The Project …

Number 40 | Pretend to be sick for money …

Pretending to be sick and getting paid for it? That sounds like an awful advert but it’s actually what I’ve just started doing – being a medical simulator (i.e. the person who pretends to be kill or injured for medical students to practise their doctor skills on. Nothing invasive or surgery like, just simple questioning).

My first job was with a group of psychologists. I had two different characters to learn and play – Jade, 23, suffering from anorexia and another girl (whose name I don’t remember now) who was suffering from EUPD – a form of personality disorder.

Although we as actors had all the information on the characters we had to learn – medical and family history, symptoms, characteristics etc. – it must have been so much worse for the attending doctors. They had a minute to read a brief two-line description of who they were about to see and why they were there; something like, “You are seeing Jade, 23. Her mum has brought her here to discuss her eating.” That was it. That was followed by 11 minutes of chat between the “patients” and the doctor.

Now ordinarily, I am a very polite person. However, for one of those characters I had been told to play it as sarcastic and unfriendly. I don’t want to be at the appointment and I should make my feelings know. I apologised afterwards to each and every doctor who met me for having to go through that. But it wasn’t all bad for them – although they had to go round eight patients, on after the other with no break, each with different problems, they got some good ones. One guy had to be convinced that the government had implanted a chip in his neck. I can only long to play a character like that.

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Number 39 | Do some proper acting work …

I GOT MY FIRST ACTING JOB!

Working with a company called Comedy Dining, I am now playing Marlene / Raquel. Wait, I’ll explain …

Nice hotels hold three course dinners. People pay £50 a ticket to go to one of these. However, acted out around the diners while they eat are scenes from ‘Only Fools and Horses’ featuring actors playing Del Boy, Rodney, Uncle Albert, Marlene, Boycie, Raquel and Tony Angelino. Each scene is taken from the programme pretty much word for word. It’s a tribute show – not a lookalike show, or the real cast members. There’s a Christmas version along with a regular, year-round version, and the company also does dinners based on ‘Allo Allo’, ‘Fawlty Towers’ and ‘Absolutely Fabulous’, but for now I’m part of ‘Only Fools and Three Courses’. The dinner involves blow-up dolls, Del trying to sell stuff, the ‘Crying’ duet between Raquel and Tony and a lovely singalong of the theme tune.

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Number 38 | Complete an apprenticeship …

Look! The apprenticeship that I started at my workplace last year, for the sole reason that I was BORED has been completed!

I didn’t need an apprenticeship. I chose to complete one because my job was incredibly dull and I needed to use my brain some more. And FINALLY it’s completed! (Technically I completed it back in June but it took nearly five months to receive my certificate).

I am now the proud owner of a Level 3 Diploma in Business and Administration.

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Number 37 | Experience a chocolate festival …

Have you ever wanted to be at a cattle market (without the cattle), in the cold, surrounded by a shedload of chocolate, fudge and cake? Yes? Then a chocolate festival is the place for you.

I dragged my parents to the Melton Choc Fest early in November for a morning spent trying various foods (weirdly, not as much chocolate as we’d assumed … in fact, we tried quite a lot of alcohol), sneakily buying some as Christmas presents and eating enormous German sausages. My parents didn’t like the enormous German sausages.

Of course we picked up some items for other people. There was one stand in particular that had little hand-made chocolate figurines (things like Mario and Luigi, R2-D2, tiny sheep and dinosaurs etc.) and also a lot of chocolate tools and hardware so you could actually, if you wanted, buy a load of chocolate screws and build something fancier using the chocolate tools. For someone who loves chocolate as much as I do, it was brilliant.

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Number 36 | Play a real person …

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to get cast as Nell Gwyn in a production of ‘Playhouse Creatures’ at Leicester’s Little Theatre. As well as being a large part in terms of lines and stage time, it was also a big part due to the fact that Nell Gwyn was a real person.

