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Summer 2006
(The next part, the next adventure and flying cars)

 

Oleanna 2006 (Courtesy of The Sentinel newspaper )
with Laura Doddington as Carol


After five years away, I have returned to England...and this time it's for longer than two weeks. I have been lured back here by a wonderful part. Of course. 
Sane actors, quite rightly, go after West End or Broadway prestige, the next TV or the next film, the lucrative advert or voice over.
 
Not me. 
Oh No.
I am not sane apparently.
I live a life on air, treading the boards, hand to mouth.  Madness!

However, I still love working on the intricacies of a complex character that inhabits a world about which I have little or no knowledge. The part is John in David Mamet’s Oleanna, which I am now performing at the New Victoria Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme. It is an intense and controversial two-hander which we are performing without an interval. It’s also being performed in-the-round, which has got to be the ultimate in the 'theatre of fear' stakes. The New Vic was Europe's first purpose built theatre-in-the-round. The idea of theatre-in-the round originated in America.  In the round there is absolutely nowhere to hide.  Many times in the past few weeks I have thought that a nice TV or a film about being a naked POW in a malaria-ridden prison camp would be so much easier. Insanity has its drawbacks.
 

I'm enjoying being in England. The people are less ..what's the word... frenetic... more laid back.  The old country has certainly spruced up its service side of things.  The transport system seems really smooth and all the trains are bright spanking new. It's interesting to spot the differences. Buying a paper at London’s Charing Cross Railway Station, I had to wait whilst the server picked up my paper to read something that had caught his eye on the front page. And then, on the train down to Hastings, the conductor stopped and sat down with an amateur palmist to have his palm read.  Every now and again he would jump up when we pulled into a station and wave his flag or blow his whistle. His duties done, he would return to continue his conversation with the palmist. I couldn't see that happening in NYC. More genuine, I thought.  Interesting - because a few years ago I might have been less charmed. May be I've become American and am just captivated by everything British.

 

Tim Curry is over here for Spamalot at the moment. He said in the Sunday Times that he’s glad to be back because it gives him the chance to think about whether he’d like to live here again.  I’m certainly taking the time to get a perspective on my life. 

 
I am in the area of Britain known as the Potteries in the town of Newcastle-under-Lyme. Actually Newcastle, known simply as "castle" to many local people, is a busy market town/small city in Staffordshire, England and is not part of the "Six Towns" all closely situated to one another that make up the Potteries. Since the 17th century the area has been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale pottery manufacturing, with such world renowned names as Royal Doulton, Spode, Wedgwood and Minton being born and based there. The presence locally of abundant supplies of coal and of suitable clay for earthenware production led to the early but at first limited development of the local pottery industry.

The town of Newcastle-under-Lyme sits immediately west of the neighbouring city of Stoke-on-Trent
, its suburbs running into those of the city. The town grew up around a 'new' castle which was built by the Normans in the 12th century. It owes its name to the castle and to the fact that it was situated under the forest of Lyme. It is not mentioned in Domesday Book, but it must early have become a place of importance, for a charter, known only through a reference in a charter to Preston, was given to the town by Henry II of England. In 1235 Henry III constituted it a free borough, granting a gild merchant and other privileges. It is this ancient history that has kept the town of Newcastle from becoming part of the Six Towns.  It is proud of its history, and the making of Pottery, starting in the 18th century, is very recent history.  If you want to be a local in 'the castle' you should never refer to yourself as living in The Potteries.
 
The theatre is fairly new, having been built above the town centre in 1986.  It sits on a hill surrounded by trees and nature walks and local artifacts. An artistic castle. I am pleased to be back. This is my fourth production here. My first was Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce in 1996.
 
