As an actor, I sometimes feel a little useless in the context of the Big Society. There are so many worthy professions that people prize more highly. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, and I value it but acting is hardly comparable to, I don’t know, creating a cure for a fatal disease.
But every now and again, I’m thrown by the power of acting; it’s power to unite disparatepeople, to express ideas, to represent unheard voices. The strength of imagination at work.
I feel the last few weeks of work with tidy carnage have thrown me, in a good way. And the lynch-pin?
There can be no other profession that asks you to arrive on day 1 of your new job and be quite so available, so exposed. I show up for the first rehearsal on Monday morning, knowing that by the end of the week, my co-performer Neil and I will have touched, kissed, danced, laughed, just as if we were a real husband and wife. As it turns out, I had to learn to trust him to take my whole weight and I his. Quite an ask of someone you have met twice before! But we did it, on day 2 of rehearsals we lifted each other clear of the ground and trusted the other could hold fast.
I feel so privileged to work in a profession that asks for that level of commitment. It is a pleasure to put aside all the niceties, the awkward chit-chat and wavering eye contact of normal opening interactions. Neil and I bypassed that, cheated history by making up detailed back-stories and interweaving lives. In faking closeness, we found genuine companionship.
We are making a show about Motor Neuron Disease affecting the lives of a young couple, so we have to trust that we are representing the lives of people who are affected by this, and other fatal diseases. As actors, we might not be finding the cure for MND, but we are fighting the same cause by telling it’s story.
Helen Cuinn performs alongside Neil John Gibson in dance theatre piece dream//life. Theatre collective tidy carnage are the visiting company in residence at theBike Shed Theatre, Exeter between the 2nd and the 20thof July. You can find out more and book tickets for the show, or the other events through the Bike Shed website: http://www.bikeshedtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/dreamlife/