Sunday 7 October 2012

Read all about it! - What goes on tour stays on tour

Oh dear Gareth!  It must be a slow news day, despite more pressing headlines such as the murder charges against Mark Bridger the celeb gossip section exploded with another alleged affair between the married Gareth Gates and an on-stage co-star.

I say “another” because he was caught out in his last touring musical, Les Miserables, and now his wife seemingly has to endure more headlines about his alleged musical theatre infidelities.  Post Levenson, we are all aware of the underhand tactics certain parts of the press will take to find (or create) a scoop and having personally witnessed such vile antics I am not quick to believe anything I read. Despite the likelihood that these rumours and photos are creating something out of nothing, it got me thinking about my experiences of the musical theatre tour bubble and the effect it can have on your “normal” life.

Being on tour as an actor is not unlike a 12 month work conference at an out-of-town Holiday Inn or the Christmas party in the office world; all routine situations, morals and sense become skewed.  Behaviour or feelings that you wouldn’t even register in your normal life become available and accepted in what can only be described as a bubble.  It is only you and your cast mates with the routine of daily gym visits, trips to the local Nandos and in-jokes.  The bubble grows over a contract and suddenly bursts on the last performance and you happily return to your normal life, as I hope Mr Gates can do if it is intact.
Bubbles are beautiful but they always burst

Over my 11 years as a professional actress I have played all the roles in this set-up.  I have been the partner left at home trying to understand the closeness between virtual strangers with jealous inclinations threatening a relationship and more recently, I have been the partner away working.  It is probably because I have learnt from what I have witnessed or experienced in the past that I did everything in my power to keep my relationship my priority this time.  Not wanting my other half to know what it feels like to wait by a phone when the curtain has gone down and to know that I would always choose coming home over Saturday night bevvies.  The one thing that flummoxed me in today’s article was the fact that the Gates’ show was playing Wimbledon and he was seen heading to the digs of his co-star instead of travelling the few miles home to West London.  If they were in a far flung city it is easier to comprehend socialising after a show but to me when you are performing in a venue near home it is a no-brainer; surely you rush back to your wife and child?

I have also seen the damage resulting from a young cast member basking in the light of the affections of a leading man.  It is more intoxicating than Doctor Footlights himself, the feeling of being chosen, special and by their side.  You start to live your on-stage romance for real with all the glamour and enticing angst that it entails and once you add a hint of celebrity to the mix then it becomes a lethal cocktail.

What is it that makes actors fall for each other?  Why should kissing someone on-stage every night suddenly become an off-stage activity lit only by the flashing call from your spouse on a mobile phone?  You spend 3 years at drama school learning “how to act,” so why are some people unable to keep their emotions separate from the acting?  Just because your character falls in love with your co-star doesn’t mean you, the actor, also has to; kissing someone for a living shouldn’t distort reality.  Most actors acknowledge it is actually quite a disconcerting and embarrassing thing to do, especially TV actors who are more worried about hitting marks and the technicalities of such scenes.
It is possible to have a dramatic kiss without the drama

And yet it is such a common story; two leading actors falling in love.  Obviously sometimes in-cast relationships can work but both parties being previously unattached always helps; certain people still hate Angelina for ‘stealing’ Brad from Jennifer but we celebrate the union of Greg Wise and Emma Thompson because as far as we know, no-one’s feelings were hurt.  I spent a whole pantomime season spouting my wisdom about touring bubbles to my leading man turn partner and have thankfully been proved wrong, plus the fact that we have been married on stage over 100 times also lets him off the hook for a bit!

But when the two characters are not totally single it can be awful, even for the rest of the people in the tour bubble.  You have to see the visiting spouse whilst knowing it is not your place to reveal the certain events you were privy to in a recent Wetherspoons, everybody is put in an awkward position. 

For the majority of “jobbing actors” such mistakes are made out of the media glare but that is sadly not the case for somebody with a celebrity status.  The theatre world is a small one; everybody quickly learns of your business without the aid of The Daily Mail and sadly the characters in both the latest scandal and the Les Miserables rumours surrounding Gates are known either by me or by many of my colleagues.  Some may be outraged and protective over the allegations others may be nodding knowingly, either way it leaves a horrid taste in your mouth.

Whether the speculation is true or not, it can’t have been nice reading for Mrs Gates or a proud moment for the actresses’ parents.  The press seems to forget that real life relationships are not as easily resolved as the ones we portray on stage. 

See for yourself;

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