The national broadcaster RTE held a street festival around Dublin yesterday called ‘Reflecting the Rising’ – a series of music and theatre pieces dotted around the city, which were to represent the experiences of the residents of inner city Dublin during the rising. These people were desperately poor,living in squalid tenement buildings, and while they may have been sympathetic to the rebel cause, they did not instigate it. But they were certainly caught in the cross fire.
I took part in some fictional sketches in the Smithfield Fruit Market – an incredibly impressive, and vast indoor Victorian market, of which I had no knowledge of its existence until yesterday.
I played an officious Irish Volunteer – a jobs-worth who thought that for the glory of the Republic it would be better to confiscate the looted items from the hands of light-fingered tenement dwellers who had gone ‘shopping’ during the chaos of Easter week.
We performed the piece about 8 times over 2.5 hours – each time for a different group doing a historic walking tour of the city.
The whole event was being run by RTE but largely staffed by unpaid volunteers (different from the Irish Volunteer that I was playing).
There was a fairly intense gentleman selling tickets and providing information to attendees at the entrance. I met him as I needed to store my Marvel Comics rucksack before the performances – in 1916, Marvel Comics was still in the future (or in the past depending on where you stand on the space/time continuum).
During a break between performances while we were waiting for the next walking tour to arrive, he approached me.
‘Are you an actor?’ says he.
‘I am’, says I.
‘I mean are you professional?’
‘Oh no, just for fun, I’d like to be, but rent to do, bills to pay’.
‘You should be on Fair City.’
Fair City is a ropey soap opera on Irish television, and while it wouldn’t be boasting necessarily, to say I’d be as competent as some of the cast, it’s still the most highly visible acting job in Ireland, and therefore highly coveted.
‘Haha – thanks,’ I said.
‘You’re very handsome.’
This flummoxed me somewhat. While I know I’m not unattractive, ‘handsome’ is not a description that has been applied to me on a regular basis before. I felt vaguely complimented, but also a touch uncomfortable at the way he was staring intently at me with his gimlet eyes.
‘Hmmmm. Yesssssssssss. You look like George Clooney.’
‘That uniform brings out the blue in your eyes. Hmm yes it does’
Oh for heaven’s sake – some subtlety please.
‘Do you work in RTE?’ said I -I need to distract this guy.
He didn’t – he is a mature student studying accounting in a rural institute of technology, and was up in the city,volunteering for the day.
‘Do you have a regular job?’ he asked.
‘I do.’ I was getting slightly curt by this point.
‘Hmmmmm. And are you the heart-throb of the office?’
‘No.’ Monosyllables might discourage him.
‘How surprising, you are gorgeous. Do you have a partner?’
‘Yes.’ I don’t but anything to be left alone.
‘She… or he, is very lucky.’
‘He wouldn’t say that.’ In my brain I was thinking about the imaginary arguement I’d had that very morning with my imaginary boyfriend. Something to do with me not emptying the rubbish.
‘Hmmmm, he is VERY lucky.’
By this point I was getting genuinely uncomfortable and uneasy. I thought he was going to start calling me his ‘preciousssss’.
‘Please excuse me, I need to focus on getting into character now.’
Such a crock of horseshit. I am not nearly as luvvy as that. The idea that I need to concentrate on getting into character is a touch. absurd. But I wanted him gone. And pronto. He was getting all up in my face, and didn’t seem very alert to the ‘Go away’ signals I was sending. And his hand on my elbow was being held for slightly longer than necessary/
He finally retreated. Whew.
The rest of the performance went well.
After the day was over, I was chatting with the actor who had been playing my co-volunteer in the show.
‘You know that guy out at the ticket stand?’ he said.
‘He was weird.’
‘In what way?’ What’s going on here then?
‘He came up to me during a break to tell me that I should be in Fair City, that I look like George Clooney and that my uniform brought out the colour in my eyes.’
Hhhhrrrmpppph. And I thought I was special.