“Actinism” was the word in question. My friend, Iain Walter Mcpherson another jobbing actor going through lean times, was eager to use his “Z” on a triple letter score. I had no idea what the word meant never mind how to spell it.
I was pleased to discover from my Penguin Concise that it was spelt with an “S” not a “Z” and enlightened to learn that it is the intrinsic property in solar and nuclear radiation that produces photochemical activity.
I was amazed at my friend’s in-depth knowledge of the world of physics and enquired as to when and where he had come across the word.
“Ach,” his Scot’s lips mumbled, “I was playing Rabbit at the time in an adaptation of AA Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.”
“So,” I acerbically retorted, “You gave your character an Einsteinian-like bent?”
“No,” he replied seriously.
Not catching my creative drift he rambled on, “It was roond abute the late eighties and I had to wear some buck teeth over mi own front teeth and during a matinee performance I lost them.”
By now Iain was beginning to lose me too, as my alcohol-bemused mind could find no connection between the loss of Rabbit’s buck teeth, nuclear physics and solar radiation.
My eyes glanced down the page of the dictionary and I came across the very short definition given for an “actor.” A performer in a play for stage, film or television.
My God, I thought. What cheek!
It’s about time the world was given an explanation of what I and thousands of other jobbing actors are, what it is we do and why we do it.
I must formulate an Einsteinian-like theory.
Iain mumbled on as the last dregs of red wine in his enamel mug sat precariously balanced on his knee. He was completely oblivious to the fact that I had crossed into another dimension and was in a world of my own. We were suddenly two reminiscing monologues performing simultaneously in the same time and space.
My monologue took me back to my early days of training at the Royal Academy. A brilliant improvisation teacher, Mr. Keith Johnston, told us we were actors. “Whatcha mean by that?” piped up an ingratiating American student.
“An actor is someone who uses every part of himself, not just his voice, like a singer. Not just his arms and legs like a dancer. Not just his hands and eyes like a painter or sculptor. He uses his whole-being, he has to feed on every physical and mental attribute that his body can muster.”
Deep words for a bunch of young aspiring thespians to grasp.
We all stood dumbfounded in his class and waited for his next words of wisdom.
“Right,” he said, “I want you to blow up these balloons, and you can start by using your lungs.”
As I was blowing up mine I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he too was inflating a balloon, but before he started he took a syringe filled with some liquid out of his briefcase and injected it into the balloon. “Now we are going to take a trip inside one of the vilest monsters you can possibly imagine and one of you is going to slay it,” he said, holding his limply inflated balloon in his hand.
A ballsy female student, Annastasia Vampkov, from Bulgaria volunteered to make the trip.
Had Ms. Vampkov been born in the eighties she would have been excellent in the role of Lara Doon in the 1999 film of The Tomb Raider. This very attractive sultry looking red head was blindfolded and two male students leapt at the offer to be her guides on the trip.
The rest of us, apart from myself who was given the role of storyteller, were to be the insides of the monster. Following my draconian narration finger and toe-nails became teeth, sweaty bodies
became the tongue, hot garlic smelling breath of two Italian students became the breath of the monster, the inflated balloons, arms, legs, fingers, and torsos became the walls of the stomach and intestines.
The teacher whispered an instruction in my ear. “Now, you’re reaching the vital life- sustaining organ of the monster,” I said quickly modifying my narration to fall in line with Keith’s instruction, “if you reach out you’ll be able to feel it.”
The wet liquid-filled partially inflated balloon held tightly stretched between Mr. Johnson’s hands was placed in easy reach of the terrified Ms Vampkov. “Grasp it with both hands and rip it out”, I intoned in her ear.
She did just that. As the balloon burst covering the unsuspecting lass with water she screamed loudly and suddenly vomited. A perfectly natural reaction I thought for a Bulgarian vampire slayer.
It was at this stage in the formulation of my theory that Iain suddenly burst into an hysterical fit of laughter.
“Ye know were they were? I’d spat them rite out! They were sitting on top of this old grandma’s head in the front row of the audience!” he guffawed as he licked the remaining droplets of red wine he’d spilt off his knee.