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Acting Illegally

Acting Illegally

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Published by bayeuxcomposer
A fictional look into a London where out-of-work actors use their talents to rob the unworthy.
A fictional look into a London where out-of-work actors use their talents to rob the unworthy.

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Published by: bayeuxcomposer on Dec 18, 2009
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06/28/2012

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 Acting Illegally
Acting Illegally
 
 A novel by Terry Dwyer  
Chapter 1 Not again!
JUNE 15, 2004, AND A FINE MORNING. David Stoner finished shaving, rubbed his chin as hestared despondently into the mirror, and slowly put on his jacket. Would it be another difficult day? He passed his wife’s bedroom door, descended the first flight of stairs and looked out of his landingwindow at Wimbledon Park golf course across the road, where he could discern some players alreadyat it. Hmm . . . wish I had time for golf again, he thought. I suppose that’s why we moved hereoriginally . . . He continued down the soft carpet into the breakfast room and sat in his usual place.“Much to do today, David?”David looked warily across the table at his wife and thought for a moment. “Nothing much planned, but I’ll have to do something if the business is not going to fold up completely. I’ll be going round toTelevision Centre to see what’s cooking there. What are your plans, Rachel?”“I’m off to golf in a while, lunching at the club. Thought I’d do some shopping in town thisafternoon.”“Now look, watch what you’re spending, OK? I haven’t got a bottomless bank balance. Stay out of Harvey Nicholls, will you?”“Really, David, I don’t spend much, do I? But the dinner dance is coming up next week, and I can’tgo dressed in rags. And don’t forget you’ll be coming with me.”Oh, will I? thought Stoner; I’ll be getting out of that if I can — there’s somewhere else I’d rather be.After breakfast he sat and read his newspapers, then carefully studied
The Stage and Box
to get thelatest gossip and news about the entertainment world. Nothing to speak of. David slowly put on hiscoat, left the house and walked up the road to Wimbledon Park tube station as usual, thinking that thiswas the only exercise he got these days. Getting too fat if I’m not careful. I don’t want Jessica givingup on me.He got a seat in the tube train near his usual corner, but grimaced as the carriage rapidly filled up ateach station. It always did, even at this hour. Long before the change at Earl’s Court they were stubbinghis toes. Ever since the Blair government had banned cars from all major cities the public transportsystems had been bursting at the seams. He winced as a bulky strap-hanger tottered in the swaying trainand nearly sat on his lap. Why don’t I give all this up and live in the country? he thought, but knew thathis job would always keep him in London. Anyway, it was the only thing he was good at . . .Alighting at West Kensington station, he made his way to a neat Art Nouveau building in BaronsCourt Road, climbed the stairs to his office and greeted his secretary.“Morning, Ruby. Anything?”“Nothing in the post. One or two phone calls. The usual people, asking for news.”Once upon a time, especially when David had dealt with stage work, the phrase had been “Don’t ringus, we’ll ring you”, but for some time now actors were getting more and more desperate and so wereinclined to take the initiative, on the grounds that continually badgering the agent would at least keepthem in his mind. David was, after all, the principal link between them and TV jobs. He made his wayalong the short passage to his private office and sank into his comfortable leather chair. Smiling photosof stage and TV stars surrounded him on the walls. Look how many people I’ve helped in the past, hethought; it’s all so different these days . . .And now the phone rang in the outer office. Ruby, sounding somewhat harassed, came through onthe intercom. “It’s Linda Martin, David.”“Tell her I’m out; no, tell her there’s nothing . . . For God’s sake, tell everybody there’s nothing.”“But David, you can’t put Linda off, you know how well she used to do.”“Oh, well, put her on, put her on.”
1
 
