Monday, 22 April 2013

A week of Bed Rest

Genevieve's latest blog, returning to London for a week's r and r before heading to  Theatre Clwyd in Wales. 

After a full week in Dublin, we finally get to drop our props, discard our scripts and come home.

London has never before been so enticing nor welcoming - the jam-packed underground, the high-octane pace of the nine-to-five commuters, the teenagers loitering, the drunks carousing, the tired mothers pushing their prams wearily calling along the other three or four kids in tow and amidst all this bustle I am grinning zanily because I am finally back at the place I have called home for the past five years. People take no notice of me, because that is a Londoner's trademark - exchange eye contact with no one.

The thick curd of makeup finally removed and my face is relishing the bracing cold wind as winter shows no sign of abating. My suitcase is unpacked and I have resisted the temptation of burning every item that I have spent the last seven weeks wearing. The boyfriend, far more domesticated than me, has put it all in the wash. I am adorned in my favourite purple onesie, striped hat, spreadeagled on the sofa with the cat on my lap.

"Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven"  William Wordsworth

Now don't get me wrong, I love my work. You only have to digest the last four blogs to get that message loud and clear. But - a week of sleep. A whole week of being able to drop my head onto the pillow and waking up at a normal hour without adrenaline coursing through my veins, the shaky hands, the constant replays of each night's performances drumming through my brain at an alarming pace. Despite the show becoming almost routine, the ritual of getting to sleep each night has been almost as arduous and exhausting as the performance itself. You shouldn't have to try hard to fall asleep when you're tired.

A week of normal meals. A cooked meal. Using an oven or a hob. A knife and a chopping board. A pan or good heavens - a wok! Going into the local supermarket was truly like walking into Selfridges with an ex boyfriend's credit card. Or opening presents on Christmas Day. A most bewildering comparison - for I have not been trundling through the Sahara or walking the North Pole. Only eating ready cooked meals and sandwiches for the past seven weeks.

After four days, my boyfriend Alex has finally coerced me out of the house. It is 3 o'clock in the afternoon and I have just eaten my breakfast. We jump onto the bus and slip into Shoreditch, delightfully empty of those pretentious toffs that normally frequent it. We push into a pub and order Coronas. The barman takes my order without question - without asking me to repeat it (for us English sound so foreign to the Irish...or just me) or informing me which poet, author, playwright, famous person used to frequent the place. I need a break from the Irish jollity. Two Coronas, straight up, cash in hand. Job done.

An hour or so later, I'm blessed when two of my girlfriends turn up to catch up on the news. It's wonderful to see them - everything familiar draws me like a moth to a flame and I stare rapt at the same two friends - the duffel coat my friend always wears with the scruffy boots, the red lipstick and smart work clothes of my other friend. They excitedly ask me about the play and I cast their questions off wanting to know more about the latest gossip: who has kissed who, how our team is playing (we all play rugby), is everybody happy. Has everyone missed me? Typical attention seeker.

Then two or three Coronas later, I suddenly find myself lost. Not drunk. Lost. Everything is exactly the same as I left it. And whilst I am still savouring it like all those old creature comforts, it suddenly finds me feeling unsettled - like it doesn't make a difference whether I'm here nor there. Life has gone on.

I had a long conversation with Alex about this bout of insecurity on the way back. I felt really disrespectful - unappreciative, because I was so grateful and happy that my friends had come to join us and yet feeling this slight sense of resentment that all these things had happened without me being there. I felt displaced. Like I wasn't a part of it anymore. I needed to be on stage, doing my job and cajoling the audience into the story, making them love or hate my character. I wasn't needed in London.

He said some good things - not the things I wanted to hear, but the things that would make me think more about what all these feelings of insecurity really meant. One of the reasons why I love him.

And I realise I am incredibly lucky. You sort of always know this - happy family, great friends, good job, have money etc etc - but it gets thrown around like a cliche - it sort of floats beneath the surface of everyday life like a sturdy round comfortable cushion on your backside. We all undervalue it and we all wish we didn't - because it's wrong.

I work in an industry where you are expected to be able to drop everything you are doing at any given time. Us actors seem to spend our lives waiting for this. New parts to play, new experiences - the world is constantly revolving and you with it. And I embrace these changes - they're hard sometimes and I can be homesick. They're hard sometimes and I can feel incredibly low about myself - what am I doing here, why did I think I could be an actress? But the more corners and bends in our lives - the better people we are for it, challenging ourselves and adjusting. I become a better actress too. And at the end of all that acting ruckus, wherever we might be, I get to go home and devour this sense of the familiar. Savour London. Cherish friends and family. And whenever I go away again, I go with their best wishes. I can't berate them for continuing to live in my absence.

A week of bedrest has done me good. I've slept well, ate well, seen my friends, the boyfriend and am ready to face the play with a new sense of vigour. And I have found a new sense of peace - everything I have in my life will be here, not necessarily waiting for me, but even better - welcoming me, when I come back. And in the meantime - I will live, live, live life to the full and relish every wonderful sensation that comes with doing the job I love. Even if our next tour stop is the darkest depths of Wales.

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