I write from a bus stop somewhere in Birmingham, about to begin my 2.5 hour commute to work today via bus and train, courtesy of the great British driving test, my rants about which are probably best saved for another day (I can drive, for goodness sake!).
However, on the plus side, I am acting again! The drought lasted approximately 7 months, but here I am on the other side. I may have developed a cough in the first week of rehearsals, I may currently have wet hair because it was a choice between looking a state or being horrendously late to what was already a late start, and I may not have had a hot meal in days, but I’m doing it! When people ask me what my job is and I reply ‘actor’ I don’t (currently) feel like I’m lying anymore!
Tonight is opening night (though you will probably be reading this after the fact), an ever so exciting and slightly terrifying prospect. It is the days before a first performance that I find myself wondering what on earth I chose to do this job for; pretty much the only time I get nervous. I want to cry, my heart rate is much higher than is healthy, I panic that I’ve not done enough work and I’m just rubbish. I recognise this about myself now, but it doesn’t change the horrendous feeling of stepping out on stage during a dress run and feeling like you’re not doing the story justice. All of this is heightened this time around by fitting in the ‘survival job’ around rehearsals and my commute, meaning that I feel like I haven’t touched the ground in days.
It is important to remember that we are not brain surgeons- a fact which I often forget when I’m 95% caffeine and 5% stress. Also, I’m in a children’s show, which by it’s nature is light hearted and fun, and my stress head quite literally the antithesis of the energy that I need to bring to the room.
It’s funny, really, how we performers fight so hard for and have so much heartache over getting the chance to do what is in some ways a very unnatural thing; putting yourself in the position of being highly scrutinised and judged by a bunch of strangers. On the other hand, you might say that storytelling is one of the most natural things in the world, after all, we were doing it before we were farming.
I’ll get over my nerves by the second half of the show, after the ‘props faffing’, as I call it, which I find more stressful than I found dance classes as drama school, which says a lot. Then I shall laugh at how terrible I felt after the dress rehearsal, and when the adrenaline hits me after the curtain call, I’ll thank the universe for letting me do this job that I love.
I’d love to hear other actors/ performers thoughts about nerves and how you deal with them. Do you feel similarly on opening night?
N.B The show did go well. I did mess up some props faffing, which was to be expected, but I don’t think the audience noticed, so that’s splendid.