian, which are both similarly edging towards nasally, whereas Australian, Scottish and Russian are lower and back in the mouth.

Of course, just a shift in the PoR does not make a complete accent.

Lips and Jaw

The way in which the mouth moves becomes the second key element in a basic accent. It’s a blend of the Lips and Jaw (LaJ). You can either move these features a lot when sounding your words, or you can move them very little. The direction you move will also have an impact on the sound of your words.

Mouth

This was a discovery for me which explained why Aussies often thought I was English rather than Australian, and yet when in England, they all knew I was Australian. While I had the shallow PoR similar to most Aussies, when speaking, I didn’t use my lips as much as others. A side effect of this was that my enunciation sounded more exact, yet the throatiness was enough for natural English speakers to pick me out as Australian.

Using again the three core accents, American accents typically use more vertical movements, larger jaw movements for the vowels with narrow lips. Australians will use less jaw and wider lip movements. Then English uses minimal lip or jaw movements, which echo’s the “stiff-upper-lip” image.

So when we look at American vs Irish, we see that Irish typically is somewhere between minimal movement to wide movements, which contrasts with the American vertical movement. This is similar when comparing Australian with Scottish, or Russian. Scottish is closer to the English minimal movements, and Russian may use even less movement than English.

That’s not all

Once I had worked through these two basic principles, I was able to work with all the other aspects of accents, such as emphasis, use of tongue for rolling sounds, soft and strong consonants. It was much easier to address the finer of details of accents with a solid base, and it is much easier to pick-up some of the more interesting accents.

More important, by subtly playing with the two key aspects of PoR and LaJ, I have been able to play with accents to create the shades of grey you find everyday. Such as an Irish accent with a subtle Australian influence, an English Scotsman, American Indian, and more.

I have tried applying these simple basic principles on others, seeing how they take it. So far, it has been a successful solution.

Accents are not simple, but with a strong base, they can be easier.

The call of Nature

Following on from my most recent blog of a few days ago, I am reminded of a project I did back in my university days. My final year thesis was an investigation into the feasibility of teaching a subject on Creative Reasoning within scientific studies, and one of the points I discussed which was the value of right and wrong.

It is interesting how both my theatrical interests influenced some of my research, and how some of my research has influenced my theatre. This came into rather interesting clarity when, recently, I was discussing the complexities of character development with some nice young people, after one of my Quiz Night gigs.

The concepts of right and wrong are uniquely human. Echoing my previous blog, they are not natural. In fact, the concepts of right and wrong can actually be inhibitive to creative reasoning, which tends to work better when encouraged to break the rules. Creativity general works better with a measure of worth, rather than fixed points of success and failure.

One of the biggest struggles I have had to face as an actor is how to convincingly portray a character who is so completely opposite me in belief, and moral direction. Pantomime villains is one things, but real villains… that is hard. I don’t like paying simple lip service to a character, and hoping that will get me by. I need to make the character believable, and that means relate-able. I have to be able to understand the motivations if I am to convincingly portray them.

I believe it is the exceptionally rare individual who is able to see themselves as evil, and relish in that knowledge. Most would rather admit that they have done some pretty bad stuff, but that they are able to justify their actions somehow. How valid that justification may be to others is questionable, but to the character, it is enough.

You see, what is “right” and “good” is subjective. It is an opinion. When enough people believe in the same concepts of Right and Good, then it becomes a standard, or moral. Yet that does not make it ultimate Right or Good, because in reality, neither exist. Deeds that one may see as utterly evil, another may see as a necessary step towards an ultimate “good” according to their perceptions.

In nature, we see many examples of processes or actions that, under a moral code, would be deemed evil, nasty, or bad, but if you change the moral code, they can look very different. Humans, with the higher order brain matter, and the need for language and labelling, are the ones who create the codes, and therefore define what is evil.

But where do these perceptions come from?

This links back to early blog posts where I talk about choices and perceptions. The choices one makes in life construct the path that influences their future. Our choices are the decisions and reactions we make when faced with the effects of the world around us, and those we interact with. Sometimes, these choices can be subtle. Then again, they can be monumental.

