Summer 2004: The Aquila Summer Season was Othello, Comedy of Errors and The Man Who Would Be King at the Baruch Arts Center in New York. I move to Greenpoint and out on my own for the first time in the Big Apple.
It is Memorial Day today. It is also my day off. A rainy Monday in Brooklyn . The sort of day you would expect on an English Bank Holiday, but unusual this side of the Atlantic .
But then the weather has been unusual in the last two years.
At this moment tornadoes are ripping through the Midwest , and here in New York , although the temperature is pleasant at 69 degrees, it is below what we would normally expect.
To be quite honest though, this is the first time I have noticed the weather for a while. Most of the time I have been encased inside the Baruch Arts Centre which is three levels below the streets of Manhattan . The schedule has been hectic.
We are previewing Othello and rehearsing The Man Who Would Be King and also remounting Comedy of Errors - whose opening night is tomorrow. We have had two days rehearsal to remount a production we last performed in November. The show is nonstop dance and physical comedy.
My body is complaining furiously that this is not the sort of attention it needs after 37(!) years. Luckily I have kept fit over the last few months. A vigorous attempt to keep the body as supple and willing to be able to perform these roles.
The theatre is in the basement of a university which also boasts a fine swimming-pool and I have taken full advantage of this. Swimming in New York is a luxury, and after these many years as an actor I have learnt to take the luxuries when they come along... for famine could be just around the corner. There something metaphysical about swimming and the water and the synchronicity of one's breathing that puts the world into a calm perspective.
I enjoy swimming.
I always have done.
Sitting outside my local coffee shop near the theatre I heard a familiar voice. David Suchet, the English actor of Poirot fame, was walking down the street. It occurred to me that New York is a city where one wouldn't be surprised to see anyone on the sidewalk. A little later... Allegra, our company manager from the last tour and now a director, asked me to participate in a reading of Life is a Dream. She has done one before. I saw it and it was excellent. It is taking place in September. The Fall is an unknown area at the moment. I have said I am not touring with Aquila this time, so it will be interesting to see if anything materializes here... or may be something will turn up in the UK .
I leave Park Slope, Brooklyn on Wednesday. I am subletting an apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn for the summer. It's a more gritty area than Park Slope... and is very Polish. More about that anon. I wanted to have a place of my own for a while and it is also an act of faith that I will find work here. Leaving Park Slope will be emotional.
A lot of memories .
I went through a dark difficult time here on my arrival, and sitting out on the balcony at 4am and listening to the Brooklyn night sounds and gazing up at a Brooklyn sky was all part of the process...
The mind has cliffs, fall frightful, hold them cheap may, who ne'er hung there.
My room is now packed up and empty.
I am taking no furniture with me. I have clothes, an A/C, computer, printer, speakers, some books and paperwork, but nothing else.
But it is definitely the end of a chapter here for me. There are changes all round. David our other room-mate has left to be with his girlfriend, and Louis is looking to leave on June 22nd. Life goes round.
Othello promenade experience is providing some great moments. Some favorites were the slightly retarded gentleman built like a barn who sat next to me in the senate scene, and, as I was speaking, proceeded to start eating his sandwiches from a brown paper bag. Another was the blind person who tapped her away around. Yesterday we had our first wheelchair person. He had a whale of a time and joined in where he could. He had to miss the 'rave' sequence unfortunately.
We open on June 10th. I'm not sure New York is really in the mood for tragedies at the moment. Comedy of Errors is actually selling better. Man Who Would Be King will certainly be topical if nothing else as the whole thing is set in Afghanistan . At the time we are waiting to see how our artistic director and our associate director want to stage it. There really isn't a lot of time, but then we are putting on Comedy in two days, so a month of three day rehearsals will probably seem like a luxury.
Robert came into the dressing-room the other day and announced that they were thinking of doing Dr Jekyll and My Hyde in conjunction with Hamlet next tour. Apparently there was an actor in London who played it, who was brought in for questioning because they thought he might be Jack the Ripper, and that's the angle that Peter is interested in .. at this moment.
I would do Hamlet on the tour if they wanted me to play him.
My last chance I believe.
