In the East End

In the second pub, we drank under a picture of a man and a woman with a caption saying that Jack the Ripper’s first victim had drunk there just before she died. I went out to hunt for my bus stop, and passed Leman St., a name I know from Ripper Street on the telly. The first pub had, prominently, the words “A Spitalfields Institution since 1666” and a picture of Spitalfields in the present day, including Gilbert and George.

The theatre space we used was the Rag Factory. If done up, it could make £350,000 a year as offices, but this part is leased to 2035. When we got there the loos were not working, and Silas, who leases the place, had to heat the pipes with a blowtorch. The loo doors open onto a courtyard filled with junk and dirty snow. One part of the building is a showroom for next season’s fashions: it has £350 coats for 2018/19, and customers will examine them before ordering hundreds or thousands. We sold wine to the customers there, around 250ml in large plastic cups, and admired the beautiful things. The commercial lets support the theatre space. A man does night classes and four week intensive courses in Method acting.

Silas told of his other business ventures: he had an employment agency for actors. Ten actors would take on a job needing a team of six, so that they could always take time to attend auditions. It should not be that young struggling actors need trust funds to survive. He helped actors with their careers: they complained of their agents, doing nothing and taking 20%. Well, how much did you earn last year? £2000. £400 does not buy a lot of phone calls. Should the successful actors subsidise you? Getting an agent with a good name indicates someone thinks you have promise. Do what you’re good at: act, in a space with minimal lighting and scenery. Keep going to the auditions, and when you get a break that expensive agent will get you a good deal, and may open further doors for you. He did recruitment work. He would send one candidate, telling the client he had done the work, and got them the right person. The trouble with recruitment is that Linked In has taken over people’s contacts books, and done badly it is money for old rope. Just send a few people along and hope one is good enough. Done well, recruitment is a good trade, but the shysters drive out the good recruiters.

I met two of Drea’s admirers, both of whom I found charming. One is doing a Master’s degree at SOAS- “I didn’t want to leave University,” he said, self-deprecatingly- and working as a barman, or trainee sommelier. No job pays the living wage, he says. We discussed evolutionary psychology, part of his expertise, and I found contrary to expectation he was not a chest-thumper arguing men are dominant because of testosterone and a pre-history of mammoth-hunting, but feminist.

We discussed body-shaming.
-My breasts are small.
-No they’re not, they’re beautiful.
This implies small would be a bad thing, so must be denied. At least it means you don’t need a bra all the time.

There was snow, but the buses were running, and half the number of trains were running, double length. Going home alone after midnight I saw sleeping bags for rough sleepers in Charing Cross underground, and on the bus a man who had been casting glances at me since the bus stop leaned over to tell me “I am getting off now, madam”, perhaps as if I would follow him, as if I were a sex worker or interested in following strange men at night. That would be too much of an adventure for me.

I thought my camera would cope because of the light on our faces, but it did not, particularly, as the lights were all over the stage.

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