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Touring With Good And True

Good and True was a show made in 2000 which then toured sporadically until 2004. In the early photos Iím the guy in the chefís hat. In the later photos Iím the guy with the little beard and the chefís hat. I grew the beard not to fit in with the show, but to fit in with another show. But I kept the beard because I started to believe it was a profitable beard. Ever since Iíve had the beard Iíve had more work and less debt. So now Iím scared to shave off the beard even though it makes me look like a twat. Itís the most stupid thing about me, I think, and other people think that too. I may have a decent chin under this, but no oneís seen it for five years, six actually, because, in my head, the beardís keeping me in Taste The Difference fish pies from Sainsburyís. Something pre-beard I struggled to afford.

This is magical thinking and no grown up person should entertain magical thinking but a surprising number do. Especially in theatre, and also in sports. In sports there are cricketers who have lucky, I donít know, boxes is it? Those things that stop your nuts from getting hit by a cricket ball. I donít know anything about cricket, I donít know why Iím getting into this. My areaís theatre, and magical thinking is prominent in theatre too. This is because in theatre the factors which determine the success or failure of a project are so complex, thereís the feeling that itís impossible to have total control over them. Thereís talent of course. That should get you some way to success. But only an idiot believes that talent is enough. You need a bunch of other things too, most of which are mysterious and unknown or just plain shameful. So this complexity creates anxiety. The anxiety is further fed by the experience of delivering exactly the same show to two different audiences to find one loving it and one hating it. The reasons for this could probably be explained by a team of physicists and psychological profilers working round the clock for a decade, which is a waste of everyoneís time, so for me, itís easier to put the success of one performance down to something like a jolly good beard, and the failure of the other performance down to the absence of a jolly good beard. The creation of a false certainty is better than no certainty at all, isnít it? Itís pretty common this. Thereís a guy I know who has to wank into a cup before going on. Heís often in work too, that man, and in the past has done up to 300 shows a year, and heís not a young bloke. Not sure heís still acting actually. Canít say I blame him, poor sodís probably knackered. Point is, though a wank into a cup is less common, the principleís the same - we all have our rituals.

In Good and True I got into the mindset that a successful show required a brand new white t-shirt for every performance. This started because I bought a new t-shirt for the 1st show, the t-shirt came as part of a pack of two, I wore the 2nd new one for the 2nd show, and both shows seemed to go off alright. So there you go, the placebo effect in place, and that was the pattern for the rest of the tour. Good and True performed around 3 dozen times all in all, and now, in my chest of drawers at home, I have 3 dozen white t-shirts. The cheapest I found was in Manchester where I got 3 for a tenner. The most expensive cost me over 20 quid when the show performed at the Linbury in Covent Garden. Doesnít even fit me properly that one. To my horror, during one of the Birmingham Rep performances, I discovered that my t-shirt was previously-worn, and as soon as I realised this, my nob popped out on stage. As it happens I was sitting at a table and wearing a dress during the part of the show where I pretend to be Sarahís mother, so I was able to tuck it back in, and out of they way, and Iím pretty sure no one noticed. But the power of the magical t-shirt is plain.

I tried to determine if the other performers in Good and True were caught up in this kind of crap, and at various points I made myself believe that Amandaís lucky thing was needing to be the last person to get into costume; Sarahís lucky thing always wearing a particular shade of lipstick; and Craigís lucky thing was to leave a turd in the lighting box (I got that quite wrong as it turned out, Amanda and Sarah didnít have any rituals and Craig told me he just needed to be pissed out of his brains. Not sure where the turd came from, that might have been a one off). I donít think this leaves my thesis in tatters, rather it shows how performers might keep this kind of thing hidden (like the wank-in-a-cup guy who I wouldnít have known about at all but for a faulty green room lock).

Good and True has finished now, and I find I donít really do much acting anymore. Iím in a bit of bind as to whether this is because Iíve taken to over-trimming the beard (to the point where it sometimes exists in a strange hair/art hinterland, a phenomenon known as Ďgoing a bit Craig Davidí), or that Iím not permitted by my family to buy any more white t-shirts, or that my nob was indeed noticed on stage and I have become unemployable. Thing is, the magical thinking is still a feature in my life, because Iím sitting here typing this in response to James Yarkerís request to supply an essay on receipt of which he will give me forty pounds. FORTY POUNDS! If I can knock this off in half an hour thatís a bloody good rate of return. Is it no coincidence that I havenít trimmed this week and suddenly Iím quids in? Jeez, I donít know, I reckon Samson must have gone through up-and-downs like this. Sadly, though, this essay has not taken half an hour, itís taken me a week, and to borrow a phrase from esteemed Stan board member Peter Fletcher, that return is Ďsub-optimalí, so I donít know where that leaves the beard hypothesis. ĎNowhere,í say trusted pals, Ďgrow up, you prick.í Well thatís easier said than done. James also didnít specify what the point of the essay should be and has left that down to my own judgement. I donít know what the visitor demographic of this website is, but I assumed that this essay might be read by emerging performers interested in the companyís work who would find tips from an old theatrical pro useful in their careers, but reading back, Iím not sure it is that useful really, unless itís to t-shirt manufacturers looking for new markets. It occurs to me now that it might be read by possible commissioners of Stanís Cafe work in which case I may have misjudged the tone. Either way, for those who didnít see Good and True it was very much an iconic piece of theatre characterised by both whimsical and profound ideas, beautifully judged performances, and a stunning brilliance of t-shirt. I saw Forced Entertainment recently and their t-shirts were a disgrace, frankly.


In the current retail climate, forty quid buys ten fish pies.

Nick devised and performed in Simple Maths and Good and True and has toured with Of All The People In All The World (touring). Nick is a member of Coventry based Talking Birds. He is also an acclaimed writer with two published novels and a range of work broadcast on BBC Radio.

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