Lloyd Notice(Othello), Robert Richmond(Director) and Tom Tate(Cassio)
42nd Street Rehersal Studios
Louis gave me two books to read. Both on men with huge addiction problems on the road to recovery. Great books. Louis himself continues to hellraise every night he can in the grand tradition of O'Toole and Burton and Harris.
I shall miss living with him.
The cigarettesemptycansempty bottlessmokemorningcoughmoodswingssuddencompulsionto cleanthekitchenat2o'clockinthemorningparanoiaoddvisitoratnightself-disgustinthemorningveryvery funny acerbichumorkeenintelligencebrilliantartisticgifthehasasacomedicphysicalactor.
His kindness when I first arrived.
We have nine shows next week. Two on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Tuesday -Comedy rehearse all day and perform in the evening. Rehearse Man/King on Friday. Othello on Sunday at 3... and then collapse.
Tomorrow night we have a lot of friends coming to Comedy. My NY agent is bringing seven people.
And then there's the enigmatic film people... who we are staging it for... and what that is all about is a mystery.
Not to be taken too seriously.
Wednesday I move.
A day off and I float vague ideas, sending them in the air like clouds, apart. I blow away the ones that become too close. The important thing is to keep them apart, for a contact could create a continuum, or something worse. Any electricity in the mental atmosphere might set off a storm with the inevitable thunder and lightening.
I realize, and the thought descended upon me like a rock falling upon my head, that I haven't lived on my own for nearly six years. It was a similar situation too all those years ago. A need for my own space, my own place of home. I envisioned it and knew that I if I looked at things in a cold clear light that I was taking on something that was more than I could afford. But at times like these one has to have the faith that life will support the brave decisions. It did so then. It was a perfect place for me at that time and I came out of there more in tune with myself and a belief that fortune favors the brave. So time to be brave again. Actually not a decision reached in a clinical calculating way, but one based on a need and pressing emotional need, a voice in my ear crying out that now was the time... to be on my own.
One can only guess as to whether it was it's high, pure white, sandy bluffed, shoreline offering a lofty position overlooking the river upstream from New Amsterdam, or it's peninsular like shape, creased with many creeks and tributaries that first attracted him to this finger of land along the East River. Certainly, Captain Pieter Janse Wit, of the Dutch West Indian Company saw great value in this tract of land. Otherwise, why would he so ardently negotiate it's purchase from the Keshaechqueren Indians in 1638, and then proudly write to the Dutch Governor, Pieter Stuyvestent, in 1660, “Fourteen Frenchmen with a Dutchman, Pieter Janse Wit their interpreter, have arrived here” in his petition to have this, and a larger parcel of land South and East declared the Township of Boswijck. Later, this territory would be known as Bushwick Township after the British took control from the Dutch.
Perhaps Captain Wit saw the tract for its possible military value. The River on the West, Maspeth Kill ( later known as Newtown Creek) on the North and East, and Norman's Creek (later known as Bushwick Creek) to the South surrounding it on three sides, and it's great salt marsh, that on high tide became a small bay, did give it a highly defensible position. This finger of land was dubbed by ship navigators of the time as, Green Point. This was due to the high bluff and green lushness of the point of land that grew out of the bank and jutted a considerable distance into the river at approximately the foot of present day Freeman Street . From here an attacking force coming downstream could be readily observed and challenged before it reached New Amsterdam proper. And, in the case of an attack on this position itself, there weren't very many places an enemy could easily, and surreptitiously, storm it by either water or land.
Or, could it be, Captain Wit had seen something else! Could it be he saw a place whose Jack Pine forest and meadows, and fresh water creeks would provide a good life for his small band of explorer/settlers. Since a military complex was never built there, although later it would play a military role, and since Captain Wit latter settled there himself, One must then conclude the latter. Captain Wit would come to play a important role in providing leadership and direction to the emerging community of settlers.
Thus, began the recorded history of Greenpoint. The spin of the potter's wheel, the ship builders' five o'clock whistle, two young women chatting in Polish on a well-swept stoop. Green point has always maintained a blend of industrial and residential. After 1840 the area became a centre for ship-building. The famous ironclad Civil War ship Monitor was launched from here in 1862. Although its ship building days are over, the area has been invigorated again and again by immigrants. However the grime and smut of industry have long since obliterated the original countryside. Factories, warehouses, lumberyards, coalyards, and gas storage tanks line the Greenpoint shores of the East River and Newtown Creek, and occupy large parts of the neighborhood. Many of the workers in the plants live near by. The unemployed living here constitute one of the largest relief groups in the city.
