The Twilight of an Actor

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Memoirs of Carl Halling

Submitted: August 24, 2007

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Submitted: August 24, 2007




"The Twilight of an Actor" existed initially as nothing more than "Such a Short Space of Time", published at the website on the 19th of February 2006. However, I decided to flesh it out with some background information in the summer, and so the additional prose sections of "As Swift as the Wind", "Lovelives at the Rose and Crown" and "Fragments from a Work Destroyed" came into being. Long before being given the title of "Such a Short Space of Time", it was an unfinished autobiographical story penned almost certainly in the early part of summer '99. In the winter of '06, I extracted portions of it for the purpose of transforming it into a workable piece of writing, and one evoking the sense of deep longing and melancholia with which I was afflicted as the decade, century and millenium were all three coming to an unquiet close. In August 2007, a definitive version of the piece was published at the website.

Such a Short Space of Time

I love...not just those...
I knew back then,
But those...
Who were young
Back then,
But who've since
Come to grief, who...
Having soared so high,
Found the
Consequent descent
Too dreadful to bear,
With my past itself,
Which was only
No...even less time...
A moment ago,
And when I play
Records from 1975,
Soul records,
Glam records,
Progressive records,
Twenty years melt away
Into nothingness...
What is a twenty-year period?
Little more than
A blink of an eye...
How could
Such a short space
Of time
Cause such devastation?

Youth is (As Swift as the Wind)

My parents were on vacation during the period which inspired "Such a Short Space", and so I spent alot of time at their house performing various tasks such as watering my mother's flowers. I decided to take advantage of their absence by using their music system to transfer some of my old LPs onto cassette. It was an unsettling listen to songs that, perhaps in the cases of some of them, I had not heard for ten years, or even fifteen, or more, and which evoked with a heartrending intensity a time when I was filled to the brim with sheer youthful joy of life and undiluted hope for the future. Yet as I did so, it seemed to me that it was only very recently that I'd heard them for the first time, despite the colossal changes brought about not just in my own life, but the lives of all those of my generation since I'd actually done so. Thence, I was confonted at once with the devastating transience of human life, and the equally devastating effect the passing of time has on human life on the other.

Lovelives at the Rose and Crown

Some might say that a further contributory factor to my sadness was the fact that by the final summer of the century, my own original chosen career of actor was effectively at an end, but I can't in all honesty countenance such a theory. What is true, however, is that in the last half decade I'd only appeared in five plays. Following the second of these, Jim Cartwright's "Two", which I touched on in some detail in "Release, Relapse and Restoration, I performed in one final production at the Rose and Crown theatre, the character-driven comedy "Lovelives". Directed by Ian McGlynn, "Lovelives" was written by the cast, David French, Stirling Gallacher, Jane Gelardi, Andrea Searle, Deborah Wilding, and myself, and consisted of a series of sketches centring on the desperate antics of a group of singletons attending a suburban lonely hearts club. Perhaps then it was in perfect synchronicity with the spirit of British post-war comedy, with its exaltation of suburban ordinariness and even failure. A great success at the R&C, there is every probability that "Lovelives" could have been developed into a succesful television play or even series, but sadly, as is all to often the case, a brilliant cast dispersed not too long after the final show. In late September '95, I played two parts in a production of Euripides' "Iphigeneia in Taurois" at the Tristan Bates theatre in central London. These were Pylades, boon companion of one of the main characters, Orestes, and the Messenger. It was directed by my longtime friend, the writer-director Adrian Thurston-Gordon, who also translated it.

Fragments from a Work Destroyed

From January 1996 until the following summer, I served variously as actor, MC, script writer, singer and musician for Street Level, a Christian theatre company based at the Elim Pentecostal church in West Croydon, Surrey. A group of three, we toured several shows around schools in the Croydon/Norwood/Crystal Palace area of south London. One of these, "Choices", was almost entirely written by me, although it had been based on an idea by the company leader Sally Ovendon, who also heavily edited it for performance purposes. The kids were astonishingly receptive to our productions, and we were greeted by them with almost uniform enthusiasm and affection.
Towards the end of the summer, Sally asked me to write a large scale project for Street Level. She suggested a contemporary version of John Bunyan's classic allegorical Christian novel "The Pilgim's Progress". I duly spent several weeks labouring over the project until it had evolved into an unwieldy epic voyage to the end of the night punctuated by scenes of the blackest humour. Soon after handing it to Sally, weary of the long early morning train journeys to West Croydon station via Wimbledon, I left Street Level. Quite understandably, my version of "The Pilgrim's Version" was never produced. I came ultimately to destroy all but a few pages of it, because although artistically it had its merits, it was spiritually immature. I don't have any regrets about my decision.
By early 1997 I'd vanished into the anonymity of office life, remaining therein on and off for over three years. However, there was one final acting hurrah from me in the shape of the series of cameos I contributed to a production of the so-called "Scottish Play" at the Lost Theatre in Fulham in 1998. Despite these being praised by more than one cast member, I have barely acted since. In fact, but for a single instance of walk-on work in March 2005, and a handful of failed auditions for film and TV, I've been defunct as an actor now for nearly a decade. While I'm still open to the possibility of film or television work, the likelihood of my appearing on stage in a play again is remote indeed because simply, the passion to perform that once raged inside me to the degree that renown became a serious possibility more than once in my career has long been quieted.

Photo: 1999?

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