Here is a diary entry of mine from the year 2000. One day from august each day this week.
Thursday – Hamlet
I need more sleep. Even with caffeine I’m shaking and my mind keeps slipping away. I’m in work early, 7am, to try and deal with my workload and that I have to leave early to go to the play and I’m going to have to take a 2 hour lunch break to go and meet Ayckbourn and obviously perhaps Spacey. Thinking about it I realise that I haven’t told anyone about him possibly turning up. I’ve managed to steal my mothers ticket because she’s not going to be able to make it anyway. The one I gave away to him was mine. I realised as I was doing it that perhaps there would be a bizarre situation where I would have invited a celebrity to a venue only to be not able to make it myself. It would have been quite funny to have him just standing there trying to explain to Susan that he had been invited by this guy called Alex who had said it would be okay. As I was thinking about it I obviously remembered that it wasn’t going to be terribly likely that he would show up for these same reasons. I of course might have been planning some kind of assignation attempt somewhere in the bowels of the National Theatre. Of course being the serious kind of actor that he is, this might very well have been exactly the kind of thing that would have appealed to his thespian sensibilities.
More sleep, more sleep, more sleep. At around 10am I spill coffee over my shirt. The right hand cuff of this white shirt is now brown.
I leave the office at 11. Remembering only moments before to inform my team that I’ll be gone. Of course this provokes serious debate of how I should be contacted in case of any problems. I tell them I’ll be available on my mobile, and turn it off as I slip it into my jacket.
I walk across London Bridge and the sun is shining. Seriously good weather, feeling terrible really but somehow the sun manages to lift me. As I get to the south bank the clouds come from nowhere. Literally like somebody has just turned on the washing machine we call the sky and the washing liquid is being squirted in from some unknown source. Milky billows quickly turn gray, and I’m watching this thing totally amazed by what’s going on. And then it rains. Within two minutes there is actually an inch of water covering the ground. I’ve found shelter, but it’s still raining. And I’m going to be late. I’m five minutes run away from the National and I know I’ll be so soaked. But I have to get there, too much rests on it, and the people I’m meeting are already inside the building. So they won’t be cowering somewhere like I am. So I go…
Totally soaking, nobody is in the foyer. Run to the washroom. Trying to find a hand-dryer to squeeze myself into. I know it’s going to be cramped but considering the circumstances I know I’ll manage it. The first thing that I notice when I get into the toilets is that there is no nozzle on the dryers. It’s one of those with the kind of chamber for your hands to go in. I take my jacket off which is certainly the wettest part of my attire and try and get as much of it in as possible. It’s only 11:30 am the theatre isn’t that crowded, and I’m thinking I can probably get away with the trousers. So I take my jacket out and put it on because there is nowhere else for it to go, and I take my trousers off. They are absolutely soaked, the parts that were closest to the ground look black and considering this is my gray suit that is quite an achievement. So standing there in my boxer shorts and a suit jacket. Water running down my face because no matter how I try I can’t get my hair dry and somebody walks in, and he just stands there staring at me. I realise about 20 seconds too late that now I’m staring at him staring at me. I’ve got to say something to break the deadlock but what? And then he speaks, he’s hardly able to contain himself as he does it, “Did you, have an accident?”
“Er, no, it was raining.”
“Really!” and he laughs, he’s laughing at me, and he turns around and walks out. Not even hesitating to sample any of the many magnificent facilities of the rest-room. My trousers are getting better, I’ve been turning them constantly the whole time and they are still wet, but they are much better. I put them on, relishing the warm feeling that I get.
Back in the foyer everyone I speak to starts their conversation with “So is it raining?” I for some reason start saying “You should have seen the other guy” and they back off a little.
Behind certain parts of the theatre there are offices. In between all the dead space are all these strangely shaped rooms. Just regular offices for people with regular jobs making sure the money comes in regularly or at least often enough. We’re taken through the winding corridors into this room conference room we’re told to keep quiet not for rehearsals or anything of that kind but just because of these office types are trying to concentrate. “We don’t want all the bean counters knocking one of their hill of beans over.” Another person who mixes their metaphors. “Some of your group,” he says, “are already here.”