I am also attempting to spend some time with my family, but, as usual, the play consumes me...and Mamet doesn't do you any favors when trying to learn. He's very exact about the way he wants it delivered. Apparently, like Beckett used to do, Mamet uses a metronome. The director is also a very good actor.  This has left me feeling a little more insecure than usual as I keep thinking how good he would be in my part, and find myself often wondering throughout the rehearsal process whether he isn’t thinking exactly the same thing. I think he would use a metronome if he could. He’s very particular on exact line readings.  It would be tiresome except that – annoyingly - his instincts are spot on.

 

Rehearsals remind me so much of Kiss of the Spider Woman. There is something special about doing a two-hander. That total reliance on your fellow actor and the feeling afterwards that you have shared the same fears and the same small triumphs together. That and the eternal gratitude you feel if you fuck up and the other actor comes to your rescue.

Each day I walk to the theatre and back again and am enchanted with the quaint semi-detached Harry Potter houses en route.  Everything small, everything close together and compact. Shops are within walking distance. Pubs on the corner. England flags and shirts are everywhere – a leftover from the World Cup. I made a terrible mistake of asking my brother to come and watch the soccer with me.

“I refuse to talk to you unless you call it ‘football’!" he replied.

 

And just as I think I have the place nailed and everything seems boringly ordinary, I walk home one night past one of the quaint Harry Potter houses and am stopped dead in my tracks. The light is blazing in the living-room where a lady dressed in a purple leotard has erected a long steel pole and is practicing her exotic pole dancing surrounded by shelves of books, a large Queen Ann Grandfather clock and two implacable china dogs that guard the fireplace. I stand outside in the moonlight, underneath the street lamp - like the priest in The Exorcist - transfixed.


Now - if only this had been in Harry Potter.

 

Before rehearsals started I lived in my mother's beach hut for four days...just me and the script and the sea...cups of coffee, food supplies delivered by my mother for breakfast after morning swim, and pub and fish and chips in the evening. Bliss.

 

My mother and brother’s hometown, Hastings, is a revelation. It has smartened itself up in five years. Lots of cafés and everyone pretending they're in the Mediterranean. My brother's new and swanky woman’s clothes shop is not out of place. My wealthy brother Robin – wealthy for Hastings - used to be called "Rob the Bank"... now I suppose it will be "Shoppin' and Robin!"

 

 

 

 

 

***

 

April 1st 2006

 

We're coming to the end of this marathon.  Now making our way from Maine - Stephen King Country - down to Nashville - a road trip of three days.  We're in Virginia tonight, and after eight hours on the road we will arrive in Nashville, home of country music, where we stay in a five star hotel and spend a week! The first two days are off too! The weather is getting warmer as we travel south. It should be in the 80s tomorrow in Nashville. We are all exhausted, but we are still talking to one another, and all had a meal together tonight. Just got back in from watching King Kong in Andrew's hotel room - great fun and worth a look.

 

Dad is not doing so well. It seems that he will not return home now, but will be in a nursing home for the rest of his life. I'm sad, but relieved that my step mother Pat won't have the burden of looking after him. It will soon be time to be the light and not the light bulb. I am keeping horrendously fit at the moment. I am determined to hold on to the light bulb as much as possible.

 

My friends Terry and Peter in Vermont had the company over for Sunday brunch. We were performing in Burlington which is only 15 miles away from them. It was the most perfect day. We traveled out to their beautiful home, which they built themselves down the end of a mile long dirt track. They were without electricity for five years.  Now they have what I consider to be paradise on Earth, complete with woods and pond and fields. Terry had prepared a wonderful buffet lunch which was destroyed by a company of actors who hadn’t seen home cooking for months. This was digested by a ramble through the woods with Polonius giving us a running commentary on the local bird life.

 

Our hosts had enjoyed Jekyll & Hyde, and Peter even came to see Hamlet. He wasn't going to, but apparently enjoyed the company so much that he changed his mind. At least that’s what Terry said. I think it was to see whether the manic company of actors who had scrambled over his property like crazed lunatics could possibly stand still on a stage and say some of the most beautiful language ever written.

 

 

***


 

Nashville April 4th 2006


The end is in sight.
In Nashville
After 10 hours car ride. 


