Wow, the audience loved me tonight. Felt the adoration coming off them in waves. How many curtain calls was it? … Six, plus two solos, just for little me. Standing out there, literally centre stage, drinking in the atmosphere – amazing. Looking out at all those people. Was it a full house? Pretty much. Just think – it was me who made them cry, laugh, gasp with shock. Held them in the palm of my hand from beginning to end.
Yes … my stage presence is that good. Me? Boasting? Not much. You don't survive in this business without that magnetism. Especially on the stage – you're not playing to a camera six feet away. The audience have got to love you. Or hate you … Tonight's applause went on forever, didn't it? That in itself is high praise. Clapping hurts. It doesn't take long for your hands and forearms to ache like fuck. Yet they kept on, curtain call after curtain call, still finding that little extra when it was me taking my bow.
We were the ones to finish it. The actors. Not the audience. Leave them wanting more, that's the idea. Or give them the impression we were overwhelmed by their response. Not far off the mark – tonight was the best house of the run to date. Ovations like that are food for the soul, or restoratives for injured artistic pride … My ears are still ringing from the finger whistles, and shouting. Some of the comments! They almost made me blush, or they would've done if this old stager hadn't heard them umpteen times before. You might have thought it was a drag queen onstage this evening, not a respected actor in a touring version of a successful West End play.
It upsets some of the cast. Dunno whether it's the innuendo, or the fact it's not directed at them, but my fellow thesps are jealous. That's all it is. They dress it up in complaints and pseudo-management talk, still it's there for anyone to see. Those comments are mine, for me to accept in the spirit that they're offered. They're my fans. Me as gay icon. Weird, once upon a time, being a standout gay man in a profession full of queers. Hnh … The envy. You can see it all over their faces. What would they give to have a fan base like mine? At this very moment, all my fellow actors'll be in a huddle in one of the other dressing rooms, whining, moaning. Bitching.
And? Who got the lead role? Me. They could've all auditioned for it, every one of them. God knows, it was hard enough work to get it. Bloody director who thought he was auditioning people for a Hollywood movie. Right up his own arse, he was. Arrogant sod. Would've told my agent what she could do with Mr Director's offer, but … Unfortunately, wasn't any other work on the horizon, was there? Not a sniff. Don't mind 'resting' for a while, but this year's been a lean one. Having fans doesn't seem to get me work. A couple of voiceovers, and an audio book. That's been it. If it wasn't for this play, it would've been panto for the winter season. Panto! Knowing my luck, it'd have probably been Cinderella, with me as one of the Ugly Sisters.
Who carries this sodding play? Me, again. My name's up in lights for a reason. The rest of the cast are there to support me. They're mostly OK, apart from the old harridan who still thinks she's the leading lady. How did she get that part as my mother? She can't act to save her life. Aeons ago, she must have relied on her looks. Not any more. Dear god, she's hardly an advertisement for plastic surgery, is she? Can't move her lips hardly – to speak or smile. Thin as a rake. All skin and bone. Never see her eating anything. And she needs to find a better hairdresser – one who can dye hair properly. Not giving her the name of mine, though. Ugh … Just think. Be bound to meet her in there one day. Wouldn't hear the end of it.
As for the youngsters … They can't speak properly, any of them. Mumble, mumble, mumble. If they don't have a mic, they're lost. Nearly missed a couple of my entrances because their lines couldn't be heard in the wings. Don't theatre schools teach voice projection these days? The profession's going to the dogs. None of them have any love for the theatre. It's just a staging post on the way to a part in a soap. Or some American thing. Heard one of them whining the other day: How am I meant to progress when the performance space changes every week? Fuck me! That's what touring theatre is, love. Adapt, or die. My craft was learnt on the job.
The publicity photo the management chose for the tour, showing me in costume, was a disaster. Bloody photographer did the wrong side. Why did he choose the left? My right profile's so much better – no blemishes, fewer lines. Tried telling him that. Did he listen? Of course not. There was me, trying to be co-operative and helpful, and he took the piss. Where's the airbrushing when you really need it?
Being an actor, my face is everything. Yes, the voice as well, of course, but people must recognise me. Fortunately, my look is quite distinctive – pale blue grey eyes, blonde, wonderful skin tone. Still got the wherewithal to make hearts flutter. Male and female. … In the right light, and properly made up. Hnh … Not sure for how much longer though. One of these days, my true age will show through in all its hideous glory. Lines, creases, discolouration. Sagging. Fuck, how many grey hairs were there today? Too many. Can't help feeling my sell-by date is fast approaching. It's a limited shelf life, actors like me have. You can't have a romantic lead looking as though he's just escaped from a geriatric ward.