It’s Spacey and his entourage. Or rather him and two others. But they are sitting at the back and keeping quiet. He nods over at me but says nothing. He has obviously employed this technique to make it so that people don’t approach him and for the most part it seems to work. The room isn’t too large, around the size of a classroom, with one large conference table in the middle. We sit. I sit right by one of the side walls of the room. The room and the table in it are rectangular so Spacey is at the short side furthest from the door, Ayckbourn will be sitting directly opposite him at the other short side, right by the door. And I am sitting between them in the middle or rather between them on the side as the table is in the middle.
The Questions are strange and flabby. Somebody actually asks him where he gets his ideas from! But he’s obviously used to this kind of thing and he tires to avoid actually waiting long enough for a question to be asked between his sentences. He does say some very interesting things which I will condense for you here.
1. It takes him only 8 to 10 days to write the actual script. In reality he says the creative process takes him around 9 months. He starts out by deciding what the “situation” is, he then decides how technically to deal with the situation and then he creates the characters. He lives with the characters and goes for long walks. He talks out loud the several different parts walking along the hills in Scarborough.
2. He said as a warning to young authors, never write the dialogue until the last moment.
3. He said the smiley symbols in e-mails were a way of people signifying that they weren’t sure that their jokes were actually funny.
4. He said “Although I am best known for my technical achievements in theatre, I always feel that there is a perfectly good thematic reason for what I am doing.”
So as the talk wraps up, we are informed by the guy who walked us in that the meeting room is booked back to back with our meeting and so we will have to leave quickly. In fact I think it is so that Spacey can have some time to himself with Ayckbourn. We all leave, and I have to get back to work. I’m thinking about how annoying it is to have to walk all the way back to work when half a day later I’ll be coming back when I remember I’m going to be at the Globe tonight. Not too far to walk. By the time I’m thinking about this I’m out of the building and on my way back to the office. Outside I see the painting, it’s covered in water. The plastic cover barely protecting it from the almost inch of rain that’s sitting on top. I’m almost running. I’m late for a meeting.
The afternoon passes in a hectic daze. No recourse but to try and ignore whatever else is going on in my life. I leave. I’m supposed to be meeting Susan for dinner, and she’s going to be brining along a friend who writes for TV and films. I figure it’ll be interesting. So I’m in a rush. I arrive and remember that there are two restaurants, both have table service but one is more serious than the other. There is a queue to even look at the cheaper restaurant so I scale the two flights of stairs required and peek into the fancy place. Somebody calls to me across the room, and it takes me a few moments to realise that I it might not be Susan whose doing the calling. It turns out that it’s my boss. By a strange chance he too has selected tonight to be watching Hamlet. I amble over to him, make my excuses and dash off. I totally fail to meet up with Susan before the performance.
Hamlet is highly entertaining. Certainly worth it. I have problems recognizing the lead. He seems very familiar, and is very good. Suddenly I realise what it is. Last year the Globe put on a performance of Anthony and Cleopatra but put it on the way that Shakespeare would have, with an all male cast. And the man playing Hamlet is the man who played Cleopatra last year. He is actually the artistic director of the Globe it turns out. This is very good, but there are certain flairs of things that he does which I’m not overly keen on. For example, at the end of the performance, for the certain call all of the actors marched out to a drum beat all carrying little poles which had sculls stuck on the top of them and all kinds of other associated madness. That kind of thing is interesting but in reality not terribly practical. How are people supposed to clap when you have a drum beat doing something else. They aren’t ever on the stage without the drum, so it doesn’t make sense.
Afterwards I loose my mother as she runs off to try and catch her last train. It means that it’s even later by the time that I get home. As I’m sure your aware Hamlet isn’t short and I make it back to the house by 11:30pm. Peter has come over to visit my parents and although they have gone to bed, he’s stayed up waiting for me. This isn’t particularly useful as I’m totally exhausted and know that I need to be awake again in 6 and half hours. I’m talking to him, and I can’t help thinking as each second disappears that I could be asleep right now. That each second now is a second less I have before morning. I get to bed at 12:20, asleep by half past.