A five star hotel. Elegant, gorgeous and refined. The upside of an Aquila tour... swings and roundabouts. Free internet as well. Hit the town last night. Started off at a country bar, where they played Johnny Cash covers among many others. Then moved to a coffee bar which turns into a jazz club at night... best jazz combo I have heard in a long time. Four black guys ripping it up. So strange because it was Nashville. Then  Jay, Emily, Andrew, Darren and I saw a big line for a club which had four floors and fours dance levels. Emily, red hair tossing and eyes sparkling, walked to the front of the line and talked the three bouncers into letting us in, much to the annoyance of the long line of waiting revellers. We ended up on the roof - it was 80 degrees - dancing to a live band until 2am

 

It was my son Charley's birthday yesterday. He wanted an Xbox 360. I gave him Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and Instant Confidence, a book and CD by the hypnotist Paul McKenna! He’s 23, the same age I started at RADA. Where did the time go? And why is it speeding up? Gotta enjoy the moment.  Actually I could use that Instant Confidence CD right now!

 

Now off to hit the city of Nashville for Saturday night...yeehaw!

 

 

***

 April 25th 2006

 

So I've finished.
Coming off a nine month tour is as if you've been involved in a violent car accident. I came back to New York on Wednesday, rushed by taxi to my new summer apartment in Inwood. A quick shower and then back into the city where I met my friend Guy from the UK for an hour – he is here for a corporate gig and was flying out that night - then uptown to the 35th Floor at the Mandarin Hotel on Columbus Circle for the premiere party for the Big Bad Swim film which I did last year and which is in the Tribeca Film Festival, and then on to the premiere at Lincoln Square at 10pm.



***

 

Adjusting to New York life...but not very well...ran away from the premiere party, and didn't go to the première. It seems the tour was harder than I thought. I needed to sleep and recover slowly on my own for a while. Easier said than done as our TD needed a place to crash for three nights and I felt I couldn't refuse... having known how horrible that feeling is of being homeless with no place to sleep. We ended up going out with the stage manager/ sound operator/ technical assistant - we inhabit a number of different job descriptions on the tour! Vast quantities of the bourbon Makers Mark were consumed and we ended up putting the world to rights throughout the night. Sleep was fitful.

 

I'm looking forward to getting out into the mountains again. I love New York, but it's just a little too hectic for me right now! Soaking up the countryside, teaching acting and Shakespeare, and seeing friends, is my idea of a perfect recuperation after 9 months of touring.


***

 

 

May 2006
Teaching here in Vermont. It's sometimes daunting to have such a small amount of time to get across the mechanics of acting Shakespeare, but I enjoy the challenge.  Tomorrow morning I teach a a class of sixteen 12 year olds, an introduction to Shakespeare and drama, before moving on to my class at ART. Then on Thursday morning I teach Technical students Elizabethan theatre before going back to my kids at Addison Repertory Theater and the 3rd act of As You Like It.  All the while I soak up the wonderful countryside of Vermont...mountains and lakes.  Meanwhile in New York, my agent is busy trying to figure out my next job. At least, she is in my imagination.

  

 

***

 

 

The teaching has now finished. I'm always surprised how much I enjoy it and how emotionally involved I become with the students. Today we are off to spend the weekend at a friend's lakeside cabin. It is raining but there is a woodstove, so we can keep warm and it will be wonderful to enjoy the peace and quiet before returning to hectic NYC. Still don't know what's happening next. New Canaan has offered me the Friar in Romeo and Juliet, which would take me up to mid-July.  However, nothing is certain yet as my agent Honey is "negotiating"!  Must have faith and be brave.

 

I went riding last night. My horse, Annie, finally ran out of patience with my inept handling, reared up on her hind legs and twirled round four times. Images of myself as Alan Ladd in Shane were immediately replaced with Christopher Reeve. Miraculously I stayed on!