If you're a classically-trained actor, often in the public eye, it doesn't matter so much. Sir Whatshisname and Dame Whoeversheis – they're OK. How come they still get given parts? Even have parts written for them? There they are, lauded, feted, still working well past the general retirement age, taking parts away from the likes of me. … Of course, that's not really true. It's too easy to get stuck in one role. Know that now, when it's too late. You do one good job, your agent offers you another, similar role … And so it continues, until you're typecast. No Hollywood films for me to tide me over until something different comes along.
No … it'll be eking out a living doing character work, or bit parts. Trying to forget former glories like tonight. Being perpetually jealous of those coming up behind. Turning sour … Even now my bloody agent can hardly be bothered to return my calls unless it suits her. She's probably infatuated with that new soap sensation from the States. Already he looks as though he's been buffed and polished to within an inch of his life. Can he act? Of course he fucking can't. He's just some pretty boy the camera likes. How many hours a day does he spend online? Simpering, cavorting, producing the mindless drivel he feeds his followers with. And just see how many of his fucking photos are out there. Did a search for him the other day… depressing, completely depressing.
People think that's what acting is all about. No, it bloody isn't. It's not being able to maintain a relationship because you're away most of the time. It's not having any spare money, not knowing where the month after next's fee is coming from. It's knowing that you could disappear from public sight oh so quickly. Let's face it. My fans have been trickling away – most of them date from the time boyfriends were proud to be seen on my arm. We didn't hide. We didn't make excuses. We were setting an example … Apparently. But now? Those still around probably follow me out of habit. My last boyfriend left me when …? Four years ago tomorrow. Now there's a happy thought. …
So here's me now. An ageing, type-cast, washed-up thesp. Lonely, oh so lonely. Yes, it's great there out on the stage, but here? Here in this cramped, dark, dingy dressing room? Barely enough light to get ready by. Never been anywhere close to having my own trailer. What a joke. Trying to remember the last substantial TV role offered me. Last year? No, year before. Had to turn it down. What's the point in being me if my hair's cut and dyed, and my eyes have coloured contacts? Think there was also a requirement for me to put on weight. Excuse me? My fans would've spent most of the programme trying to recognise me. Anyway, me as a villain? Dream on.
Looking back, it wasn't one of my better decisions. Word obviously got round. Another reason why my agent will hardly lift a finger for me. She was speechless. Never seen her so furious. Haven't been offered anything worthwhile since. Hnh … Feeling sorry for myself again. It happens more and more. Nobody comes to visit me backstage. No presents or flowers, no autograph hunters. No 'Can I take a selfie with you'. They all like the stage persona, but nobody has any time for the real me. Insecure, poor conversationalist, short-tempered. Bibulous when it gets really bad …
Suppose this bloody make-up had better come off. There's so much of it nowadays, it could stand on its own. Even act instead of me perhaps? That, and the wig. My bald spot wouldn't enhance the romantic aspects of my role, would it now? Only needed the wig quite recently, since my hair no longer stretched to cover over the gap. Do the rest of the cast know? They probably suspect, the bastards. Giggles, and whispered asides in the wings have been heard. Usually shortly before my entrance. Hnh … Just as well the actor in me rises above that sort of childish, petty behaviour. Surprised nobody's hidden it yet. Or dyed it pink. That wig stays with me, in my luggage, when it's not being worn.
Then it's back to my digs to sleep alone before we move on to the next venue. A poky single bed in a middling B and B. Adequate mostly, but hardly befitting an actor of my experience and reputation. Though why the complaint about the bed? D'you see me fighting off suitors? Of course you bloody don't. That's the whole point. … Is there any whiskey left? Me and the booze have a love hate relationship. There was still most of a bottle left a couple of days ago. Hmm … perhaps best left undrunk? Not sure there'll be much sleep without it though. We'll see.
There was a very nice looking man sitting three rows back, in the middle. He looked familiar somehow. One of my fans? No, too young for that. Wonder if the guy next to him was his boyfriend? In my younger days, he would've been a target. Another scalp … That sounds too predatory. It didn't work like that. Young men were happy to be seen in my company for a time, then they passed on to other things. The partings were perfectly amicable – mostly. … He looked pleasant, involved. Appreciative. He clapped as long as anyone else. Oh well, maybe he'll fuel my nightly wank. Couldn't see that much, but he looked fit enough.
Wait … You nearly forgot, didn't you? It's the drinks party for the end of the run in this misbegotten hole. Oh, joy. But he might be there. Most people will show for a few free drinks. Now there's a happy thought for a change. Right, where's my best cravat? Got to look good. You can't keep me down for long. No, indeed. Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Or something.