 Acting Illegally
Stoner lifted the phone. “Linda, my dear, how are you? And that hunk of a husband of yours? Bothwell, I hope? I hear you were prominent at Victor’s party last week. Popular as ever . . . “Linda Martin’s slightly acid voice interrupted. “Stop babbling, David; you know perfectly well whyI’m ringing up. Did you find me anything or didn’t you?”“Yes, well, there’s a nice little perfume commercial Nick’s got lined up for you, if you want it.”“I’ve told you a thousand times I will not do commercials. I’m an actress, not a goddammed paperheaded model. It’s parts I want, parts!”David groaned inwardly. “But, sweetie, you know what it’s like these days; there just aren’t any. Doyou think I wouldn’t find you one if I could? My living depends on finding parts as much as yoursdoes.”It was true. Stoner & Co. needed parts for all the actors on their books if they were to survive. For months and months, years it seemed, David had had to cut down on his living standards, sell one or two paintings, lease out his little motor-yacht for hire, and tell his high-living wife to wear some of her dresses more than twice.“All right, David. But if something doesn’t come up soon, I’m transferring to Golding. Be warned.”“Yes, Linda, yes. Can he do any better?”“Maybe. He got Jackie Diamond that part the other day.”“What part? You mean that two-liner in Emmerdale?”Linda Martin nearly screeched. “Two-liner it may be, but it’s money, David. Enough to feed her for a couple of weeks, anyway. And it could lead to something else. You’ve got to keep in the public eyeto survive!”“I know, I know, darling. I’m doing my best, really I am. But for two pins I’d jack it all in and grow potatoes or something.”The prospect of David Stoner, fifty-something and a little portly, growing potatoes for a living wasenough to make both of them smile. Almost.“All right, all right. But keep me in mind, OK?”“I will, of course I will. Leave it to me.”He put the phone down with relief. More and more these days he felt ashamed of his inability to findwork for his actors. Once he had been proud of his reputation for finding his clients work quicker thanany other agent, but now . . .“Ruby, no more phone calls today. I’ve had it with nagging actresses. I have to go round to Auntie’sthis afternoon anyway.”“Right, David. But there’s a John Appleton just arrived to see you. Remember?”Stoner expelled his breath. He remembered. Appleton was a young hopeful, straight from dramaschool, looking for his first job. Well, he might be hopeful, but Stoner certainly wasn’t.“Oh God, I’d better have him in.”A moment later the applicant stood before him.“Good morning, Mr. Stoner.” David had looked at Appleton’s CV, but was now in a position to judge appearance and presence — vitally important to an actor. This lad was a 22-year-old with atotally nondescript appearance and a slightly reserved manner. David’s heart sank. Hardly the heart-throb type: how in heaven’s name could he fix him up? Now if he had been really good-looking, thetype to make the girls swoon, maybe there would be a chance . . .“Hello, young man. Harold Watkins sent you along, didn’t he?”“That’s right, Mr. Stoner. He told me you could fix me up if anyone could.”“Call me David. Well, I have to tell you that Harold’s living in the past. Time was that I could havefixed anybody up. ITV came to me as well as the Beeb because they knew I only passed on good people. But now . . . ““You mean things are difficult. Well, I’d gathered that. But there’ll always be room on television,surely?”“Television, television, why does everybody want television? What’s wrong with rep? In the olddays everybody started in rep. If you were any good you got noticed. People like me were alwaysaround spotting talent, and rep’s where it was. Besides, it gets you the experience.”“I know that. But things have changed, haven’t they? People don’t go out any more because of thehigh prices, the theatres are struggling, some of the top London ones have even closed down. Theydon’t even go to the pictures any more. It’s TV or nothing, surely? Well, that’s what they’re all sayingat RADA.”Stoner knew the lad was right. Ever since the driving restrictions, people had more and more cutdown on their leisure outings rather than face the queues for the over-priced and packed buses andtrains. London was now a city of telly-watchers, and to a less extent, of library-book readers.
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 Acting Illegally