***

 

 

At this moment I'm not sure where my home is. New York is certainly home at this moment. I can't say I feel at home here -completely, but may be that's more to do with work and not knowing if I will be accepted and also having a sympathy with any American actor who would resent me coming here and taking a job that may go to a born American actor. I feel I'm here as a special guest and am tolerated.  May be there's too much history between the two countries for that ever to change. Or may be I'm just paranoid and deluded. However, New York is the familiar and is still as exciting, weird and romantic as when I came here for the first visit seven years ago.

 

The apartment is lovely, a sublet from a gay professor at Columbia. Everything is spic and span, with the added bonus of lots of gay porn. But now they are working on the apartment above... so I will go out and enjoy the beautiful Spring Day in Inwood Hill Park...may be walk across the river and explore the Bronx and try and find a gym that I've heard about...

 

 

***

 

 

My new apartment is a joy - mostly.  They are working on the apartment above, and so during the day we have the sound of workers boots and sanders and hammering. I hope it will not last too long. Like my last apartment, it is situated in Inwood, but even further North, and now I find myself at the furthest tip of Manhattan,  but still, it is Manhattan. The area itself is less Dominican Republic here and more...hmmm... what? middle-class, white, ...possibly. I'm not sure. I haven't really got a handle on it yet. There is still a big Hispanic population, but they tend to live a few blocks further south and down the hill. It certainly is a lot gayer here. The adage for house hunters here is 'follow the gays'! This is one of the up and coming areas, known to still have apartments that one can rent and buy a lot cheaper than elsewhere. A block away is the park, a real bonus in this city. It has a huge baseball field within it, to which a lot of schools travel to the end of the 'A' line and walk up the hill and down to Inwood Forest Park to play the national game. Beyond it is Inwood Forest, or what I have dubbed 'The Wild Wood"... because that is really what it is, the only piece of wild nature in New York outside a small section in Central Park. The Hudson River and the East River join here and cut off the northern part of the island from the Bronx. Every morning I run across the bridge and four blocks north to my gym in the Bronx. It sounds ridiculously romantic to me: 'my gym in the Bronx.'  I joined because I can pay on a monthly basis without signing a contract, which suits me down to the ground as after August I have no idea - again - where I'm going to be. The gym is unpretentious, spacious, with a lot of free weights, cardio machines, and various Nautilus machines. It has a Tae Kwon Do Instruction area which could be a useful aid if I ever got mugged on my run to the gym.  It boasts a sun deck which unfortunately only receives sun for hour a day, from 12.30pm to 1.30pm, and then only in high summer. Nevertheless, I like the discipline of making myself go there, and am determined that now I have got myself in reasonable shape to keep that way for as long as I am able.

 

I spent an interesting Sunday afternoon with my agent, Honey and her new assistant, Jenn. We went to see the acting graduates of USCD, Yale and NYU perform to an audience full of the top casting people and agents in New York. It reminded me of the RADA Tree evening when so much seemed to depend on such a small amount of time.  Honey invited me as another outside eye on the young talent. She also introduced me to a few agents and casting agents, some of whom I had met. I didn’t feel at all intimidated, and if anything they seemed more intimidated of me... which I noted - like Alice - was "curious".  May be it was because I was an interloper from the other side in their midst.  The young students did pretty well considering the pressures they were under. No Shakespeare speeches among them; in fact no classics at all, but there were a couple of songs, and many interesting duologues which were all punctuated by Honey's running commentaries. "He shouldn’t be singing."  "I can’t hear this scene again."  "Bad, bad bad" and "there's nothing special here"... and... "got his name", "good, but I have someone like her" and "I need a young black actress."  I gave up my thoughts when asked and found that on the whole we agreed on the ones that had that something extra, talent, or interesting looks that could turn into something special on film. The afternoon performance was over three hours long and to the credit of the audience, most of them stayed until the end. I walked the seven blocks over to the "A" train, through the Union Square shoppers and tourists soaking up the early summer sunshine and thought: "Well, that was unlikely to have happened to me back in England."