In a world where there is no right or wrong, just one’s perception of it, anyone could be anyone. Had I not made certain choices in my life, I would be a different person. Maybe subtly different. Perhaps completely different.

As an actor, this is huge. I really could be anyone, if I could only understand the choices I would need to have made, and the justification I told myself to live with them. What would the moral code be like?

However, following this line of thought alone doesn’t create a character with depth. It would suggest that all characters were “satisfied” with their lot in life, and we all know that this is simply not true. We can all point to people, and maybe even ourselves, who are not “satisfied” with their lot. So there is something else at work here.

Our unique power for self-deception. It is our ability to lie, to others and to ourselves, that make for the tortured and emotional characters the populate our lives. Perhaps our past choices were based on lies, or half-truths. Perhaps it is our justifications that simply don’t have the ring of truth to them, no matter how hard we try and convince ourselves. Maybe we frequently gave away our one true strength, and let others choose for us, let them tells us their truth, and now live a life that contradicts that burning yearning inside.

The one thing that differentiates us from most other animals on this planet, is our ability to ignore instinct, and see choices. It is what gives us our ability to see things things that don’t exist, imagine fantasy worlds, or inventions. We are able to create explanations for the world around us by observing the world and perceiving meaning.

It is also one of our biggest weaknesses, because unchecked, it can run away from us and have us imagine things that can frighten, annoy, hurt, and enrage. Deception and creativity are very closely bonded, because they are both two sides of the same talent.

And this is the source of right and wrong. It is opposites, or extremes, but it us who have labelled these extremes as either right or wrong.

Maths is the only real subject within which Right and Wrong can have absolute meaning, and even that is human invention.

Glengarry Ross – A Review

Black Swan 2015 Glengarry Glen Ross 23 May to 14 June Pete Rowsthorn, Damian Walshe-Howling & Will O'Mahony image by Robert Frith Acorn PhotoWARNING: This production contains a lot of profanity. Not my post, but the play.

On Monday the 25th, I had the opportunity to watch Black Swan Theatre’s latest production Glengarry Ross. An ensemble production with two key focus characters, Shelly (Peter Rowsthorn) and Ricky (Damian Walshe-Howling), with some notable performances by;

  • Luke Hewitt
  • Ben Mortley
  • Will O‘Mahony
  • Kenneth Ransom
  • Steve Turner

It is a very dialogue driven, and fast paced piece, as the characters deal with the stress of being door-to-door sales men under a new management policy. The stress of the job, and the new rewards policy, has put the pressure on the team as we witness Shelly trying to cut a deal with the despised John Williamson (Will O‘Mahony), Dave Moss (Kenneth Ransom) coercing co-worker George (Luke Hewitt) into stealing from the office, and Ricky Roma making a hard sale on the timid and submissive James Lingk (Steve Turner). The role of Baylen (Ben Mortley) is a small one, as the detective brought in to question all about the robbery.

Audience

I am going to put a few different hats, and try to be objective here. I’ll start with a general audience point of view.

There were times when the dialogue was a little rushed, making some of the conversation a little hard to follow, and being such a wordy piece, there is a lot of dialogue. In a way, I think it added a little to the frustration of the scenes, although I doubt that was the intention.

Apart from that, the pacing was engrossing, although somewhat short. I must admit, I am not familiar with Glengarry Ross, and was not prepared for the slightly longer than one-act length.

Actor

BSGR1

Shelly and Ricky

As I mention above, this is a very wordy play, which can be daunting to a performer of any calibre, particularly the monologue by Ricky in the first half. I am certain that I saw at least two of the actors struggle with their lines a few times, yet managed to keep the show moving at its high pacing. The parts of Moss, Shelly, and Ricky I found to be most entertaining with some of the more interesting interactions and commentary on the topic of the play.

I would have like to seen some use of drop-mics or similar to help with the volume of the piece, particularly in the opening half where the performances are of a secretive nature. Even some low-gain mics hidden within the furniture could have helped.

Notable mentions for performances are Damian Walshe-Howling (Ricky), Luke Hewitt (George), and Kenneth Ransom (Moss) who showed great diversity and depth of character. It is a pity the character of Baylen was not fleshed out a little more as Ben’s short appearances were rather commanding.