Greenpoint is the birthplace of Mae West, the actress. The district's residents are credited with originating the widely publicized "Brooklynese" diction, wherein "err" stands for oil and "poll" for pearl. "Greenpernt" ranks with Canarsie and the Bronx as a butt for New Yorkers' jokes. Street names such as Java and India recall the once flourishing trade in coffee and spices with remote lands. The largest contemporary factories are those of the American Manufacturing Company (rope), and the Eberhard-Faber Company (pencils ) .
Newcomers from Puerto Rico , Guyana , the Dominican Republic , Columbia , Ecuador , Asia , and pakistan have all settled in Greenpoint alongside their Polish neighbours. As many as 200,000 Polish Americans live in Greenpoint. It is the largest Polish American community in New York , New Jersey and Conneticut combined. Walking down the main thoroughfare, Manhattan Avenue , one is surrounded by the sounds and sights of Poland , Polish signs, Polish language and the Polish people who look - despite being American - Polish!
And now Greenpoint has a new arrival. A new immigrant has arrived on its doorstep. An Englishman.
I t was with some trepidation that I stepped out into the apartment hunting scene. For those not in the States, you probably have not heard of the tremendous site called Craig's List. It's a site that has most things you could want here. It has job opportunities, stuff for sale, but it's best known as the place to go if you are trying to find somewhere to live in Manhattan and its surrounding areas. It's the place I always have gone to when subletting my old room in Park Slope when going on tour. Craig's List is fine for room-subletting, but for an apartment, whether the tenant or the landlord, it is probably better to have more knowledge of the person coming into your home or the person whose home you will be looking after. A group email around my friends in Manhattan and very soon I had a few leads to follow up. One especially caught my eye.
So I caught the train over to Greenpoint and entered the old building, up the stairs with dirty floor, no carpet, old brown doors and honey colored walls with a sign that said keep your hands off the walls, to the 2nd floor where the door was opened by a very cool 30-something man. Incense was burning and coffee was on and some strange new age chanting music was gently playing. The man had bright eyes and bare feet. A Buddhist. He was giving up his job in Manhattan for the summer to go off to a retreat in Colorado to teach. The apartment was a good size, yet cosy. A big bedroom at the front of the house. The living room, kitchen and bathroom have an interesting shape as they are on the side of the building. On one wall he had drawn with colored chalk on a black wall a Buddhist figure trampling on a smaller figure. I later learned that this was a symbol for enlightenment. The squashed figure represents ego, a healthy image to have around for an actor! Through the windows, the sun filters through a gobo of green leaves that fall languidly across the view, being part of the ivy that clings to the side of this 19th century building. I fell in love with it straight away, and although I noticed there was a large school opposite that was being renovated, the advantages of living in my own place, coupled with utilities included in the rent with high speed internet access was enough for me to write three cheques to cover my time over the summer months. A few weeks later, helped by Andrew, I was moved. It took all of one day for me to feel at home. I have noticed that I can make anywhere feel like home in a very short space of time. A life of constant travel and upheaval and my soul and body have learnt to adapt with remarkable ease.
O ur schedule is hectic. Othello in the evenings. The exhausting physical exertions of Comedy of Errors on Tuesday nights and rehearsing the marathon that is now The Man Who Would Be King during any other time. It's been totally remounted as now the cast is being cut from 8 to 3 people.
The apartment is lovely. Light and spacy. Lovely hardwood floors throughout and ALL MINE!! HOORAY! I spent my first night trying to get the high-speed internet to work... to no avail... so far. Our Desdemona however is a computer whizz and a new neighbor, so at some point I will prise her away from Cassio and get her help.
I was at work in 35 minutes, door to door... and that's with a 13 min walk to the subway. If If I get a bike it can be quicker. Only one subway line in though and if that goes haywire, then you're screwed.
The bed is really comfortable. I will miss the balcony, but there is a nice park at the top of the road. No time to explore or enjoy. We have two shows today. I think the NY Times is coming tonight. Rehersals tomorrow. Talking of which...I have an audition for Night and Day... in Philadelphia ! So may be W.C Fields has a point!
