Monday, 3 June 2013

Reality Check - When the bubble bursts

I had lunch with one of my “normal” friends the other day, you tknow those 9-5 people who have a 2 day weekend, have managed to achieve house ownership and don’t count out their pennies for a box of teabags.  One of the perks of “resting” at the moment is that I have lots of free time to see these wonderful people who often disappear from my life when I’m embroiled in an acting contract.  We even got to meet on a Saturday afternoon, when my body clock suggests I should be on a train heading to a vocal warm-up but instead I was in my home town, having a normal life with normal friends and having a right ol’ laff!  Bliss.
It is not often I’m able to advise my friends on work-related issues because our working worlds are so different – my knowledge of Anthony Van Laast’s choreography for some reason doesn’t lend itself to the corporate ladder.  But on this occasion my friend was having a tough time adjusting to being back home after a short contract abroad.  The phrases about her “new colleagues soon becoming like family” and being in “her own little world” rang very true and my actress-self recognised those feelings of dislocation when you suddenly find yourself landed back into reality after a trip away.
When actors are doing a job, whether in town or on tour, you do create a world for yourselves.  Your dressing-room buddies very swiftly become best-mates and the routine becomes your reality.  You become embroiled in the day-to-day dramas and your outside world can get forgotten.  This is even more the case when you are on tour; being away from normality forces you to make a ‘new normal’ for yourself, re-creating friends and family from your new cast mates.  Everything is heightened, from emotions to relationships, and you surround yourself with this new normal as a way of dealing with being away from home.  I wrote a blog last year about relationships and affairs on tour inspired by intense circumstances that can make them come about.
It doesn’t affect everyone but it can so easily happen.  The phrases “what goes on tour stays on tour” and “the tour bubble” came about because you really are in a bubble; a pretty, colourful membrane surrounding your reality, floating around without responsibility or worries that once it’s popped has gone forever.

A contract is a really special time, in part because of this bubble and because it is a rest away from being a real actor i.e. unemployed and anxiously waiting for something, anything.  Although my friend hasn’t come home to unemployment, her bubble has burst and she is trying to re-assemble her old reality whilst missing that protective bubble of care-free fun.  It is confusing, un-settling and makes you prone to rose-tinted glasses nostalgia.  The same transition happens when it's the other way round.  In acting your world can change in an instant - a friend this week got cast in a Bill Kenwright musical (cue groans of recognition from theatre folk) and within 3 days he had to start the new job.  Commitments re-arranged, life packed up and thrust into a new existence.
It is weird when your bubble bursts – you land back into the world you left and everyone else has been carrying on without you.  They don’t fully comprehend those “you had to be there” moments because the experience didn’t happen to them.  Is it possible to fit back in?  Well of course so, you may not be exactly the same person you were when you left but no-one changes that much.   There is a reason why people cannot live in bubbles all of the time – just look at Glinda in Wicked!  

An uber-talented West End leading man once said to me as I bemoaned not being able to live in New York after coming back from an exhilarating trip “but the reality is you couldn’t live in the shiny bit of Manhattan and you’d end up on the outskirts still having to pay your water bill.”  The fact that he was telling me whilst dressed in the famous long coat and hat of Javert and I was the 23 year old starry-eyed street urchin somehow made this life reality more poignant in our make believe world.  He had lived it and done it and despite still wearing the hat and coat at night he was aware of the joys of a real life during the day.  He knew that bubbles are transparent and that you can always see the outside world from within them.  I’ll never forget that lesson.
Remember how much you loved bubbles as a kid?  How magic was it that they just appeared as you shouted “again, again” to an adult slowing going purple from the constant puffing! A life without bubbles is bland and boring and we need to enjoy those colourful orbs when they choose to decorate our skies.  Their ability to pop at any moment enhances their beauty because we look forward to their return.  If we had them all the time they would become mundane and we’d be coughing up soapy water.

OK, enough of the drawn out metaphors, you get my point!  Enjoy the great touring experiences or breaks away from your day to day life and accept the few weeks discomfort when you try to fit back in.  Because you have to come back, otherwise you’ll just be a person in a frilly frock singing top C’s floating around in a bubble and that can be quite a lonely experience if you’re stuck up there forever.


  1. Very insightful and amusing. Always a joy to read your blog. Prebb. xx

  2. Lovely and absorbing piece. I do enjoy your blogs!!!