Friday, 29 June 2012

Don't tell me you're sorry

There are lots of things I don't want to hear. I don't want to hear that a good friend can't attend a big social occasion I thought we were going to enjoy together. I don't want to hear that I didn't get a job (acting) that I thought I was perfect for. I don't want to hear that a couple I thought would be together forever have split up.

I don't want to hear it but in the past week I have. Then yesterday one of the worst - "oh! I'm sorry" accompanied by an earnest pitying look.

All I'd done to provoke this was to respond to a query about whether I was using Jemima because of some leg injury by saying matter-of-factly "No, I have multiple sclerosis."

I know the sorry/pity was probably well meant. The fact that it came from a fellow actor made it worse. It contained a judgement. Especially when accompanied by a quiet shock "I didn't know, you looked so well". What did she mean I 'looked' so well? I still do. I look fabulous (no comment, please).

Perhaps I should print out this Guardian article: and give it to anyone tempted to fall into this pity trap.

If I'd said I'd had some dire accident or my flat had burned to the ground then perhaps I wouldn't mind someone saying 'I'm sorry'. I remember being slightly surprised when I told a friend that my mum had died that she didn't say anything at all about it let alone the almost obligatory 'I'm sorry'.

Yes, I have MS. No, I'm not happy about it. Yes, we can talk about it and I'll try to answer any questions you may have. No, I can't do some of the things I used to do. Yes, I'm still working so do please give me a job. No, I don't need pity. As newly diagnosed Jack Osborne has said: 'don't tell me what I can or cannot do'. That includes the unsaid as well as the said. I will hear you.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

It's no joke

For a really long time I have tended to identify myself by my job - I'm an actor. I usually say 'actor' rather than 'actress' possibly wary of dodgy jokes about the actress and the bishop or because I'm from a medical family and all too aware that you don't say 'doctress' - my mum was a doctor.

After 'are you famous?' (to which I'd like to respond 'do you know me because if you don't I'm not famous' - I'd like to but sometimes that would just be rude), one of the most common questions I get asked is ' how do you remember your lines?'. I used to be really good at learning lines. Rehearse a scene once and I would quickly know not just my lines but every other character's. Now, with my scrambled eggs and failing short term memory, it is incredibly hard for me to learn lines. 

I still do it because that is a big part of my job. But the other day, at the end of a rehearsal, my director said 'And Toots, learn your lines.' I responded, 'I have learnt my lines'. She said 'Well learn them better.'

It was a fair comment but a bit like being told 'Act better'. I know I am not doing my job as well as I should or as well as I did. I will be filming on Sunday and haven't learnt my script yet. I am performing tomorrow evening and still need to 'learn my lines better'. This morning, I had a casting and am not convinced I had entirely learnt the two scene script, an essential component in screen auditions.

When I was going through a really tough time, not long after dx, I wondered what would happen if I could no longer do my job. Would I lose my identity entirely? I've always said if you can see yourself being happy doing anything other than being an actor, then go and do that instead.. When you are working, it is the best job in the world but also one of the hardest. You never know what is going to happen - where, when or what your next job will be. I don't even know if I will be physically or mentally capable of doing the next job, whatever it is.

Just at the moment I am insanely busy. I know I am doing too much. I know I am possibly not doing things as well as I should. I am heartened by positive feedback and good reviews but as my character draws on in 'Quiz Night at the Britannia', "you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time". See, I do know some of my lines but it's no joke.