***



Today was another interesting day. I was already primed to go to one audition for the Two Rivers company in New Jersey, when Jenn rang.
"How would you like to go up for a movie today?"

"Yes please, fantastic."
"Okay...lovely."  She proceeded to give the address and the details. I interrupted her.
"I'm sorry, could you give me the title of the film again?"

"Er... yes. It's called 'Confessions of a Call Girl'."

I was silent.
"Richard?"

"I'm here."
"So, have you got that?"
"Have I got to take my clothes off?"
"No, I don't think so, but the girl has to."
"I see." 
As my friend David Delgrosso used to say ..."glamour falling."


Things didn't get better when I read the sides that Jenn sent ten minutes later. My character turned out to be a 'very fit, short 46 year old doctor from Boston'. He is in town for an operation and so he calls up his favorite call girl - of course -  as all doctors do when they're away from home. It turns out he's enamoured of the film's heroine, the aforementioned call girl. He gives her a present. She says she cannot take gifts from her clients. The dialogue then went something like this:


Doctor:  Can you answer me a very important question?  Why is it that I think of you all the time and not my wife?

 

Call Girl:  I'm sure she's very pretty.

Doctor:  She is, and I like to make love to her every chance I can. [pause] But you I want to fuck.

Call girl:  I'm sure it's not about sex, but the power.  The fact you can snap your fingers and have anything you want.

 

Doctor:  Let me educate you my dear.  It’s not the power you love, but the fact that I’m not afraid to cross the line.  You and I know what that line is.

Call Girl: I’m not listening to you today.  Last time I had to go and see a shrink.  Now I got to go, so talk to me.

 

Doctor:  There is a 12 year old Jewish Boy who needs a heart transplant in two hours time across the street.  In order to save his life I have to feel like I’m dying like he is now.  I have to feel like Christ being beaten. You understand?

 

Call Girl:  The usual then… right?

We cut to call girl handcuffing the doctor’s arms to the bed. Bare back showing.

Doctor:  Now!
Cut to Call girl’s arm holding a whip.  She lashes his back which begins to bleed.

Doctor:  More, baby, More!

 

Nine months on the road with Hamlet and Jekyll & Hyde, Three years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art was obviously all preparation for this moment.  The moment where I lay naked on the bed writhing with pleasure to say...

"More, Baby, More!"

 

***

 

June 2006

Playing Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet out at Summer Theater of New Canaan again should be fun. They're doing it modern of course, but the masked dance is in traditional costume, so a good mixture of old and new. The Friar's an interesting part. I am going to try and make him as dangerous as I can. Tattoos on his arm...  A man with a past. 

 

There's a ridiculous thunderstorm overhead that is straight out of Hollywood... explosive crashing thunder, sheet lightening and horizontal rain from the fireman's hose... light thickens... Billie Holliday in the background to soothe my nerves and a bourbon to lighten a muggy New York Memorial Day evening.  I have never been good with thunder, fireworks or anything that has loud explosions. I think it stems from my father's volcanic temper and consequent eruptions that occurred throughout my childhood.

 

 



***

 

Deep into rehearsals, which, compared to an Aquila schedule, where we would be called all day, are very easy. I am only called for a couple of hours today. It's a very fine, mainly young cast. Keen, with bags of energy. I find it interesting that a part of me soon tires of listening to all their experiences or opinions on England and its culture. I don't want to be different.

 

I went to a benefit for a theatre company called the Team a couple of nights ago. They are going to The Traverse Theatre this summer at the Edinburgh Festival. I thought I would only know a couple of people, but it turned out I knew a lot... and many of those I didn't, seemed to have heard of me. They were all mainly 20 something actors. A lot of them had seen me in stuff. I apparently have a reputation as something of a mentor!! I felt rather bemused. I noted that it gave me a feeling of belonging in some way...that I was starting to click with Manhattan.
One great moment when a friend - a very cool black actor -  pulled me to one side and told me he wanted to introduce me to a friend of his - who had seen me across the room and apparently wanted to meet me. She turned out to be a beautiful young Indian actress. It made this old Obi Won Konobi very happy and ridiculously flattered. We chatted amiably enough. Until....
She looked at me with her dark sparkling eyes and tilted her head to one side.
"How old are you?" she asked.
"Old enough to be your mentor," my friend replied for me. His smile was broad and mischievous.
Glamour falling.

