Wednesday, 31 May 2017

I'm a-living in a box, I'm a-living in a cardboard box

Hannah pointed something out to me yesterday which made me feel sad and angry in equal measure. Underneath an awning, just up from our rehearsal room, a man lives in a cardboard box. At first glance you'd think his house was just a heap of rubbish, waiting for a bin man, but on closer inspection you realise that it's actually quite a well-made den. I saw him, at the end of last week, fiddling with some tarpaulin and assumed that he was some sort of stage manager creating a prop for one of the many theatre companies who rehearse in the area. He didn't look homeless. But what does homeless actually look like these days? He was actually rather smartly-dressed.

It turns out he has a job. He changes into decent clothes to go into work. He probably has gym membership and showers there every morning. The people he works with probably have no idea that he lives in a cardboard box. And he's not the only one. This is a fairly regular sight in London these days. I hear these kind of stories all the time. Wages are plummeting and because Theresa May and her ghastly right-wing cronies refuse to fund new housing, or provide council properties, rents are getting higher and higher. And because most of the baby boomers have this appalling "we're alright, Jack" attitude about the fact that they all got to buy their council houses, and, as a result can't see beyond their leathery, orange-tanned noses to notice the pain their children and grandchildren are in, the underclass in the UK continues to grow.

...And there but for the grace of god go we all. Nathan and I can barely afford the rent we pay, and it's really cheap by London standards. If we lose our present property, we will have to move out of London. And then what?

What's brewing is major, and I mean major civil disobedience. Mark my words; there will be large-scale riots in the UK within five years. If the government won't listen to anything else, let them feel the bullets flying over the ballot box.

Imagine how vulnerable it must feel to live in a box? Imagine going to sleep at night, wondering if drunks will kick your house down for a laugh, or a car will do some dodgy manoeuvre and back into you? It is an awful, awful thing.

Speaking of awful things: a show is rehearsing at the moment in the same space as us which has child actors in it. They're a rare breed, child actors. They've often got CVs which their adult peers would die for. They also tend to have rather ghastly mothers. The mothers came to pick up their kids yesterday and sat, waiting in the cafe, swapping anecdotes about Henry and Clara and myriad other middle class names. The conversations focussed on work their children had done at top London venues. They were pretending to be pleased for each other, but you could tell there was some serious oneupmanship going on which was leading to bristling resentment. These were the original pushy ballet mums. They were, at once, showing off and feeling deeply intimidated to have met their match. It was uncomfortable to watch two people living their lives so vicariously through their children.

After rehearsals, I went to meet a young actor called Rob Peacock who is singing my song Brass in the Stiles and Drewe Best Song competition. I thought it would be good to introduce myself and put the piece in context for him. Brass is one of those songs which, if you've got the pipes to sing it, can be beautiful and impressive. With some careful acting choices, however, it has the potential to be absolutely devastating. It is, after all, about a First World War soldier who is so distressed he doesn't even know whether he's alive or dead! At the same time it's a song of hope and hiraeth.

Rob is a truly wonderful singer. Great intonation, and, crucially, he has the top pipes to smash the end section of the song. I busked the piano part, apologising profusely for being so cack-handed, and we worked a little on the acting side of the piece. Adding colours. Working our way through the complex and conflicting thoughts which dart through the mind of Alf, the character who sings it. I was very pleased with the way that he responded. He's going to do me proud.

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