“Shall I speak for thee? shall I say ’tis so? O, that I knew thy heart; and knew the beast, That I might rail at him, to ease my mind! Sorrow concealed, like an oven stopp’d, Doth burn the heart to ashes-”
“Sorry, from the top please. It’s cinders, Francis, and maybe a bit more emotion? Your daughter literally has had her hands cut off and her tongue cut out.”
Francis sighs, running his hands through his dark hair and returns to his marker on the stage. The other actors roll their eyes and groan quietly, Charlotte rubbing her knees the best she could with her ‘mutilated’ hands.
Titus Andronicus was due to be on stage the following week, for the team this week is vital for them to make sure the show definitely would run smoothly. Of course, it would run a lot smoother if Francis could remember his lines properly.
The cast fall quiet again readying for their queues and start over again.
The room is damp and moist. The light emits a weak yellow colour that barely fills the room at all. Francis roughly opens the jamming door, dropping his bag. Another day over, only 5 days to go till the first show.
Carefully stepping over the cluttered floor, the young actor makes his way to the bed. He lives in a small studio flat, dingy and miserable. But, as it is all he could afford, it would do. The bed springs creak as he flops down upon it, pushing aside several scripts that are scattered on it. Francis can only sigh as his head hits the pillow.
In his mind he rethinks today’s rehearsal. How could he be so… shit? He could see his co-workers frustration as he stuttered his misshapen words, or didn’t portray enough emotion at the sight of his mutilated daughter. None of them can understand how he landed the role of the eponym. Neither can he to be honest, a chance luck perhaps. ‘Lack of talent in Sheffield’, the others say. He knows he is mediocre at best, that he lets the whole play down. Sometimes he wonders if he is in the right profession at all, or just another doomed actor.
Without looking, his tired hands reach down for the script. Instead, he finds himself staring at a newspaper article from 2009. The headline reads ‘Amateur production definitely ‘not to be’ a success’, with a photo of Shakespeare alongside it. It describes the fall of Francis Donald, the star of a modern production of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. Francis glances over the awful review, remembering the horrendous press the play got. It was called a catastrophe, and a real ‘middle finger to Shakespeare’. The one thing all the critiques agreed on though, the lead actor was shit.
Sitting up he sees the amount of reviews and critiques pinned to his walls. The headlines jump out at him; ‘Awful’, ‘Amateur’, ‘poorly performed’. This was what he was known for. The majority of his life was reviewed as ‘diabolically bad’. He can barely afford to live, he works as many hours as a waiter that he can, and invests the rest of his time on this project that he knows will be described as another ‘catastrophe’ in a little less than a week.
All he feels is doubt. And anger. Anger at himself, for not being good enough; anger at the critics for not giving him a chance and seeing his potential; anger at his family for brushing his dream away, saying it just isn’t ‘viable’. He wants to prove them wrong, he wants them to be proud. But they stopped going to his shows, they stopped reading the reviews. They stopped.
Before he knows it, Francis is on his feet. His hands grasp the papers, the pins flying from the wall;he tears down the disapproval, his anger, his rage, his disappointment is drained from him as the paper rains down onto the floor leaving an empty canvas of a marked wall. The manifestation of his career now lays by his feet.
He sees one from his early 20’s, a photo of a young, hopeful actor besides the headline ‘Shockingly bad play, saved by lead actor’. He kicks it.
Francis sits back down on his bed, and opens up the script.
“Shall I speak for thee? Shall I say ’tis so?”