I am aching throughout my whole body. It reminded me of the days after the Sundays shows I would do with Kate (o'M) It's a combination of hard work, concentration, tension and absolute fear!
A busy day. Overcast.. heavy... thundery. The first audition was at the Equity building on 46th Street ... for Sleeper - a new comedy. Arkansas Rep in Little Rock .
I was nervous. An American play. An American accent. I had got Lisa's husband, Todd, to record the sides...(for the UK , sides are the scenes that we are asked to read, usually given in advance). Still the place was packed with actors and actresses. The room smelt of desperation and egos struggling to keep still. An American accent in New York ?... what was I thinking of?
I read with a young lady. She was assured and natural. We were called in to the audition room. The part said the man was angry. So I gave them anger. I do anger well.
That's a lot of anger first thing in the morning.
Just thought I would give you everything.
I would like you to come back and read another scene.
So I must have done something right. I explained that I had no time to come back because I had other auditions. They said they might call me back in a day or so.
I don't know if they will, but I was pleased that I had got over the first hurdle and that my American accent couldn't have been too bad.
So on to My Fair Lady.
Suddenly I'm in musical twirly land... except this is the heaven of twirly land... New York ! What was I thinking of?
I went in and sang first.
I've grown accustomed to her face.
The director then got up.
Would you consider other parts? This is a ten man version where people double up.
I didn't know if that meant that Higgins was unavailable, but thought sure why not?
I can consider anything.
So I went away and was paired up with another guy and a little while we came back and read a scene. I started off as Higgins and then went on to read Doolittle.
I read well. I grew up with this play.
The director then asked me to choose a more tuneful song from the score to sing. Of course Higgins's songs are all half spoken, so I sang On the Street Where you live. I had studied it with my singing teacher in Canada when I was there with Master Builder. Funny that all these years later it finally came in useful. You see... you never know. I sang okay... not great on the top notes... but the director said it was fine, he just wanted to hear my musicality. I felt I did well. Considering. But still... what was I thinking?
On to to meet the director of Night and Day on 9th Ave and 45th.
Jerry Beaver is the casting director. The first casting director I met in this country. I am hoping that he finally believes that I am here for a while now.
I went in and met the director again.
He was quiet - again.
I told them that I had seen the original production with Diana Rigg. The director suddenly spoke which startled me, as I couldn't remember him saying anything the last time I was here.
Maggie Smith did it on Broadway.
I bet she was great. I would have liked to have seen that.
End of conversation? Apparently.
I read the sides. An Australian accent. A little limiting in vocal range for some reason. But again... I read competently I felt. I don't know how I did... I never really do. But Jerry gave me a little pat on the back as I left and said nice job.
I went to see a film.
I always treat myself on Mondays.
I am spending too much money. I just seems to be pouring out. It's okay whilst I'm working. But... I will have not much too live on after Aquila finishes.... hopefully something will turn up Mrs. Macawber.
The Chronicles of Riddock is a mindless sci-fi film. Vin Diesel is the star. He is actually rather good and very intelligent. Judi Dench and Linus Roach turned up looking as though they were having a ball.
I came out feeling I eaten too much crappy chocolate and went to the college to purify my body and mind with a long swim. I finished when I got cramp in my feet.
The evening was spent back home in the apartment.
With my new fast internet connection, I tuned into the BBc and listened to Late Junction on BBC 3 and its eclectic mixture of music.
Cooked myself a meal of cordon Bleu chicken and rice with avocado...
I settled down with the Man script and finally got an idea of how I could combine the narration with the scene action. I started to get lots of ideas. I picked up the mouth organ and leant a song on it that we sing in the show at the end. I decided that it was a great idea to play the song in an earlier scene. It would make their last stand with the song that more poignant.
I tuned into the BBC 3 light programme and the music.... was all My Fair Lady. I took it as a good sign.
It's late now... and I had an idea... but it's gone...
Now... what was I thinking of?
Y es, just like James Dean in Giant.. that's me! I stride all around my apartment. I go the launderette just around the corner. I popped into today and it was filled with big frightening Polish women. I'm thinking of buying a bike. Yes, a bike would be vulnerable in NYC, I mainly want it for local trips though.
Comedy was a huge success. My US agent, Honey Raider, loved it. And the woman from HBO. She is bringing more next week. They are the same producers who did Angels in America .
