Thursday, April 1, 2010

An Empty Bladder

Only the other day I was struggling. I was trying to commit some lines to my memory.

Funny thing, memory, isn’t it? Like the endless ebb and flow of the tide.

My ability to retain my lines was remarkably good. In my youth Chekhov, Oscar Wilde, Noël Coward and even the great Mr Shakespeare used to flow off the page through my crystal-clear blue eyes into my brain with considerable ease. Even after a highly festive night with my fellow Thespians, nursing the worst hangover you can imagine, my retentive aptitude was always in tip-top condition.

Time and tide, coupled with senility, wait for no man. I am now beginning to realise that over sixty years of abuse with the noxious substance stored in my never empty Toddie, has had some detrimental effect on my grey matter.

I have been asked to make a cameo appearance in a forthcoming television mini-series. This in itself will be no great problem for me, as my character is named as “the drunk in the toilet”. What is causing me a great deal of consternation and in-depth soul searching is that the script I’ve been faxed gives my character about thirty lines.

As a man with an inbred knowledge of the art of inebriation, and with a lifetime of experience to draw on in the field of toilets, I am having difficulty convincing myself that any character, in such a state of drunkenness, would be able to deliver a single word, never mind eight sentences.

It is when confronted with a problem like this that all actors say, “Thank God for the director!” It is to this captain of the filmic ship that we all must turn. However, as the director is a new young protégé of Johnnie Woo from Hong Kong, and apparently doesn’t speak a word of English apart from “Laction” and “Clut”, I’m preparing myself for a torrid time. I will have to - as most of us jobbing-actors have to - fall back on my own devices.

An old late friend of mine, the legendary Mr Oliver Reed, would have been perfect for this role. So I shall follow the advice he gave to me almost thirty years ago when he was still in his prime. It was the early eighties and Oliver was filming in Johannesburg. I was playing a young sergeant who was assisting Mr Reed’s villainous character whip some frail and tender virgins. It was a period piece and we were all respectably clad. I don’t want to give the impression that Mr Reed and I were engaged in anything pornographic.

Mr Reed had taken a shine to me during the course of the day’s shoot, as he had espied my “Toddie finding its way to my lips during those endless hours while we were “hurrying up and waiting”. At wrap he invited me to join him in his trailer and have a glass or two of an exceptionally good single malt whisky. I was then asked if I’d care to join him and three other acquaintances for a meal at his hotel.

We enjoyed a splendid meal accompanied by several bottles of a delightful full-bodied South African red wine. It was my first time in the country, but Oliver had been there many times before, and was in the position to recommend some excellent Cabernet Sauvignons.

It was well past the bewitching hour when the hotel staff suggested that we leave the hotel lobby – the bar had already closed - and adjourn to Oliver’s room. My memory of this stage of the evening is now a trifle hazy. In fact it was extremely hazy the following morning. But I do recall that at about 4am the conversation was centred around some of the most diabolical scripts we as actors had had to deal with, and I was asking Oliver for his advice.

It also transpired that Oliver had surreptitiously made an assignation with a young female during our evening meal. This nocturnal meeting was to occur in her room, which was adjacent to his.

At this point my memory limps towards total amnesia.

For some forgotten reason Mr Reed was standing naked on a small ledge that connected his balcony to the young lady’s next door. We were on the fifteenth floor and the ledge was approximately one foot wide.

With his hands placed delicately on the wall behind him, he urinated whilst his voice boomed into the night, “My dear boy,” he roared, “just hit your mark. Say your line. Don’t fall over and always empty your bladder!”

What the exact question was that I asked of him to prompt this reply now escapes me but it did, and still does, seem to be excellent advice. I shall take full cognisance of it when I attempt to converse with Mr Jackie Loo Wong tomorrow on the set.

I’m sure I will be able to convince him that I can improvise my eight sentences into a couple of monosyllabic meaningful grunts and groans, and I most certainly will hit my mark and empty my bladder!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HAHAHA this is definately one of my favorites!