Alexander Pardey says some people think his career choice is ‘insane’ and is sometimes inclined to agree. But, argues the actor, ‘ In what other profession can you dress up as a pirate to entertain young children in the morning, then recite Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare the same afternoon for an adult audience.’
Einstein, a fairly clever man, said that the definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’. There have been plenty of people who have said that my career choice is ‘insane’ and I’d usually be inclined to agree with them.
They are quick to highlight the financial instability, ridiculously imbalanced ratio between effort put in and work given, as well as the frankly terrifying level of competition. Fifty-six per cent of us earn less than £10,000 a year from our work, putting us all below the poverty line. As freelancers, work is never guaranteed and rarely lasts longer than a couple of weeks at a time. This, ladies and gents, is acting.
It’s also utterly intangible. Let’s take a profession like plumbing as an example. Mr or Ms Plumber undergo training in all aspects of their job, learning how to fit toilets and fix leaky pipes, very useful skills and everything else in between. It takes more work than I can fit into this word count, but if I was to attempt anything to do with plumbing without prior training, it would be an absolute failure. The toilet would be on backwards, there’d be water everywhere and the waste pipe would be connected to my dishwasher.
I’ve undergone intensive training as an actor, but who’s to say that Mr or Ms Plumber can’t turn around and be able to channel emotions and tap into human sensitivities by creating characters and telling stories? Sure, they won’t be too savvy on the techniques of warming up their voices to project in large spaces or the Meisner technique, but people are perfectly entitled to prefer them as actors, leaving me penniless without the funds to have someone come and fix my backwards toilet.
What I’m trying to say is: you can either act, or you can’t. The real art of it is in how you conduct yourself, how you work with other people, and how you use the tools at your disposal to their fullest. It’s being aware of every aspect of yourself and gaining experience. Certainly easier said than done, and that is where the training sets us apart.
I’m not here to romanticise the profession, but now that I’ve got my inherent negativity out the way, I will now disprove the idea that my career is ‘insane’. By Einstein’s definition, it’s quite the opposite.
In what other profession can you dress up as a pirate to entertain young children in the morning, then recite Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare the same afternoon for an adult audience, as I did for the Being Human festival recently? With every part comes the opportunity to learn so much about context and people and places. In light of the recent controversy around the cast of Hamilton calling out the new vice president-elect at one of their performances, urging him to ‘uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us’, the theatre is the only place people can go to hear the truth.
Storytelling has been around ever since we started walking on two legs and killing things, and it’s our job to carry on entertaining and informing audiences, whether it’s on-stage, on the screen, or elsewhere. People don’t go to the theatre or watch TV to see characters having a lovely day and having everything go right. We want to see hardships and challenges to put our own into perspective. Sometimes we see triumph through adversity, sometimes not. They’re places to highlight every part of the society around us – the issues that need exposing and discussed. Somebody needs to.
Who knows in what era I’ll be frolicking around in next? I could be a king, a beggar, a serial killer, or a human representation of the feeling of sadness, clad in newspaper clippings and tea-stained love letters. I might be nothing for months on end, playing my own biopic of ‘barman trying to make ends meet in London’. The only thing I do know is that I won’t be doing the same thing over and over again, and it will certainly yield different results every time.