If I get Philly, then I would pack up and put my stuff into storage. I have left the A/C for Lisa and Todd who are in my room for the rest of the month. I will pick it up at the end of the month and put it in the living-room.
I'm still aching from Comedy, But sat in my apartment this morning and life isn't so bad. NY Times came last night to Othello. I imagine the review will be out next week, although Peter usually gets an idea of how it's going to be beforehand. We are going to Angus for the first night party on Wednesday. It's the place to be if you're on Broadway. Then we'll do that thing of partying till the reviews come out.
May 16th and the New American Rada Alumni celebration in New York . The ARN or the American RADA network is still in its infancy, but as we came into the reception area of the theatre where we were to see a 70 minute silent movie starring Irene Vanbrugh made in 1917 as a fundraiser for RADA the place was filling up quite rapidly. There was no-one near my time there 81- 84, but I struck up a conversation with Nicky Henson who is in town appearing in Jumpers with Simon Russell Beale. He was hobbling around on crutches and had spent the last year recovering from a serious illness. I remembered from my child acting days when I would spy him arrive in the BBC canteen in his motorbike light brown leathers. I see on the RADA site there are anecdotes about certain graduates time there. Kenneth Brannagh recalls his meeting with Hugh Crutwell, the legendary principal of Rada from 1966 - 1984, in reverent tones.
This is mine.
I was had auditioned twice. I was 23, quite old for a newcomer to Rada. There was no audition this time. Instead I was called into Rada to meet Mr Crutwell. After waiting in the reception area, which at that time(I don't know if it still has) had the famous names of past winners of various drama prizes on large wooden plaques on the walls, I was called into Hugh's office on the ground floor. Hugh looked at me quizzically as he studied a piece of paper which I could only assume was my file.
"Yes, Richard, so I see you have done a lot of work already... a child actor... for how long?"
'Since I was six."
"I see, and very successful it would seem."
"I suppose so,"
I hesitated as I had no idea how to address him. 'Sir' seemed to formal. 'Mr Crutwell' too sycophantic, and 'Hugh' would be downright rude.
"Yes...yes... well why do you feel the need to come here?"
"I want to learn. I have been doing mainly television and films for the last seven years and I want to get back to theatre."
"And what is it you think Rada would give you? Do you think you will walk out of here into the RSC?"
"I am hoping it would teach me technique... sir." The 'sir' came out defensively. Hugh's presence was intimidating and his mind and 'eagle' eyes were weighing me up. I felt like every atom of my being was under his scrutiny.
"Yes...yes...yes, well I see you have no A-levels, no O-levels, in fact absolutely no qualifications whatsoever."
I was silent. The fact was I hadn't taken any of the usual exams as I had decided at 15 that I was going to be an actor and that I had decided at that tender age that an actor didn't need exams to make himself a good actor and besides my education had been shot to pieces through constant moving and acting jobs. It was only when working with Daniel Day Lewis on his first job out of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School at the Bristol Old Vic Studio that I felt I needed, and indeed wanted, to go back to school. Rada was where my mother had gone and it was the only drama school I was interested in, or auditioned for.
"You know," said Hugh, peering intently over his glasses, 'there are a lot of people here coming from universities with top degrees. We have students coming from Oxford and Bristol Universities for example. Won't you feel a little intimidated by them?"
"Well I think they might feel a little intimidated by me as I have been actually out there working for the last 10 years as a professional actor."
Hugh was silent for what seemed like an eternity and then finally said...
"Yes, I see. Well we shall let you know very soon."
I was convinced I had blown my chance. I hadn't of course. However when I started the three course I was completely intimidated by all the university graduates. I didn't know actors could talk about acting like that and go on talking for such long periods of time in very long sentences. Ten years later I came to my senses and realized that I was an actor in my blood and bones and worked off my instinct.
I can only think that ... well... indeed I know that Hugh Crutwell knew that... in fact knew that before I walked into his office that day.
I n yesterday's Guardian, this article appeared. It's nice to know one isn't alone. I think.
I'm in green-card hell
Fortress USA is tangled up in red tape
Friday June 4, 2004
Next week my father will be 90. Born in that final Edwardian summer of 1914, he fought throughout the second world war, escaped from prison camp and was wounded on the beaches of Normandy .
