Those of you who've been reading my last few (fake) posts will know that I've been lucky enough to be cast in a stage adaptation of Terry Pratchett's 'Maskerade', a Discworld novel, running this week at Queens' College, Cambridge. Our run ended on Saturday, and the last night's show was fantastic. The audience was laughing right from the get-go, when a large orangutan appeared from the back of the auditorium, scampered down to the stage, and started playing the Overture from 'Phantom of the Opera' on a huge organ.
'Maskerade' has been a load of fun, and a great way for this medic to escape from his depressing overworked life. But comedy theatre is infamous for being much more serious backstage than onstage. I learnt a lot from being in this play, but with the good came the bad, and especially in a stressed, nerve-filled atmosphere like theatre, the ugly side of human nature often rears itself. And this is what I'm going to write about in this post.
The Good: There are very few things in the world that equal the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you're sitting on stage in front of a full audience that has just unexpectedly burst into rip-roaring laughter at a small joke you told, and you're staring into the face of another actor who's trying desperately not to laugh, and you're praying that he doesn't laugh, because if he does you definitely will too.
scenes as seen from the wings by a horrible photographer.
The Bad: The most obvious are, of course, the work-related consequences. I now have a backlog of work worth 2 months, have learnt through necessity how to write convincing 45-minute essays in 20 minutes, and how to read JUST enough to convince your supervisor that you're actually paying attention in lectures. (How, ask you overworked medical students out there? Mostly it involves nodding your head whenever he raises a point, furrowing your brow in a serious and thoughful expression whenever he asks a question (even when you full well know that you don't have a clue what he's babbling about) and having a genius in your supervision group whom you know will eventually answer the question. --Editor) Perhaps worse is the fact that I haven't updated my blog as often as I should (bad Angry Medic! Bad! --Ed) and the only reason I still have any readers left is because Dr Crippen has been so generous with his linking of my blog. (See my next post for more details.) I wonder where the man gets his energy from.
Mr Pounder (in the floor) away as his hanged body swings above him.
The Ugly: And now for the stuff I'll take flak for. I'm going to put it up anyways, because I want people to know about it. Drama in Cambridge depends very much on who you know; politics and cronyism are rife, with directors casting the same lead actors repeatedly. This, among other reasons, has resulted in Cambridge actors gaining a reputation for being arrogant and having a holier-than-thou attitude. Maybe it's because Cambridge is known for producing phenomenally famous actors, and maybe it's because of a few famous actors who are more notorious for their tempers than their productions, but I don't believe it's common to all actors here; I've met many nice ones.
But some of them deserve their reputation for being arseplugs.
Last year when I worked with the cast for Much Ado About Nothing, some members of the cast made me feel like an outsider. They were friendly enough superficially, but (despite the overwhelming evidence --Ed) I am no idiot. Some of them plain didn't like me. Maybe they considered me socially inept, maybe they didn't consider me a proper actor due to my being a medic and playing a bit role, maybe they thought my accent was funny, but it was apparent. When they hung out between rehearsals, cliques would form, and I'd be left out. These people walked around with 'WIDE LOAD' warnings stuck on their butts to prevent people smashing into their huge egos. Luckily for me though, with the good came the bad, and the director and some other cast members treated me very well and made the experience tolerable.
In comparison with Much Ado, the cast for Maskerade were a host of angels. They were very friendly, and some of them had absolutely stellar comic talent. The casting was very well done, and the show was a blast to do. But for some reason, despite being very nice people, a few of them still didn't like me.
We had a great director for the play, an old hand at theatre who had provided the DVD commentary for popular sci-fi comedy show Red Dwarf VI and had recently been Scientist of the Week on Sky One's Brainiac. His directing was superb, but halfway through the play he started becoming irritated with me and didn't treat me as nicely anymore. The same happened with another actor whom I had to work with closely. Why this happened, I have no clue. You'd expect me to lash out at the people, but I can't because they were really nice people and very talented actors from whom I learnt a lot and to whom I still look up to. And it wasn't like I behaved like an arse (I only do that on this blog, see --Ed) or slept with their wives or insulted them or anything. In fact, I was very nice to them, especially after I realised they didn't like me. I tried being polite, laughing at their jokes, making conversation for conversation's sake; in short, I arse-licked, despite knowing that HospitalPhoenix might not agree. But I still kept getting snapped at, even when trying to be helpful. The only explanation I can come up with is that these people all knew one another from previous work, and I guess even great actors aren't immune to being irritated by a newcomer to their acting clique.
I'm thinking of e-mailing them and very politely asking them why I irritated them. Working on Maskerade has awakened me to the realisation that I really like comedy theatre, and I can only benefit from learning from my betters.
I guess you just can't please everybody.