Director

The use of the stage was rather ingenious. Placed on a rotating stage, there were three “sets”. It was actually two sets with one being used twice. Initially, you are presented with two restaurant scenes which form the back of the main stage space. The set is rotated between the two slightly different restaurant for the first three scenes, before turning around completely to reveal the large, hidden office behind. This brought those first scenes up close to the audience, which added a certain level of “privacy” to the scene.

There were a few blocking issues on the main set, with a few of the actors finding themselves talking up-stage a lot, but generally the space gave a lot of options for the cast to move around. George’s desk was a little hidden behind a wall and other desks which meant he disappeared at one point.

Overall

As with any production, nothing ever goes smoothly, as I well know personally. That said, this show is still very entertaining and worth a look. It was good to see Peter Rowsthorn on stage (Comedy Company, Kath & Kim, Paper Planes).

http://www.bsstc.com.au/season-2015/glengarry-glen-ross/

 

The Hard Road Part 2 – Big Plans

After switching my degree from a pure Computing Science degree, to allow me more freedom with selecting electives, I did a year of Theatre Arts. That year, something shook loose inside. I discovered a different side to myself, a side I rather liked. It was playful, confident, unashamed, and funny. The inner clown was released.

After uni however, it was “face reality” scenario. A strict dogma of accepting the fact that you need to get a job, and earn money. Voices not my own telling about what the real world was about. So here I was, with a BSc in Computing Science, struggling to find a job. All the big talk about how a degree helps you get a job was a flat-out lie. All the jobs I wanted to do said I was over qualified. Depressing.

I eventually found work through a retail trainee-ship scheme through the Perth TAFE. A retail trainee-ship where I was expected to attend a Retail Skills workshop, and work part-time with a retail employer. They, the employer, would get $1000 as a part of the program, and it would last a year. While a little demoralising, I actually enjoyed the work somewhat. I soon learned that with the exception of the managers and one senior staff member, we were all retail trainee-ship employees. I smelt a rat, and sure enough, at the end of the year, I was again looking for a job.

I eventually found employment with a PC Building company as a sales rep.I used my computing knowledge to redesign their sales and quotation process, shaving a process which could take up to two hours down to seconds. We were able to incorporate the quotation process into the sales discussions with clients making it almost seamless. Then the company went into liquidation, apparently deliberately.

This time, I made a big decision. I was going to the UK. During this time (about 2 years), I became more and more involved with the Community Theatre scene. Bouncing around between various groups, doing up to five shows a year. It was wonderful, and my passion seemed to know no bounds. I Auditioned for WAAPA. Three times for Dramatic Arts, and twice for Musical, but was knocked back each time.

I eventually had the gumption to ask why, and was told, and I quote, “I was too trained.” In WAAPA, as with most (not all) dramatic arts schools, they want students that have somewhere to go with their training. They don’t want the untalented, nor the overly experienced. They wanted untrained talent with lots of potential. Apparently, I was not one of these.

I considered NIDA, but a bigger idea formed in my mind; RADA in the UK. I had family in the UK. I didn’t have a family (that I was overly familiar with) in Victoria (Australia) which made NIDA less appealing.

So with the end of my second job out of uni, I packed my bags and heading to London. Ambitious, hopeful, and a little starry-eyed. And perhaps a whole lot naive. For a while it was great. I took sometime to visit family spread out across Cornwall, and they were all so accommodating. I did a little travelling , and started a little job hunting. I submitted an application to RADA, and visited some local theatre groups in and around Penzance. I was actually happy, and enjoying life. Then things took a decidedly odd turn.

Find the entire Hard Road series here.

A Darker Path: Part 8 – Life Changes

This is becoming a saga….

Something New, Something Old

This was part of the building I was in when I graduated in 1995. It didn’t look like this in 1990.

I had mentioned previously that the choice as to what I was going to do after high school was one that was rather made for me. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, and still was having some difficulty defining who I was as a person. With some logical support from my parents, and a small amount of interest in the subject, I applied for Computing Science at Curtin, and surprised myself by getting in.

It was an interesting prospect going to university. The one thing that was most important to me, was that I didn’t know anyone who was also going. That was both scary, and absolutely thrilling. If I didn’t know anyone going, then no one would know me. It was like a fresh start, and this spot of hope was rather suddenly dashed with a phone call.