Five of his six children will gather in Scotland with numerous grandchildren to celebrate his birthday. I will not be able to attend because the US department of homeland security has removed my freedom to travel. Or to be absolutely accurate, I am free to go. But if I do, I will not be allowed to return to my wife and children here in Washington . That's one of those choices that is not a choice at all.
Like 700,000 others, I am stuck in green-card hell. Since September 11 2001 , the average waiting time for a green card has ballooned from 18 months to nearly three years, making the lives of applicants a misery.
In the war of ideas that the Bush administration is so fond of talking about, there are few better foot soldiers than green-card holders. They can travel back to their home countries, where they can talk about the freedom and opportunities they have in America . They spread the gospel of the American dream.
Yet since September 11 the department of homeland security has treated applicants with greater and greater suspicion. While you wait the three years for the bureaucratic mills to grind through your application, you need a document called an "advanced parole" to travel - a small sheaf of papers adorned with stamps and circuitous language that wouldn't have looked out of place in the pouch of an 18th-century Venetian nobleman.
A while ago, I tried to get my advanced parole renewed. I took my place at 5am in a long queue outside the office of the US citizenship and immigration service.
After three hours, I was summoned to a counter. The man informed me that my application was being handled by the office in Vermont . They could do nothing to help me here, he said. I asked for the phone number of the Vermont office. There is no public number. I asked for the address. I would happily fly to Vermont if it meant I could see my father. "They don't allow visitors," said the man. My only resort was to send an appeal to an anonymous fax. The next day, my machine spat out the reply: "Your request has been rejected."
That sort of Kafkaesque behaviour is unworthy of a country that supposedly ranks customer service just below godliness.
A father's 90th birthday may not be the most urgent reason for travel. But why should I have to give any reason? I have done nothing wrong. To regain the respect of the world, the US needs to demonstrate that it still possesses those qualities people admire: openness, freedom, tolerance. Most Americans are the descendants of immigrants. Treating would-be immigrants of today as suspects is not going to help America win the war of ideas.
D i d Comedy last night... a bit shaky... it's hard because the show is about the physical and about being in a rhythm... which is impossible to guarantee when only doing the one show a week. So we fly by the seat of our pants each time... I went into the dialogue for another scene at one point which rather startled Louis... but got it back... so many words in my head that I'm never sure what will come out!!
Man rehearsals enlivened by Lou... who is very good... very light mercurial energy, a good contrast to me and Tony... and he's very funny.
Found out from Lori that's she's in Philly the same time as me in October... Life works in mysterious ways.
I got three hours sleep last night. Got up at 5am . Got to the immigration offices in Newark at 6.30. Inside the building at 11. Finished at 4.10pm . 9 and a half hours!!!! A Kafka nightmare of bureaucracy. I was also feeling like shit because I have some lergy. Anyway the upshot is that I have a stamp in my passport for another year and that they told me that if I am called in for interview that that would happen in the next three months, but that perhaps it might not happen. We shall see. Now facing a full rehearsal day with the last gala performance of Comedy tomorrow. No day off for 2 weeks. My throat is burning and I can't breathe that well, and I have some bite or something on my left arm which is red and swollen...but heigh ho... Dr Theatre will come calling I'm sure.
Enjoying an evening in at my apartment. My friend Dilys Laye phoned me tonight which was a nice surprise... She has won an award for her role in Les Liasons Dangereaux. It's good to see someone deservedly receive recogntion for excellent work.
And talking of friends, my Canadian writer friend Robert Sherwood crossed Vicky's path recently. He wrote:
An actor friend invited me down to watch his sister-in-law in SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER at the Albery, with the particular
purpose of meeting Victoria Hamilton... When
I mentioned your name, Victoria told me that you had been in to see the show
the previous week. The rest of the dots I'm sure you can connect... I
mentioned how you were in the original production of SPIN, and how I knew
you and Victoria had worked together in Toronto , and we both talked about
your capacity for ex-wives, and how you always look like a movie star. Very
flattering to you, of course, and made you out to be something of a legend
to the others listening in the room...
More infamous than famous I fear.
