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
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past