Jan 5 th 2003
So my trip to England was a real joy. I was staying with an actress friend in Streatham, which is in South London . It had the benefit of being just being 10 minutes away from my children. I was determined not to worry about money too much on this trip, and I so I splashed out on hiring a car for the duration, which actually wasn't that expensive considering at Xmas they can treble their prices. I was wondering how I was going to feel as I hadn't been in the country for any length of time for nearly two years, but I found it very settling… Hmmm… is that the word I mean…. My roots are there and the feeling of history and the cynicism around the edges, which at other times I have found depressing, on this trip seemed to have a quaint charm.
My mother lives in a cottage literally overlooking the sea and fishing fleet at a town called Hastings on the South Coast . The old town is set between two cliffs called West Hill and East Hill, and the houses date back to the 15th century in some areas. It is a higgledy-piggaldy mixture of old fishermen cottages making their way up the cliffs… red worn roofs, old beams, cozy pubs seagulls and the sea, with an eclectic mixture of people - artists, actors, teachers, Morris dancers,(ancient English pagan folk dancers) bikers, white witches… very English really. It is the nearest I have to a home town. One day I hope to have a cottage to my self. Anyway my mother was on superb form, as was my 81 year old step-father who is famous in the area for his wonderful landscape photographs of the sea and the fishing fleet.
My father on the other hand had deteriorated from a number of strokes. His brain is still sharp, but he cannot walk very far now and takes quite a time to form sentences.
Jan 6 th 2003
Back to Brooklyn, and surprised that at this moment I consider it home.
I went to see Twelfth Night last night. The space was beautiful, but a little too big for a production that had obviously been designed for the Donmar, which is also of course on three sides. I had a good time mind you. Simon Russell-Beale was a moving Malvolio. And Paul Jesson and David Bradley were superb as Sir Toby and Sir Andrew. Emily Watson I am in love with, so she could do no wrong. Selina Cadell a good Maria. But Helen McCrory was absolutely brilliant as Olivia. I had only heard about her before. I'm now a big fan. The audience was a terrible NY audience slumming it in Brooklyn who looked as if they thought they should be there. They were very noisy and annoying, but I still found myself moved by the language and performances, and wanted to go back to England on the next plane to work with good British actors.
Feeling very homesick just at the moment, which is natural after my longest stay over. I really had a good time with Charley and Sam, and wanted a lot longer with Mum and George… and feel awful I never got to see everyone that I wanted to seey… but I will stick it out here till the summer and then take stock.
Well I've been on tenterhooks all day… quite a day really. Sam auditioning for Rada and Peter meeting American Equity. I could have started smoking again, I've been that jumpy. The nerves were on the edge. I also heard about the plane crash in South Carolina in the place where we have performed, and then priorities shift and things are come into a fresh perspective.
However I spoke to Sam last night. I stayed up till two so I could catch her before she set off for her Rada audition which was at 9.30 in the morning.
She was up and ironing her clothes. Given her track record, I was steeling myself for her not turning up at all for the audition. However she seemed to be wide awake and calmly stated that she felt no nerves.
I go to sleep and wake up early. The next few hours till 3pm are spent packing and cleaning my room in preparation for my subletter A little therapy against worrying and fretting too much. It seems a strange day. I feel very emotional. It seems a very short time ago that I was auditioning for Rada myself. I remember it so clearly. A time to take stock and to look at what has gone on in between I suppose. I'm not where I thought I would be, nor have I achieved all that I wanted… not yet. However it's not been dull. I worry that they'll hold her lack of education against her… I wish she had worked harder on Miranda. I wish there had been more time.
At three I phoned her, feeling very nervous, and trying hard not to sound to much like my Mother, whose voice weakens and loses all vitality when she prepares herself to what she expects to be bad news!
"How did it go?"
"It was okay, Dad. They were very nice."
"Tell me everything… right now, please."
"Well, I got there at 8.30. The lady on reception was cockney and so I felt a lot better. We were first of all given a briefing and then split into three groups. I was second to go in. There was a man and a woman there and they were really nice. They just smiled at me. So I wasn't the first or the last. I did my Miranda first and forgot a line and the lines got a bit jumbled, but the modern was okay. Then they asked me to do Ophelia because it was the only alternative speech I had. They had asked me not to do Ophelia before… anyway… That was okay too, but I hadn't performed it for quite a while. Then the man asked me about Lewisham College . They said they big fans of the college. They asked me who taught me. They asked what play I had done. I said Gut Girls. They said they loved Gut Girls. They asked what part I played and I said Pricilla. They said they loved Pricilla. Then the man asked me who my father was. I said: "Richard Willis". He looked at me and smiled and said: "I can see it now. I taught your father." Sorry Dad, I didn't get his name. He then gave me pointers on the Miranda speech and told me to tell you that he had because you had worked on it with me. He thought that Miranda was perfect for me and told me to keep working on it. The woman just smiled at me. I wasn't nervous really until I did the speeches… I mean they were okay, but when they were interviewing me, I just sort of clammed up, I was nervous then. I could only smile at them. But they were really really nice. I should know within a week whether I got through to the next round, which doesn't happen until May."
"I'm really proud of you, Sam."
"Well I messed the Miranda speech up a bit, but then I hadn't really the chance to work on it, but the others were okay."
"Well, whatever happens, you should be proud of what you did today. I know how nerve-racking that experience can be."
She has Lamda on Saturday night at 7.30pm .
So I feel a lot better… I wish she had done more work on the speeches… but anyway, we'll see what happens. I suppose I'll be on tenterhooks for a while yet.
Well… off I go again… The money is tight, but I should be able to save a little and hopefully that might help for the summer… may be I will have a trip back, especially if I'm asked on the next Aquila tour. Long way ahead. My heart isn't quite in it this time, but I will feel better when I'm on stage. I have a hurt inside me - from childhood - and I find it hard to understand how things in the present turned out the way they have. Sometimes I just don't understand it. I get a little down. And then I hear things like one of my friends having a miscarriage and losing the baby that she so wanted, and I stop feeling sorry for myself. Life isn't meant to be fair… and there it is.