 

I am in talks with the director of Oleanna in England. He's very experienced and an actor himself, so he probably has his own ideas about who he wants to play the role.  We'll see.

 

I am all geared up for the World Cup. The video and the timer seem to work. I will miss the first two games being played live...the England games that is...
but the final one against Sweden I'll be able to see, and will pick a friendly pub to sample some home atmosphere, and hopefully some English joy as we qualify for the quarter finals...hopefully. 


C'Mon England!

 

 

***



We opened Romeo & Juliet last night, which was something of a miracle; not because of any problems with the production, but because the forecast had been so unfavorable. However, the rain gods smiled on us, and the weather held up, which was important as all the town dignitaries and sponsors were there to see where all the money had gone. The Summer Theater of New Caaan have spent a lot of money on this too. Basically they have taken a stretch of land at the bottom of a hill next to a wood and built a temporary outdoor theatre complete with huge operatic set. As you come over the hill and look down on the honey ivy-covered walls of our Verona -  a sort of pastoral Pompeii, one can't help but be excited. 

Judging from the reactions last night, it seems the production has lived up to the setting. It certainly is the biggest cast I have been involved with since Sound of Music at Leicester.  A lot of people had seen the Dream last year and were happy to see us back. They give me special treatment here. It must be the first time that the Friar has received top billing in the programme in a production of Romeo & Juliet. The only downside to the whole delightful adventure is the bugs of the wood, who have not taken kindly to their new tenants. Especially the tics. Every night we have to check ourselves to see if any of the tiny little black creatures have attached themselves to some part of our body and are sucking away on our blood. Early in the evening I noticed a kind of red soreness at the back of my knee, and when I finally got home after the triumphant first night I felt distinctly unwell. The feeling turned into chills and fever. All the signs of Lyme Disease, but without going to a doctor it's hard to say for sure.  I checked myself over this morning, and pulled out only one tic. I think I'm still covered by the health insurance, so if the symptoms persist over the weekend, I will go and get some antibiotics next week. Apparently it has less chance of returning in its virulent form at a later stage if you catch it early... but reading about it, it seems there's a lot of dispute about the whole thing. Still, when we were rained off this evening, it meant I was quite relieved... the forecast doesn't look good for tomorrow.  Hopefully things will improve next week. The Summer Theatre of New Canaan deserves some luck.

 

***

 

Scary news. After a four hour trip to the hospital, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, with a Lyme lesion on my leg. They have given me antibiotics, which I promptly threw up. I am hoping this was not an allergic reaction but because I hadn't eaten all day. I caused a bit of a stir in Emergency with a couple of doctors coming in to check me over. Later a specialist appeared. News had spread. Not a lot of Lyme Disease is seen in Manhattan.
"Well, the worse thing that could happen is that you get a heart condition," the specialist said sympathetically.
"No," I replied, "the worse thing that could happen is that I die!"

The specialist laughed.
"Very true."


When the antibiotics kick in, hopefully the fever and headaches should start to recede. The long term effects of course seem to be confused and contradictory, but looking up the disease online, it would seem that I am doomed for a life of increasing decrepitude and should jump off the Washington Bridge sooner rather than later! 


***

 

I went to the doctors today and the test results were encouraging.  Very low Lyme Disease recorded in my system.  I go back in a month, and have to keep an eye open for any adverse neurological effects, but so far so good. The Washington Bridge can wait.