If you look at American television a curious phenomenon is apparent. The men's hair in this country never go grey, just a certain lighter shade of. brown
Michael Moore's film is manipualtive, one-sided, bending the truth, and childish in places... and quite brilliant and thought provoking. I saw it in a full cinema in Manhattan . It had been number one in the country. I said at the time of September 11th...
I don't know what to feel except a great sadness for the loss of life. The futility of it baffles me. The backlash scares me. They have never had anything quite like this over here, whereas I suppose the Brits are a little more stoical having memories of IRA campaigns and the traditions of the Blitz. But for America, well you have to go back to Pearl Harbor .
Later, as the Iraq war started and we were visiting San Francisco , I wrote.
In San Francisco , the police arrested over 1400 protesters who brought the city to a standstill. On my travels around the college campuses, I am encouraged to see that there is a huge discontent with the war in Iraq among the young people in this country. They are well informed, intelligent and brave; especially in the current climate which, as I write, is the involuntary knee-jerk, 9/11 payback, flagwaving, gung-ho, 'we're going in', U-S-A…attitude which is America at war. They are not swayed by the barrage of 'cynical propaganda', or 'liberating Iraq ' rhetoric coming from the Bush administration. They point to Israel and its constant flouting of UN resolutions over a period of 30 years. They feel that the whole thing is over oil. It's an accusation that the government constantly denies. I hear from people that are close to them that the troops are happy to be in action and doing the stuff they've trained for. Personally… well I think an actor should be apolitical… as much as one can be. That way, we don't try to comment or try to persuade… but just present. I'm not sure however that anything can be apolitical and that this attitude isn't just a complete cop out.
I can now see that the war could bring down both Bush and Blair. The internet has been a huge influence in these times. Censorship has been blatant here, especially during the conflict. Of course no-one can regulate the internet. I remain amazed that the people of this country actually bought into a war that was a war on 'terrorism'... as if that was a war that could be won. I predicted early this year that during this election we would have numerous terror threats. It's so simple to predict. We have the ridiculous levels of the alert meter, surely one of the most senseless things ever invented by politicans. It goes up and down every few days with phantom threats appearing every week. If you walk through Grand Central Station, past the swat teams and machine guns, the first thing you notice, as an englishman who has lived through the IRA, is that none of the trash bins have been taken away. They are all over the place and indeed all over the city. I try desperately to remain apolitical...
Williamsburg is the area next to Greenpoint. it is where I catch the subway to and where all the cool hip people get off. They gradually break off as I walk down Bedford Avenue , past McCarren Park and into the grittier and Polish area that is Greenpoint.
Williamsburg has its own problems though and these problems are as old as when the Irish first arrived here.
O n Sunday, January 4, as many Jews around the city fasted to commemorate the historical siege of Jerusalem by Babylonians, more than 100 Williamsburg Hasidim were protesting what they consider a siege of their community—by New York hipsters. Under steady rain, rabbis, laymen, and schoolboys gathered across from the newly renovated Gretsch Building at 60 Broadway, an old musical-instrument factory where rapper Busta Rhymes just bought a million-dollar-plus apartment. “We're trying to keep this neighborhood clean and honest, and these people are destroying it,” said a protester, Hershl Grinfeld.
Hasidim have called Williamsburg home since the early part of the last century, and they have little interest in seeing their slice of Brooklyn become the next Manhattan . To their way of thinking, the only things hipsters (artist'n in Yiddish) contribute to the neighborhood are skyrocketing real-estate prices and morally suspect nightlife. And as one typical message on a Yiddish online bulletin board recently put it, the trendoids “pollute the eyes and the mind.” At the same time, some hipsters have their own complaints about the Hasidim: “When you willingly have ten-plus children based on your religious beliefs, feed most of them on food stamps, and displace everyone else in the neighborhood, there's hardly any sympathy to be had,” says Dori Mondon, a designer who recently left Williamsburg.
The two groups have little in common besides a taste for black attire, and amicable co-habitation seems unlikely. There are even ads in Yiddish papers comparing the hipsters to the 9/11 hijackers. At the Sunday protest, Rabbi Zalman Leib Fulop declared that the growth of the local artist population was “a bitter decree from Heaven.” Those selling real estate to the hipsters, said the rabbi, would “never be able to leave hell.” Meanwhile, organizers distributed a prayer entitled “For the Protection of Our City of Williamsburg From the Plague of the Artists.” Could frogs and locusts in trucker hats be next?
