When a pub landlady has lost her subconscious.
Now I know in lockdown, I should be practising for the show one way or another. As I will soon be panicking once a performance rears its head and I can’t remember a word of it. I will then go into that familiar self-pity wailing, why didn’t I go through it at least once a week? I must admit it truly was a shock to me, once I realised my brain did not have a superpower photographic memory when it came to my own writing. I really believed because I wrote it there would be an imprint on my brain where I could read it off as if I had an internal library to refer to. In fact, it’s easier to remember someone else’s words. I have a familiar process now, I write then when it comes to learning the words, it’s as if someone else has smuggled in to my subconscious and completely rewrote it without any referral to moi. I have found myself analysing recently and reflection seems to be a past time during lockdown and what an incredible eighteen months it has been to reflect upon. It started after approaching Leicester University to support the project Her and The Change in Me. Now imagine if you will me aged 51, grey as you like including a couple of brain cells, presenting clips of Dolly Slatemen and comparing her to the likes of Cat Slater, Bet Lynch and Mildrid from the iconic comedy George and Mildrid seventies sit-com. My audience on this occasion was a room full of academics. It was my intention to persuade them to believe in a concept to gather data around the menopause, with an array of familiar social characters as engagement facilitators. A Doctor, A Judge and a pub landlady called Dolly Slatemen.
After a couple of weeks Leicester University agreed to support the project, it was as if someone finally believed in me and what I do. It’s not that I have never had enough confidence, I guess I never felt worthy. Why do we do that? Maybe its impersonators syndrome, I will have to research that one, but I’ve got enough in my head tonight. Whilst this was going on, I had reactivated my membership with an extra’s agency. Who then asked if I wanted to apply for a role of an old woman for an upcoming ITV programme called ‘A Confession’ The role was for a Mrs Clemence with a couple of lines, she is accommodating the police at her home for surveillance on a suspected murderer? At the time she is being a little nosey and asking what’s going on. I decided I wanted to go for it. The next morning, the youngest who always gets dragged into my adventures (well that’s how I try to sell it) was told to film me, whilst feeding me lines. I left my dressing gown on and gave Mrs Clemence a bit of attitude. (trying to think of ways to stand out) As the youngest was on his way to college, I was also getting attitude. The audition went off, I quickly received an email to say that unfortunately I did not get the role. Maybe Mrs Clemence was too much Bad Girls, however there was more text and it further read would I consider going for another role, just think a rough diamond. The next morning, we were due to travel to France on a romantic trip just me and the husband. I could not tell him of this adventure luring in the background as I felt it would take over and after having such crap year, I didn’t want to risk any interruptions. So, as we left Essex and headed towards Dover in our over packed holiday time machine, the three-day submission deadline was at the forefront of my mind. I would have to wait for the right moment.
Fast forward. It was one hour before the audition was due to be submitted. The previous night we had arrived at our current destination, a Chateau just outside Nimes positioned in the middle of an industrial estate. There really was no mention of this when I booked using my Tesco vouchers. Because it was a Sunday no food was available not even a Kit-Kat, to be honest this was a blessing in disguise as it would have most certainly cost a weekly shop at Tesco’s itself. So, our first romantic meal together of the holiday was in a roadside café. Anyway, I left my make up on as I had plans to wake up in the middle of the night and film my masterpiece under the guise of going to the loo. I gingerly got out of the bed and crept into the bathroom. After a couple of sentences and realising any projection of my voice in this floor to ceiling tiled tomb like room, any attempt of recording sound felt like I was connected to a boom. I then began to think how on earth was I going to explain this one if he did wake up. I decided to go back to bed, after all I could hardly be a rough diamond whispering in the bog. The next morning, the other half made indications that he might try the pool out. I was lying in bed still fully made up. Pretending to read my “France” magazine, whilst eyeing up his every move. He put on his swimming shorts. “Are you coming for a swim”? he asked. “Nah, got a bit of a belly ache.” I replied, the acting had started already. As the door closed, I jumped to attention and quickly carried out a minute audition on my phone. Two days later, in another French bed and breakfast that was more us. You know the type upon opening the door you are miraculously able to get straight into bed. I received the news of my successful audition. Excited was an understatement. However, as I tried to explain the whole thing over a glass of wine, it soon dawned on me I didn’t have a clue what I had just been successful in.
Images of Martin Freeman and Imelda Staunton
The day came and I made my way to the shoot location somewhere in Borehamwood. No one was on set and I began to think was I in the right place? Then the production manager came over smiling, which I must admit is kind of unusual when you are an extra. He gave me a script to look at, encouraging me to read it and look up the story. Although I didn’t have any lines I sensed it was essential to know the situation. I was beginning to feel a little important. Believe me if you ever want to know an extras life, Ricky Gervais does it perfectly in his comedy ‘Extras.’ The manager then told me to go and sit in a caravan and not on the extra’s bus, the little diva in me was gloriously jumping around in my deluded brain, I had arrived. I sat patiently reading the script over and over, but nothing was sinking in. I gathered it was a true murder story but still had no clue who was in it. I was playing Gina Godden in a scene with John Godden and Stephen Fulford. I was then called for costume as I looked around the space filled with rails of clothes and accessories; my eyes were drawn to a cast list on the wall. To see Imelda Staunton smiling down indicated this was a big production. I then noticed Christopher Fulcher as John Godden and then Martin Freeman as Stephen Fulford. My little diva had now suddenly disappeared and was no longer giving it large. Shit, this was amazing and terrifying all in the same moment. I did not show fear or was it excitement to the costume crew, who were now patiently waiting for me to leave. In a trance like state I made my way back to the caravan and adrenalin was on full alert, if I had trouble earlier you can imagine the state of me now. I still could not absorb the script. I decided then and there to just go with it and respond to anything that came my way. After a very short car journey I was guided to a set amongst a real-life estate with terraced houses. Cameras and lights filled the area, Martin Freeman was talking to the director Paul Andrew Williams. I was just trying to concentrate on acting cool, which I must add is something I have never quite pulled off in all my life.
I was directed into a front room and told to sit on the sofa, my eyes darted everywhere absorbing everything. I knew I had to believe this was my home, I was watching my telly and I had picked out this sofa that I sat on every night. The crew gradually came into the area, cameras started to whirl or was it my brain? The strange thing about this moment I suddenly understood what it was to become part of the mise-en-scene, the set. It didn’t matter what I looked like in the conventional sense, I just had to look like I belonged. I heard action and then the room came to life, I was in character. John Godden opened the street door and I could see Stephen Fulford enter the room. The policeman told us the horrific news of the discovery of a young Becky Godden and I cried real tears and found I couldn’t stop….