Letter from the Understudy
The first thing to say is, I'm sorry. I know it won't be easy for you to believe after recent events, but I deeply regret the mess I've made and the embarrassment I've caused you. I've had time to turn it all over since I've been here – to be honest, there's not much else to do but ruminate once you've wandered around the market and visited the Orang-utan sanctuary - so I'm writing to try and explain.
It's true, Alex and I didn't have the best relationship, but I wasn't the only one in the cast who found him difficult. He's a fine actor, of course, but it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say he also has an ego the size ...view middle of the document...
'Where is your wife?' she asked. There was a blinding shaft of sunlight between us, and the ground was wobbling with the heat. All of a sudden I felt so terribly wretched. The theatre is my wife, I thought, And now I've lost her. And I began to sob. Right there in front of them. Well, they all ran away of course in hysterics and who could blame them.
But this is what I want to explain. The theatre is the only thing I've ever wanted, since I was a child myself - almost before I knew what it meant to be an actor. I don't come from a theatrical family. Mum and Dad didn't take us for a quick burst of Chekhov and a Zeffirelli double-bill; it was Bob's Full House and The Daily Mirror, so they had no idea where I got the notion from. Actually, it started with The Wizard of Oz at primary school, I was a nine year-old Tin Man and I had a costume made out of foil-covered boxes. I can still remember the song:
Just to register emotion
Jealousy – devotion
And really feel the part.
I could stay young and chipper
And I'd lock it with a zipper
If I only had a heart.
Later on I used to sing that song to myself at castings, except it became 'If I only had a part.'
So Mum and Dad helped me through drama school, even though they wanted me to get a nice safe job, something with a pension plan. My younger sister, Dianne, works in risk management and drives a convertible Golf GTI. Mum's always impressed because Dianne buys bottles of balsamic vinegar which are tied with raffia around the neck. Mum had never eaten an olive until Di introduced her to one. All I've managed to introduce her to is a feeling of vague anxiety. As I said, my parents aren't middle-class, they don't understand what we affectionately call 'The Arts'. So my motivation wasn't all self-interest, you see. I owed them. You can't have your parents carrying on the same awkward conversations for years. 'Oh yes, Gavin's still acting…Hm? No, he's done a bit of radio work though. Yes, The Archers. Yes, just the one episode. An assistant vet. He's in a play at the moment. No, we hadn't heard of it either. It's touring. Middlesbrough, we think.' At the very least you need to show them a picture, a press cutting. Something.
But I knew, I knew in my heart, that I didn't lack talent. I just needed the opportunity to prove myself as the Gavin Pollard I could be; not the bit-playing, spear-carrying walk-on, but the scene-stealing, balcony-scaling leading man. The prospect of becoming one of those unemployed older actors terrified me, a lifetime spent creaking about in the shadows, gradually filling up with a sort of Jimmy Porter vitriol, hanging around in WH Smith to skim read copies of The Stage. So I decided I wouldn't, couldn't let it happen.
This has all been my own doing, and I'm not laying blame at your door, but I do wonder, would this have happened if I'd had a chance sooner? Perhaps if you'd put me on for the occasional Wednesday matinee? Lets be...