I'm buried in words. He words me, he words me. Think Lettice and Lovage or Hamlet. It's a little scary. I've done all I can... Adaptations are really like new plays. We three actors sometimes feel like the poor bloody infantry. The analogy is apt considering our leader's background as an officer with the British marines.
Certain harmonious relationships are created and endure thanks to a complex system of little fibs and denials, a duet, as it were, danced with knowing gestures and posturing which can be summed up... You know what I know, but let's keep it to ourselves.
Anyway, soon it will be up and running and I will start to have free time... which will be a relief.
I am in pain...Something just below my left shoulder blade, a sharp pain like someone stabbed me. I think it's damned uncomfortable because it hurts when I breathe. Can't help that I play a cripple in the play.
A little bumpy with Man last night... not surprising with second night. Tony unsurprisingly has been a little shaky. Apparently the New Yorker cartoonist was in, so we may have a cartoon in the magazine which is quite an honor. One to frame for the future.
Quite excited about two days off. Will probably clean up, do laundry and write my letters for the show. That and see some films... Michael Moore's film and Spiderman 2. I may go and see Shakespeare in the Park on Sunday...Jimmy Smits in Much Ado.
Two shows today and then a whole TWO DAYS off! I am dedicating them to Marlon Brando who died yesterday. I remember Michael Gambon saying what an amazing man he was. Coming from the Great Gambo that was quite a statement. They did a film together in South Africa where Marlon had all his lines fed though an ear piece. The dialogue coming down the earpiece went something like this:
" He is talking about the child, he talks about her love for her father, he is still, talking... your line is coming up, you will say 'I must object to this line of questioning on a personal level your Honor'... he still is talking about the child... her innocence, her beauty... three lines to go... your line is 'I must object to this line of questioning on a personal level your Honor.' He is coming to the end now, talks of her love for her dog and 'I must object to this line of questioning on a personal level your Honor' is your line... and here it comes... and go."
Of course with Brando it looked effortless and utterly compelling.
Went to see Assassins this afternoon. It was utterly brilliant. Sondheim genius brilliantly realized by a top-rate cast and orchestra. I bumped into Allegra and David who were on the 2003 tour. New York seems such a small city. Bumping into people happens a lot here.
Fireworks have stopped across the east River and above Macy's and I can now open the windows and pick myself off the floor. I hate explosions are loud bangs. I'm afraid I have to count myself out as the next James Bond.
I woke up this morning with two huge red bites on my arm. So finally I have gone out and bought a new mattress cover and got some spray and will treat the whole apartment tomorrow. Hopefully whatever it is has had enough of me for a night or so. I have a canopy above my bed and I imagine a smaller version of Shelob living in it and then letting itself down by its web to suck my blood at night!
Man is going well I think. People have said nice things. The critics are starting to come in. We will know by the end of next week how they are going to go.
There is a possiblity of coming back from Philly and straight into Aquila 's Cyrano which would keep me working right up to Xmas.
Ironically Lori's American passport expired and on renewing it realized she would have to get a new stamp in her passport to enable her to stay and work in the UK . She thinks she may have to do a special trip back to the UK to get it stamped.
Off now to say hello to Shelob and hopefully from a bite-free night's sleep. Having days free is such a luxury!!! I have written and posted most of my letters, - to both sides of the Atlantic - Nigel Hawthorne wrote letters off to casting people and directors well into his forties. So with nothing else to do or feel guilty about, It is raining which somehow seems unfair as it is my day off and it hasn't rained for two weeks, however my nerves are preparing for Man Who Would Be King opening night tomorrow, so I am only good for writing and reading anyway. It's a curious time putting yourselves out there for the critics and with just the three of us, I feel particularly vulnerable. I could try not to read them, but it's pretty hopeless with Tony and Louis around as they devour them all. And take a certain masochistic delight in quoting the bad ones. The Times is coming tomorrow which will give the evening a good edge, and then we shall wait for their judgment... as usual. The rain is coming down harder and makes a reassuring pit-a-pat sound on the ivy outside the windows of the apartment... and I send off another vague idea and float it like a cloud. And here comes the thunder. Lightening will surely follow.
"The greatest thing you can do is surprise yourself" (Steve Martin)
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