Actors are used to waiting. Be it waiting to hear back from an audition or a call from your agent, but what we’re less used to is waiting to hear when we can get back to work again.
Forget Boris, I’m expecting to hear about the end of this pandemic via a statement by Lord Lloyd Webber, sung in the sweet tones of Beverley Knight.
As actors, playing the waiting game comes with the territory. In fact, I’ve become pretty fond of the post-audition limbo where I’m found daydreaming of a parallel universe where I nailed the audition and actually get the job. I relish the period of time between the final audition and inevitable rejection. Maybe I’m a sadist addicted to the torture of it all. Or maybe it’s the adrenaline spike that comes from being on the precipice of all your childhood fantasies finally coming true.
The waiting game I’m less fond of, however, is that of a global pandemic.
As we near a year since the beginning of this colossal nightmare, much like after an audition, I’m increasingly finding myself slipping into pre-COVID neurotic actor habits. Refreshing my emails and Tagmin hourly in the hope that by some bizarre miracle my agent will be the first person to announce the end of social distancing. He’ll proclaim by round-robin email that theatres are back open with immediate effect. Forget Boris, I’m expecting to hear about the end of this pandemic via a statement by Lord Lloyd Webber, sung in the sweet tones of Beverley Knight. Frankly, I won’t accept anything less!
Whilst the issue is global, it can feel like this entire pandemic revolves around me. Of course, that’s the egotistical narcissist within me and I’m increasingly aware of how fortunate I am that those around me are safe and well. However, it’s all relative, and despite my privileges, the actor in me feels incredibly bitter and resentful. At the beginning of March 2020, I felt like all my career ducks were finally lining up in a row. But two weeks later, the rug was savagely pulled out from under me. The ducks were now stuffed and on a supermarket shelf – at best! It felt like some cruel trick. At times, forgive me, but I can’t help but feel like this whole pandemic was perfectly timed to rain on my own personal parade.
Like many of my pals, I burst into that first lockdown with a naivety not dissimilar from my first term at drama school. Lay low, stay positive, stay focused and this will all be over soon. I branded anyone that muttered theories of this thing lasting more than six months “a delusional pessimist.” Looking like a budget Joe Wicks I channelled all my anxiety into exercise and got myself into slightly better shape ready for the inevitable return to the musical theatre circuit in the next couple of weeks. But alas, weeks turned into months, my get up and go disappeared, and any motivation was quickly defeated by my all-consuming anxious thoughts. If only someone could have seen me in my peak lockdown one shape as evidence! Lockdown three has not been so kind.
Anxiety and acting have always gone hand in hand for me, helping and hindering each other simultaneously. Unlike my indulgent post-audition fantasy world, it’s the wait between the job offer and the actual gig that causes me night sweats. I once had a six-month gap before starting a show which resulted in a mental break that left me crying on a lilo in sunny Cyprus. I wish I was joking! This pandemic feels like an extended version of that. I didn’t know that anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach could last 10 months but apparently, it can.
This is an anxious time for the entire creative community. Non-actors plead their sympathy for us but I can’t help feel it’s with a tone that reeks of ‘if you wanted furlough you should have followed a real career path.’ So at a time when we can’t mix with our fellow stageys, it can feel like you really did make a bad life choice. Why didn’t I plan for a pandemic when I chose A Level Drama?!
Anxiety is a funny beast. What’s portrayed on the outside as apathy and moodiness, is in truth, disguising the reality of a frantic brainstorm within. When will I ever be able to make money doing what I love again? Should I be living in London if theatre is off the table? Is it even safe to be in a theatre right now? Am I selfish for wanting them to reopen tomorrow? Why don’t I feature in the gazillion online concerts? Has the industry forgotten I exist?
Whilst I don’t claim to be wise, what I do know is that it’s ok to be anxious right now. Forget being competitive, now is not the time to dim anyone’s flame. Spread goodwill to all stagey folk and hold your actor friends tight.
Glenn Adamson is an actor and graduate of LIPA. He is best known for playing Strat in ‘Bat Out of Hell’ in the US tour and upcoming UK Tour. Glenn also played Theo in SellADoor’s ‘American Idiot’, Billy in ‘The Rise & Fall of Little Voice’ and Terry in the UK Tour of ‘Secret Love: The Doris Day Story’.
Main image by Cinoby.