“Yes, it’s true they watch the box all the time. But haven’t you noticed what it is they’re watching?Repeats, repeats, repeats! We’re lucky to get one new production a week now on each channel. Upcome the old programmes, time after time. Look at the Radio Times; what do you see?
 Last of theSummer Wine, Cheers, The Good Life
- for the umpteenth time. Any minute now they’ll put on
The Prisoner 
again!”
The Prisoner 
?”David stared at Appleton. “You mean you never heard of . . . ? My God, I should remember howyoung you are. Well, it seems there’s nothing they won’t repeat nowadays so long as it hasn’t been onfor six months or more.”“But why is it like that?”“Why? Because there’s no money about. The Labour government cut the cost of the TV licence asyou know, so the BBC’s finances depend on more and more on government grants, and theindependent companies can’t put up their fees to advertisers again, they just won’t wear it. So out comethe repeats.”“So you’re saying there are no jobs for people like me? People who’ve spent years training as actorsand looking forward to their first real part?”“Son, that’s not only what I’m saying, I’m also saying there’s little or no work for established actors- big names. Acting’s going down the toilet as a profession, that’s what.”John Appleton was silent for a moment. “So you really can’t help me? I’m a good actor; I won theOlivier trophy and the Redgrave award. And I had rave notices after the academy’s production of 
The Apple Cart.
David smiled a little. “
The Apple Cart 
? Appleton in
The Apple Cart 
?”“Yes, all right.. But that’s quite a part, the king.”Stoner’s eyebrows rose a little. “You played the king, eh? Yes, that is quite a part. Hmm.”A year or two ago he would have attended all the drama schools’ productions, looking for newtalent, but these days there seemed little point when work was so difficult to find anyway. He ponderedfor a few moments. “Wait a moment. You any relation of Ambrose Appleton?”“He was my dad.”“Well, well! One of the best, Ambrose. We were all sorry about the heart attack.”Watkins had sent him details of the lad’s experience, but he’d overlooked that bit. If he wasAmbrose’s son, he could well have inherited some of the family talent. He certainly seemed to be theright stuff. Pity about the looks . . .“Well, John, is it? I’ll certainly keep you in mind, but I’ve told you the score. I may be able to findyou something; let’s both keep hoping. Meanwhile, we’ll put you on the books. You’re agreeable to mytaking twelve and a half per cent?”John Appleton looked up in surprise. “Ten per cent, surely?”The agent raised his eyebrows and spread his hands, and the aspiring actor nodded despondently.“Got your Equity card with you? Right, well, you go out there and show it to my secretary and giveher any more details she wants. And good luck.”They shook hands and the young hopeful departed to the outer office. Stoner heaved another sigh.Running his finger down his desk diary, he checked his afternoon appointment at the BBC TelevisionCentre. “Hmm, I think I’ll take an early lunch. Ruby, book me a taxi for 1.30 at the Feathers.” JUST BEFORE TWO O’CLOCK Stoner made his way up to the third floor to meet KevinBestwick, a television producer in his late thirties. He didn’t often come to the TV centre to meet producers, he mused: they normally phoned him or came round to look through his books for suitableactors. What do I mean, normally? They used to come to me . . .“Hi, Kevin, how’s tricks?” he asked as the two shook hands.“Pretty bloody poor. Two productions in the last six months. I did
Twice Round the Block 
and thenew Alan Bennett — 
 Heads of State
. See either of them?”“Saw them both. Damn good work. But what’s in the pipeline? Anything new?”“Not a sausage. All I do is sit around all day; that’s when I’m not dropping broad hints to thecontroller . . . ““It’s these repeats, isn’t it? Night after night after night.”“You said it. Know what the latest is?
Miss Marple
, the whole blasted series.”“Good God, that again? Well, some of my people will get a bit of a fee out of that. Not as good as anew production, obviously. Lack of money again?”“Yep. We’re on such a tight budget these days, our jobs are all walking on tightropes. Rumour has itthere’ll be more job cuts soon. If something can’t be done before long the whole television business
3

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