The things these actors get up to

...well, I mean, says Julian Clary, it's just not polite is it? The comedian describes some sticky moments in rehearsal for his straight role in Jean Genet's 'Splendid's'

Woke up with a streaming cold for my first day of rehearsals. I didn't mind as it would make me sound a bit Fenella Fielding. I play a gangster in the play, but he's not exactly Reggie Kray.

After coffee, we file into the rehearsal room and I immediately feel claustrophobic. It's a windowless computer room with strip lighting - not flattering for the over-thirties. I don't suppose the budget can run to some amber lampshades and patchouli incense?

The things these actors get up to. I can cope with the discussion groups, where we all sit around in a circle to talk through the text and start every sentence with "it seems to me". But once or twice we've been asked to say nothing and just stare at each other. For minutes on end. Real eye contact. Well, I mean, it's not polite.

We do improvisations, too; the more bizarre, the better. I was at last able to "do" Swan Lake. I made all the other actors squat on the floor as dreary cygnets while I glided about the stage as magnificently as a rumbling stomach will allow. Everett Quinton took all his clothes off for his. We all had to kneel before him, and as he peeled off each garment, he threw it to one of us. I got his shoes. Another actor emptied a packet of crisps over his head and instructed me to clean him up with an old mop and wipe his bottom with a bit of rag. He's American so I thought I'd better oblige in case he pulled a flick-knife.

It's a Genet play, so we're allowed to be strange and dark and weird and wonderful. In Splendid's, our characters are rats caught in their own trap. Fear, death and mortal terror are what we're dealing with.

After eight hours of this each day, we emerge blinking into the sunshine, ready, indeed desperate, for a good laugh. David Foxxe, my dancing partner for our grand entrance, can usually supply us with the necessary.

At night, the play percolates in my brain. Lines like "the carcass of a lovely young girl" inhabit my dreams. Death, fear, fear and death. It makes a change from saucy innuendoes about policemen's helmets.

I haven't felt this fulfilled since I got lost in the sand dunes at Playa del Anglais in 1987.

By the end of the week, we had bonded together sufficiently to attempt a group outing to the White Swan to see Her Imperial Highness Regina Fong. She had, of course, been at the VE Day celebrations the week before in Hyde Park. "So I said to Princess Margaret in the beer tent, 'How do you tell an old man in the dark?' and she said, 'It ain't hard'."

Week Two

Blocking the second act. I am placed downstage left, sitting on the floor, looking upstage. This means left profile constantly exposed. Not good. I explained to Neil Bartlett that in televisionland I never allow a camera to capture that unfortunate angle. The public may not like it. A less sensitive director may have put me in my place at this point, but Neil looked at me with sympathy and understanding.

Concern furrowed his brow, and with the tenderness of a true sister, he led me across the stage and turned me around 90 degrees. I'm now posing in a doorway for the crucial scene, and much more attractive for it.

Spent the morning doing an exercise. We split up into pairs and had to imagine the man of our dreams melting in our arms as we hugged one another. After a while, we switched partners. I had a clinch with Keanu Reeves (or was it Vic?) before settling for Ethan Hawke. You don't get paid much in this game, but who cares?

Four birthdays in the company this week. Four times we had a birthday cake complete with candles supplementing our afternoon tea break. I thought my cake looked decidedly phallic, but it turned out to be Thomas the Tank Engine. This is what happens at 36, apparently. You get confused.

Spent the evening looking for my character. Waited until 5am in Substandard, but he didn't show.

Plunged suddenly into the world of Light Entertainment again, being a mystery guest on What's My Line? in Bristol. "Is it Arthur Mullard?" guessed Kate Robbine.

Week Three

While Neil is giving instructions to other actors, David demonstrates for me the Barbara Jefford walk. It's not as easy as it looks.

Wednesday. Suddenly, everyone else seems to have learnt their lines. I'm the only one still clutching his script. Bravely, I cast it aside. It was a rash move, as it left me shouting "line seven" more often than Elton John in the bad old days. Cassie, our SM and prompter, fed me each line like a starling at the nest.

Thursday. May have been a bit sweaty. Not nice for my waltzing scene with the policeman, Richard Hawley. He always smells of something heavenly and expensive. Must be good stuff. When I nuzzle into his neck for our intimate moment in Act 1, I'm transported. I don't know if it's An Evening in Paris or Turning-out Time at the Docks, but it does the trick for me.

I notice that now we're rehearsing "off the book", as they say, you're often obliged to look your fellow actor in the eye. And speak at the same time. And there's one very tricky scene where I'm obliged to look, speak and walk all at once. I don't know who Genet thinks I am. Some kind of circus freak? For another 10 quid, they could have had Peter Duncan playing my part.

We have one more week in the rehearsal space, then we move into the theatre. We get a set, costumes, haircuts, lighting, technical people in heavy- metal T-shirts and, at some point, an audience. The thought of letting others into our world of death, fear and mortal terror is daunting. Seems indecent, somehow.

Inevitable, though. With this thought in mind, I rang my godmother who lives just down the road from Hammersmith and invited her to the press night. I explain to her that it's a thriller, but not exactly The Mousetrap. "Is it a mystery, then?" she asked. "Cause it'll be a mystery if I understand it!" Anyway, she's coming. On the 93 bus.

'Splendid's' opens at the Lyric Hammersmith, London W6 on 15 June (Booking: 0181-741 8701)

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution