We meet for coffee first. Because you’re not serious about anything in this life if you don’t have coffee first. I pretend I’m going to have it black because it feels double serious, but at the end I sneak some skimmed milk in. But the way I stir it, hard and unforgiving, shows anyone in the queue who was doubting how serious I am that I am really serious; I just like it with milk.
We carry those corrugated cardboard cups to rehearsals above our favourite pub The Alex, like we mean business. We do. We do mean business. The business of Art. But first we have some essentials to get out of the way.
“Teddy Pip? What was the name of that stuff that makes your spots disappear like magic and gives you the look of someone who’s just had a light chemical peel?”
“I’ll send you the link, babe. It will literally change your life.”
“Thanks. I think it’s the nerves making me break out like a teenager. I don’t think it’s all the chocolate and wine this time. I definitely think it’s just because things are so mental?”
“Babe. I’ll send you the link.”
(Teddy Pip knows how serious skin is. It keeps all the organs and juicy bits in. He knows this, and much much more. Like how to save coral in Belize. Almost no one knows how to do that. Do you know how to do that? No. Teddy Pip does.)
We get up and crack on with the rehearsal. Because we are incredibly serious artists who are aware that we are taking two plays up to the world’s biggest and most important arts festival which could, if it goes well, go some way in shaping our professional futures. We don’t so much as ‘go into the zone’ as ‘take over the zone before vacating the zone because it’s not good enough as a zone before MAKING A WHOLE NEW ZONE THAT DUMPS ALL OVER OTHER PREVIOUS ZONES’.
At some point during our busy important zone work an obscene stack of food is carried past, steaming with an opulent greasy tang. Part of me bristles at the injustice of the interruption just as we are cracking the innermost truth of perhaps the most emotionally charged scene of the entire play. Then I remember the chef is one of my best friends, and I’m not Alan Bennett at the National.
“Hey, Drew. What the frick is that?”
“It’s the Man Vs Food Monster Burger. It’s essentially five cows and a shedload of chickens all in one bap with a bit of lettuce. Oh, and some pig. And onion rings. Aren’t people disgusting?”
Naturally we all stare at it like it’s an abomination of nature, very convincingly because we’re actors and that’s what we do – we stare at things convincingly – but as a conglomeration of people who have between us given up meat, wheat, and eating in general, we’re secretly salivating.
We carry on with our very important work. We manage to have a laugh in between being serious because by Christ we’re supremely human too. Then we finish with a run of both plays. We are relieved to find that we know most of our lines AND where we should be standing when we say them. We exhale weightily, like actors. We show the sort of relief that would make bomb disposal experts look a bit lacklustre in comparison when they manage to save the day and are hoping for a pat on the back or a bonus or something. (Their bonus is not getting exploded. Ours is making middle-aged women cry when we get to a sad bit then being congratulated by them, still weeping, in the bar afterwards. Sort of on a par with bomb-disposal, importance and bonus-wise, really.)
We leave rehearsal feeling at long last ready to do our plays, blow goodbye kisses to our friends Paul and Drew who each week watch us earnestly discussing our characters and rehearsing our plays, who see scenes out of context and never so much as raise their eyebrows at our weirdness, who don’t abuse the CCTV footage of us limbering up, even though Teddy Pip’s buns would probably cause a Youtube sensation. Who let us come and go like we belong, making our strange noises in their place of work, and on occasion getting in their way. Who will still be here for us with beer and obscenely massive burgers and nice non-judgemental smiles if the plays float, fly, or sink up in Edinburgh. It’s a nice feeling. It’s a real feeling, beneath all the pretend stuff of ‘Art’.
Even beneath all the real stuff of it, too.
Sadie’s plays The Bastard Children of Remington Steele & The Secret Wives of Andy Williams are being previewed in a double bill by Old Trunk Theatre Company at The Alex pub, Southend, on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th July. 7:30. Tickets £8.