 

 

***


Only really back on my feet today and that was in short spurts, so the more I can conserve my energy tomorrow the better. Ordered to rest by the doctor for the rest of the week... obviously she doesn't know too many theatre actors. So far it has affected my neck which is difficult to turn, my voice which is weaker (hooray for mikes) and my energy  - always boundless inside, but pretty muted presently. So I will probably forgo the warm-up and cross fingers for the evening!

 

***

                                            

 July 2006

I am now fighting fit and thoroughly de-toxed having not touched a drink for a week.  I'm not sure if it affects the antibiotics or not, but best not to take a chance.  The show is going well. Today the management are giving free Lyme Disease tests to those people who want them. In Connecticut, it seems that everyone has had Lyme Disease the same way they have had the measles. 
“Just get the drugs and all is fine,” a local helpfully tells me.
“But this is English blood,” I reply, “used to gnats, the odd sting from a nettle, but not an exotic tropical disease.”

 Further conversation is thwarted as the listener is incapacitated with laughter. 


The Wilma audition went well. I was happy with what I did and even happier that I made it through the door. I must have looked a bit odd, as it was the first time I had stood up for four days. However, I knew I gave it my best shot, made strong choices and made a point of shaking Jiri by the hand and thanking him for seeing me. I didn't get it. A friend of mine got a callback. But it's okay. Really...it's okay...it's fine.... fine...f....hmmm.

When I go to England I have an audition for Oleanna by David Mamet at the New Vic. The director wants to see me soon after I arrive. If it works out I'll be there end of August through til beginning of October. If it doesn't work out, then I have to come back and think about where I'm going to live and how I'm going to survive through the Fall. 

 

Just when you think you've done it all...
I must have made some sort of an impression as the Friar because a couple has asked me to be part of a ceremony to renew their wedding vows on the set of Romeo and Juliet. I can't say that I'm the most appropriate person, but I'm quite happy to read sonnet 116.

 

 I have started on the ten-page tome that is the application for my US citizenship. It will mean I have dual citizenship with the UK and will enable me to travel free and spend as much time as I like outside the States. I have been taking it slowly - a step at a time. Today I was filling all the companies I have worked for in the last five years, complete with dates and addresses. Then there's my traveling outside the country and the places I have lived. Oh the bureaucracy of it all. 

 

 

The cast of R&J in the prologue.  I’m stage centre.  Naturally!

 

***

 

 

 

Off to the UK on Monday. I'll probably get to Hastings later in the week. I have an audition for Oleanna on the Wednesday at the New Vic. The director is associate artistic director of Northern Broadsides. Should I point up my Cheshire ancestors? May be go in with my Yorkshire "Bottom" accent?

 

On Thursday I am going to the opening night of Nicholas Nickleby at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Same script as the RSC. Both parts...starts at 2pm and finishes around 10.30 I think. My friend Dilys Laye is in it and I'm going as her guest and escort for the evening. I also have a few other mates in it, so it should be a giggle...and it's a long time since I've been to a UK first night party. 

 

***

 

Whilst I was here in the UK I was offered to the part of John in Mamet's Oleanna at the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Despite messing up my summer plans, and the risk of incurring the ire of H and the wrath of  my New York agent, I am going to do it. It will put me close to my ailing father, who will be only an hour away, and my children would certainly appreciate seeing a little more of me…even Charley, who has actually played his Instant Confidence CD more than once and says it has given him the confidence.... to ask me for an Xbox 360 for Christmas.


However ultimately... it’s the part. The part is just too good to pass by! It's only five weeks away. I need to be back as I just put in for my US citizenship, and there may be a fingerprinting appointment coming up in the months leading up to Christmas. The job will definitely leave me out of pocket, but it’s a strong pull that an actor gets when he smells a good juicy part in the offing. It can override nearly everything else.


I get in tonight, and will be packing the apartment up and then going away with H for a couple of days in a pathetic attempt to make it up to her.

 


***

 

 

Had a great time at Sandy Hook with H. Lovely B&B and bikes out to Gay nudist beach, on blistering hot days, cock rings glistening in the sun.
Honey okay with me going. Said she's going for the big bucks when I get back.