From out of the blue, someone with whom I had had very little to do with from school, somehow got my number. They rather eagerly asked me if I was doing Computing Science at Curtin, to which I replied honestly, yet cautiously, that I was.

“GREAT! Then we can enrol together!” And that was pretty much it. Suddenly a part of my past was following me to what was meant to be a new beginning. I was somewhat disheartened, but I was “too nice” to say otherwise, and surely enough, on enrolment day, we enrolled together.

Now, I want to point out that my animosity to this arrangement was not toward the person per se. It was what they represented, and I know that is an unfair judgement to pass on someone you hardly know, but I did. I began to dread history repeating itself. As I look back, I suspect that they were scared in their own right, and were looking for whatever comfort they could, and I was just a convenient place to find it.

So I met up with… let’s call them X, grabbed and filled in forms, then proceeded to the lines. When we were finally asked to see one of the staff on hand to help with enrolment, we did so together, which I had noticed no-one else doing.

The man we sat in front of, with his strong, yet soft, drawling American accent, was also rather surprised by this arrangement.

“Ah, are your enrolling together?” he said with an exhale of breath.

As I went to speak, and X said “Yeah, we share the same brain.”

Both the man and myself glanced at X with curious expressions. I turned back to him and said, “Um, we went to the same school.”

“I see.” The smile on his face was rather telling, and I thought, “Oh my god. What a first impression this is going to make.”

We proceeded somewhat more orderly from then on, left, and I went to find some air. I don’t remember much of the rest of the day, other than hoping that this American was not going to be someone I would have to interact with on a regular basis.

Turns out, he was the course controller.

Nose on Stage

Turns out, going to University also helped my hay fever a little. I was no longer surrounded by the grasses and weeds that I was strongly allergic to. Instead, it was manicured gardens, and well-trimmed lawns. That wasn’t to say that it was gone. It had become more manageable, and seasonal. During the Spring months, it hit hard, and most drugs or treatments simply had no effect, but at least it wasn’t all round. I tended to stay indoors a lot because the air-conditioning helped immensely, and once I could drive, I always had the air-con on full.

I think it was in my first or second year where I discovered a particular drug that worked wonders for me, but there is a story behind that.

The youth group I had been a part of during my final years of high school had led to a youth based theatrical group, of which I became a part of. Operating in association with a local community theatre group, it was basically an eclectic group of young people doing some pretty crazy stuff together, and learning some basic theatrical skills. It was a youth group, and so I was the eldest, or one of at least, but acted more “youthful” than most of them. I loved it. I couldn’t get enough. At some point, we started putting together little survival scenarios, and we talked about putting together a small production. I wrote a short story that loosely tied up some of the individual work that was, done, this was taken by others and turned into a script.

The thing to note here, is that I did some research, and found some interesting things. I was looking up things that could act like nerve toxins… don’t ask. It’s a story for another time, and came across Belladonna. Some of its properties were of particular interest to me. Not the poisonous part, but the medicinal aspects. Pain relief, anti-inflammatory, and histaminic properties in particular. I had noticed this strange ingredient on a bottle of cold-and-flu tables I had taken previously, and I recalled it as I researched our short play.

For both better and worse, I began to depend on this unique drug, as it was the only thing that was able to control my hay fever effectively, and continuously. Pretty much anything else I ever tried lasted a few weeks, or six months at most. I kept getting asked the same thing by pharmacists, “You do know this makes you drowsy?” Thing is, it didn’t. So for the first time in almost a lifetime, I felt incredibly clear-headed.

Good from Bad

By the end of my first year, my last connection from school, X, was gone. They didn’t pass and left. They odd antics at the beginning of the year ended up working in my favour, as the course controller, one Steve Kessell, became a great friend and mentor to me. A relationship that would span many years.

I had rediscovered theatre, and in my second year, we presented our little Youth Theatre production, which actually went really well. Next thing I know, I am being asked to take on roles with the Stirling Players Theatre group. I started doing theatre on a regular basis.

In my second year, something interesting happened. I was asked to become a teacher.

Now, the Finale…