By C Parke
I’m alone in my bedroom. My name is Daniel Warren. In the past twelve months, I’ve been afflicted with a condition that has robbed me of all of my joy and my reason for living. This past year I’ve lost all of my friends as well as my career, and my family now loathe me. I’ve lost the vast majority of my independence and now need a caretaker whenever I leave the house, it’s pathetic. I’m sitting there with the intent to end my life on this day.
It wasn’t always like this however, I once had the job I’d always dreamed of. Hundreds of fans applauding me and a healthy pay-check, but now I’m trapped in my own body and hear nothing but words of pity from those around me. “Why did it have to be me?” I sometimes say to myself. Nowadays, I often reminisce about when things were good, the prime of my life.
I was a young performer in London’s West End, brimming with potential. I was the main actor in the romantic musical “A Rose without Thorns,” about a young German girl named Rosa (played by my friend Lucy) who moves to England and meets the handsome Damien, that role being played by myself, who helps her with adjusting to new life as they fall in love. Repeatedly, I find myself mentally reliving those wondrous days of theatre life.
“Daniel Warren needed on stage in five minutes.”
The speakers would call for me, but I was ready long before that, taking great care to comb my hair, brush my teeth and have a close shave. I’m itching to make my entrance, the first song, “A Strange New Place,” was always my favourite song in the performance with its upbeat sound, fast tempo, and the most intricate dance routine in the whole play. I’m there, impatiently tapping my foot against the hard wooden floor whilst some of the extras aren’t even fully dressed yet. I push that frustration out of mind whilst I wait for my cue to come on stage; that cue being when Rosa, sings “I’m lost in this foreign land!” I then rush onto stage to sing my verse and then the chorus. Damien, in the story, is an excellent dancer so I suggested to the director that I should incorporate some front flips and other acrobatics into the routine, even though that isn’t a part of the script. One because I thought it was befitting of Damien’s character and two, I wanted to show off a little. He liked the idea so during the song I do some stunts from different set pieces which would cause the audience to erupt with applause and a wide grin to appear on my face.
The view of the theatre is a memory etched into my brain. Hundreds of audience members would watch in awe as I perform on a stage that bathes in a bright yellow light. The set is modelled from Trafalgar Square, meaning small scale replicas of the four black lions stood in each corner of the stage, as images of the great fountain and the national gallery are projected onto the back wall. Exactly in the centre, is a model of Nelson’s column, shrunken down and hollow of course, so it can be moved around by the stage crew. The set itself is amazing on its own of course but Lucy, the extras and I help fill out the negative space simulating the hustle and bustle of the real thing. During all this, speakers play sounds of traffic and chatter to create the most immersive theatre experience in the West End.
Afterwards there were some story scenes without any songs. I’ve always felt indifferent towards these parts, I prefer dancing and singing over learning dialogue but if you want to be an actor you’ve got to take the good with the bad. I remember rehearsing these scenes in my bedroom. I would pace back and forth repeating the lines over and over again, sometimes visitors would come round our house, where I live with my parents and brother, and they would think I had gone crazy hearing me repeat the same lines over and over again from upstairs.
After Act One ends, I exit stage left and head straight down the hallway to the break room. I turn to the black vending machine, slip in a two-pound coin, and subconsciously punch in the numbers to get myself a bottle of coke. I sit myself down onto the small red settee, and since the lid was being stubborn, I get the bottle open with my teeth. As I gaze around, I reflect on how fond I am of this little room, the cosy red sofa, the cream-brown painted walls, the solid oak table that me and my co-stars would routinely play cards on, and the petit cupboards full of biscuits and treats that remind me of my grandmother’s kitchen in Ireland. It’s the trivial things in life that make me happy.
Whilst I was enjoying my break, Lucy walked up to me and struck up a conversation.
“Hey” she said.
“Hey” I responded.
“What’cha up to this weekend?” she asks.
“Not much to be honest, I’m probably just going to chill out, I’ve been knackered these past few weeks with Morgan calling in sick.”
Morgan is the Damien of the blue cast and I’m the Damien of the red cast, the red cast performs four nights out of the week while the blue cast only does three so with Morgan gone, I’ve been having to work much more.
Lucy giggles “Must be tough, knowing Morgan he’s likely got a runny nose and declared he’s far too ill to go to work.” I laugh alongside her as Morgan was always a bit of a melodramatic.
“You’re right, he’s probably tucked up in bed feeling sorry for himself. But anyway, what are you up to this weekend?” I also ask.
“Me? Well, with the new puppy! I’m going to spend it getting him toilet trained, Charlie’s adorable but he’s probably the messiest dog I’ve ever come across.” I chuckle and say, “At least you don’t have our cat Silver, he’s a little devil when he isn’t fed or when we’re about to take him to the vet’s he’ll start tearing and scratching at the pillows and curtains like a maniac, nevertheless Mum still loves him to bits.” Lucy sits down on the sofa with me, “Well, that’s what mums are like, I may have had Charlie for only five weeks but he’s still my furry baby” she said with childish affection, we both smile as we head back ready for Act two. A casual conversation with a friend, I took that for granted.
We performed Act Two which had a scene where Damien, who is also a professional boxer, faces his largest and toughest opponent yet, a man named Trevor. Damien gets battered and bruised, but eventually wins with the power of love (And yes, I know that sounds incredibly cheesy). I remember training for this scene, of course I didn’t actually have to fight someone, but I needed to gain the proper physique. For many weeks, my daily workout routine consisted of a five-kilometre run, forty press ups, a one hundred-second plank, fifty Russian twists and twenty pull ups alongside a diet of mostly fish, nuts and vegetables. As Act 2 ends, I enjoy the sound of applause as the curtains fall, I congratulate and say goodbye to my co-stars, as I grab my coat and prepare to venture home through the rainy London night.