 

Now back In NYC.  I was hauled into Secondary Immigration at JFK. It seems that my application for citizenship has put up a red flag again. Very bored with the whole thing now. I was quite prepared for them to send me back to the UK. I don't think I would have been so unhappy. Only wish I had my photo of me and George Bush with me, so I could hit them over the head with it.

 

***

 

 

Having been married and divorced three times – the ultimate triumph of optimism over experience – I am always  looking out for an index – ‘a pointer’ -  where I might have gone wrong in the past and where I might improve in the future in the emotional minefield that is called a ‘relationship’.  The BBC news website from time to time comes up with golden nuggets of scientific findings in various areas which affect our everyday lives.


For instance:  
Infants who can blow bubbles and lick their lips are likely to pick up language quickly… or…
Expectant mums should ensure they get enough vitamin E as low levels during pregnancy increase the risk of asthma in the unborn child… Female students directly exposed to semen are happier than those partners who wear condoms.  Researchers at the State University of New York believe that mood improving hormones on semen are absorbed through the vagina… et cetera and so on. The majority seem to be diet, genes and global warming. The latest finding immediately aroused my interest. In a study, which for some reason the University of Leicester felt it needed to conduct, they found that couples with similar shaped lips were more likely to stay together- over ten years. It did not go into great detail about why this may be. Unfortunately.


My top lip is woefully thin – as Olivier said about his own same affliction - it gives my mouth a ‘cruel meanness’. Perhaps similar lips are a better fit when kissing. I try to recall past relationships to see if this might hold any validity in their demise, but as I tend to block out all memories of the past and keep myself in the present moment, this proves a futile exercise. Oh, wait… I do remember one romantic encounter when the object of my affection tried to suck in not only my lips, but the whole of my face.  The passionate escapade was cut short when I nearly passed out from oxygen deprivation.


In the present, she has beautiful lips, full and perfectly formed. I will need to inject collagen or botox - or whatever it is - into my cruel inadequate lips to rescue our relationship. On the phone to her later, imagining her lips, full and pouting, I tell her of the University’s findings. She laughs. I imagine her lips parting and the teeth gleaming as she breaks into her easy natural smile. She dismisses the findings with a flourish.

“No surprise then that no one can stay with Angelina Jolie!”

 

 

From America's RADA Network

==========================
ARN Newsletter September 2006
==========================
----- Spotlight On... 


RICHARD WILLIS  -----

(1)     What years did you attend RADA?

1981 -1983

(2)     Is there something of value you took from RADA
          that you still have with you today?

The whole RADA experience. Good and Bad. I had been a child / teen actor for 10 years. I was doing a lot of TV and film but I wanted to get back to my theatre roots. My mother went to RADA, so it was first and only choice of drama school. RADA threw me in with my contemporaries, and it also let me get off the work merry-go-round and become a student. It was a little golden era when I attended, with the future of the present theatre establishment all around - in terms above and below. Sadly ours was the fallow year. A term of individuals - they called us. We were lucky to be there for Hugh Crutwell's final years as Principal. A lot of my time there was painful, mainly because of my own inhibitions. The scars of being a child actor! But the value of performing so many plays in public and the diversity of methods and techniques gave me a wonderful grounding. They were right, the professional actors, who warned me before I started that it would take me five years to unlearn what RADA taught me. In fact it took seven. What I kept was the character building experience, the technical grounding and some priceless memories.

(3)     Who or what inspires you?

My mother, Ann Harpur, who attended RADA in the mid-50s.

(4)     What are you doing now that you find most fulfilling?

I have been teaching in America. The experience of passing on what knowledge I have to
young actors has been extremely rewarding. At this moment, I am about to play John in
OLEANNA by David Mamet at the New Vic in Newcastle under-Lyme in the UK. A well-written part that stretches you is always fulfilling.

(5)     What are you looking forward to?

The next part, the next adventure... and flying cars.

Rhythms of the Gods