Friday, 1 April 2011

Chapter Six

[From the diary of Constance Hill]

18 May 2010

I’ve had a strange encounter with a fan. Someone who loves me, loves my work and was sitting outside my house with a video camera.

I’d walked to the café down the end of my street after a night of missing Malcolm terribly.  This was  before I listened to my messages from JohnWood, before I heard about  The National  Theatre  (I am meeting them to read next week – NO AUDITION!), I was unemployed and afraid of looking old – I’d slathered on enough make up for a red carpet interview – felt wildly jealous of Malcolm’s new girlfriend, deeply sorry for myself, and was looking forward to my take-away soya caffeine-free double espresso, when I remembered I hadn’t brought the pen I like to use in this journal, so even before I got to the door I turned around, admittedly rather quickly,  and nearly broke my neck because My Fan was cemented to the spot on the step outside.

I apologised, she apologised and as we spoke I looked into her face and I felt- familiar. She felt familiar. In fact, I thought I knew her.

She did know me. She beamed.

‘Hello Constance Hill! Hello best Elizabeth Bennet, best Hedda Gabler. Best actress in Othello, ever.’

She said this in an odd, slightly presentational tone, but when you’re famous you get used to people sounding body-snatched when they talk.

And my dehydrated ego soaked it up.

She walked with me towards my house and hoisted up a video camera, saying she was filming the neighbourhood, her neighbourhood, because she was moving in next door.

This was a surprise, Adrienne and Warren had said nothing about leaving.

We chatted and she quoted magazine articles about me and I told her I sometimes felt hypocritical, liking fame but hating attention and she seemed to understand and I was thinking ‘Thank you thank you thank you’  for just warming me up out of my deep freeze of self- hate and then she asked me to do Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana so she could film it for her family. The Famous Actress Constance Hill, her neighbour, doing yoga. In the street.

At this point I thought ‘This isn’t normal’ but because by now I felt closer to her than I did – well - certainly to Malcolm, I stood in front of my house listening to her tell me how talented I was, how beautiful I was, how competent I was and I, transported somehow to her reality where I was the centre of the universe and that universe was full of love and affirmation and praise,  I listened, smiled  - and lifted my leg up over my head.

I know that sounds like the strangest moment of my relationship with the woman who later introduced herself as Jennifer McIntyre.

It wasn’t.


20th May 2010

I am in in my kitchen. It is my kitchen now. I can do whatever I want in this kitchen, I can do whatever I want to this kitchen. This freedom is wasted on me, however, as all I want to do in a kitchen is boil the kettle and listen to the radio. A kitchen, to me,  is a giant reverberating teasmade.

I am about to ring John Wood and ask him if my upcoming job with the National Theatre warrants me being re-instated in his books. My palms are wet, I am hyperventilating with nerves.  If I were asking him out on a date I could not be more nervous.

Pray for me.


He said yes. I’m crying. He said Yes and he called the agency a bunch of fuckers, and said ‘You’ve shown them, haven’t you?’ as though he had been as furious and disappointed and let down as I’d felt when he let me go.  As though it hadn’t been his idea.

Until now that had never occurred to me. Or I hadn’t believed it if it had.

And he thanked me for my understanding and my willingness to share my good fortune with him, he apologised for ‘the other fuckers’. Then I remembered.

Con:                But your play –
John:              Never mind.
Con:                I like your play.
John:              Well, some other time.
Con:                No, no. There’s no conflict of interest.  I read your play while we were on a break.
John:              Like Ross and Rachel.
Con:                Who?
John:              Never mind.

I could tell he was moved. I told him he should find a good agent.  I was about to become melodramatic and stopped myself just in time from saying ‘They can be the prop to your heart’.

But I realised when we hung up that’s how I felt.

That’s not a good sign.  

Maybe I should buy a cat.

May 24 2010

WELL. I’ve met with the National.  I stormed out the stage door like a wolf on the fold, John Wood being the fold. I knew I had approximately ten minutes, striding at a brisk clip along the South Bank before I got to the Hungerford Bridge, another three before arriving at the Embankment tube where the signal would cut out.

Con:    (over the sound of breeze off the Thames and chattering spring crowds) What was that all about?
John:   Hello Constance. Thank you for asking, I’m very well.
Con:    Courtesy is for your happy clients. I am not happy.
John:   You sound as though you’re in an oil barrel, can you speak up?
Con:    Understudy! They want me to understudy!

I was negotiating the crowds around the book stalls under Waterloo Bridge.  Someone looked up and nudged his companion, obviously saying ‘Isn’t that Mallory Queen, PI in hysterics?’ I pushed my sunglasses further up my nose and ducked my head into my phone.

Con:    Why didn’t you tell me?
John:   I didn’t know.
Con:    Why didn’t you know??
John:   (sighing) I – I didn’t ask.  I know. I know. ‘Why didn’t I ask.’ Can we argue about this in person?

I stopped to lean against the railing along the embankment. Tide was high and river boats were cruising in the almost-Mediterranean sunshine. I took a deep breath.

Con:    I’m sorry. I suppose I’m feeling - 

I struggled. I felt a new desire, unfamiliar and disorienting. There is something about this year that is forcing me, refining me into honesty. Not that I ever knew I was being dishonest. But I want to live – transparently. I followed the unfamiliar trail and found the words, groping for crumbs in the dark.

Con:    - I feel - embarrassed. I’m embarrassed.

He apologised and asked me to stop in for a cup of tea while he’d call the theatre if I wanted and re-negotiate terms. I said I’d meet him and told him not to call.

On the bridge I stopped to listen to a trio of Chilean buskers playing accordions and plastic tubs, serenading the office workers and tourists gazing up the Thames towards St Paul’s. There was a knot of fear in my chest.

I didn’t want him to call. I didn’t want to complain.

Understudy might be as good as it gets.


MYPC is excited to announce it is in pre-production for a short film and is in the final stages of development for a full-length stage play. In order to focus on these projects, the blog “Stephanie Young: Artistic Director” will appear every fortnight.

We enjoy your company immensely. See you April 15th.

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