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GOING BACK- and dreading it

I already hate the notion of going back on stage.

It's been 11 years since I decided that I'd done everything I want to do as an actor. Played the parts I wanted to play, worked the theatres I wanted to work, became all those people.

Being an actor is a joyful agony. Every day is exciting, exhausting and fulfilling but it is grade A heroin. Totally addictive. For me anyway. There is no half measure. The fun is all in the submission. I'm ok with admitting that it made me a monster. Deeply loveable - if the part demanded it. In fact, any emotion I could conjure, if it was within my grasp. But I never turned off - not after rehearsal, not in the bar, not at the weekends at home. Worse still, not in those endless 'resting' periods, others call unemployment.

And I don't mean being 'on'. A word that usually refers to being hyper or over-expressive veering towards camp. The loud actor who needs attention thing. That's not it at all. What I mean is that in creating the world of a play a bubble forms around you - around me. It's a delicious space. Warm and exclusive. It is the mood and air of the world you are creating. The person you are becoming. I could be listening to a conversation and suddenly be conscious of my bubble - the world of Cyrano, Grouch, Jacques or Elwood P Dowd. A secret place. My fortress of solitude. It was strengthened after the production opened. The laughter and applause confirming that the right choices were made. That the commitment was justified.

After a production ended that atmosphere would persist. I wouldn't want to let go until another world could replace it. Sometimes that would be a month or two. But it could be 6 months or longer. On one such occasion a man came up to me and said 'Weren't you Groucho Marx?' and I replied 'I am Groucho Marx.' I didn't want to let go. Well, what started as a refuge would become a prison. The memory of success can be cruel. It hurt, too much.

So, I stopped.

It was something I planned to do at the end of the run of Cyrano de Bergerac at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. My favourite theatre, best Director (Greg Hersov) and a production I had dreamed of for 16 years. The plan was to take my last bow and make an announcement. 'That was my last performance and thank you' kind of thing. I didn't do it.

Two other productions followed, which were an agony. Finally, I hit the ejector seat button, burnt some significant bridges - and threw myself out of the business.

The thing I've missed most in the last 11 years

is being good.

Acting is something I can do well. The 'real' world doesn't give a shit about 'creatives' and no amount of adapting to the commercial world will temper that. That's my life lesson. It doesn't work for me.

So, is it possible to return? After 11 years? At 63?

Do I burn with the need to go through everything required to achieve what I want to be - again? I don't know, I really don't. The problem with experience is that you know the price you'll have to pay. God bless youthful ignorance - your best ally. I miss it.

I've found a play and a director. I can start afresh. There's no need to return to those old habits. I can make new choices.

I'm wiser - right?

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