The way I judge someone’s importance is by seeing whether my parents know who they are. When I said I was playing Nell Gwyn, my mum said, “oh, the one with the oranges?” Yes, mum. The one with the oranges. Also the mistress of King Charles II who went on to have two children with him. Also a relatively big player in the theatre world, especially at that time when women were only just being allowed on stage. But yeah, the one with the oranges.

Back in the 1660’s, women had only recently been allowed to act on stage, thanks to a knobhead of a previous king / government who deemed it not acceptable, and one step above prostitution (because acting and prostitution are the same, obviously). Nell and a few other women of the time made waves by joining theatre companies, taking main parts and, to everyone’s surprise, actually being *good* on stage. Nell in particular found a talent for comedy.

Having never played a real person before, I read as much as I could about her and about the time period. I went to the Theatre Royal in London – famed as being the theatre where Nell started out – and went on one of their backstage tours, where they take you right down into the underground tunnel between the dressing room and the stage that these women would have used. We got to stand in the King’s box and it was not hard to imagine Nell on the stage, catching the eye of Charles II as he sat there watching her.

I also did a mini project – much like a school history project – where I got information on various things that would inform what I did – theatre, London, costume, everyday clothes, notable events etc., all from the 1600’s.

In all, it was an incredibly educating experience. When it came to the actual week of the show, I felt more in tune with this character than I had ever felt before (oh, how pretentious and wanky). We were all very aware – and bearing in mind that there were only five of us in the cast, all women – that if it hadn’t been for Nell and her cohorts, we would never be retelling this story on a stage.

It was a fantastic experience.

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Number 35 | Do a Bubble Rush …

A Bubble Rush run is described as, a “fun run through coloured bubbles.”

What this means is, “please turn up at Leicester’s Abbey Park on a relatively cold day, dressed in not many clothes and wearing some ridiculous neon items of fancy dress. Wait for your friend from work, Naomh, to arrive. Panic because it doesn’t look like she’s coming. Oh yes, there she is. Sign in together. Wander around the park. Buy some pick and mix sweets just because. And a tea, because it’s bloody cold. Sit in some deckchairs sponsored by Smooth Radio. Head towards the bandstand for a fun warm up and marvel at the woman wearing shorts so small that they disappear somewhere into her arse. When your colour is called (yellow) make your way towards the start line. Then GO. Sprint – or rather don’t, it’s far too crowded – the whole 5k, passing through five different coloured bubble stations that get progressively muddier and colder as you get through them. Get to the finish and a marshall tells you to go round again; you’ve only done half of the course. Go round again, this time not even making an attempt to run and instead, bitching about people at work. See the finish. Sprint gracefully towards the photographer there only to find that not ONE SINGLE PICTURE OF YOU RUNNING exists in the finished photo album. Collect medal. Say goodbye to Naomh. Get on the bus home – cold, wet and with weird blue dye-markings on your legs. Get in shower. Scrubs blue dye off legs. Blue dye doesn’t go. Wear tights for the foreseeable future.”

But it raised money for Rainbows Hospice and that is GOOD.

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Number 34 | Be a chaperone …

This year I’ve offered too chaperone kids twice – once at a youth music theatre camp that lasted for two weeks and once during two performances of ‘Annie’ at The Little Theatre.

You may think these two events would be very different. Sadly, they are not and I found myself saying any and all of these phrases on a near daily basis:

“Can you shut the door?”
“Where are your shoes?”
“Have you got everything?”
“Is that your part? Why are you singing someone else’s lines?”
“Stop talking.”
“Did the director tell you to do that?”
“The sparkly eyeshadow is great, just not really for an orphan.”

“Stop talking.”
“Where are your parents?”
“What is that? Is that gum? Why are you eating on stage?”
“What do you mean, you can’t find it? Have you looked EVERYWHERE?”

“STOP TALKING.”

Further problems also included – a vegan participant who never ate; hyperactive eight-year-olds; a slightly pervy teenage boy; more make up than I had when I was a teenager; a lost child in a shopping centre; vomiting on a coach; two other first aid incidents, and a distracting dog.

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