This image prompts a recollection of my first encounter with Cardboard Citizens.
It began with a phone call from an actor acquaintance. He told me of a production of Gorki’s The Lower Depths. It was to be revived with the replacement of a key part. He had been offered that part because the director was not content with the way it was being interpreted. My actor acquaintance was choosing to work elsewhere, but asked if he might suggest me to the director.
Acting is a trade in which you stumble on employment in just this way. You meet a man in a pub who knows a bloke who might need a bloke to… etc.
Adrian Jackson, the director of The Lower Depths, was the only begetter of an outfit he called Cardboard Citizens. Cardboard Citizens is a theatre skills group for homeless people and I write more about it (and him) in Are You Going to do That Little Jump? – The Adventure Continues.
He and I first met at (I think) the original Patisserie Valerie in Old Compton Street, which used to be my ‘office’. Since the once-wonderful Arts’ Club had been wrecked, I hadn’t any town centre premises at which to meet fellow pros.
Lower Depths began underground at The Clink Vaults with doled out blankets for the chilled audience – so I’m told. In the play there’s an ambiguous life-altering wanderer called Luka. The original actor was convinced that Luka’s influence on any social group was wholly – good. Adrian will never believe that anything is ‘wholly’ anything – so he wanted to see if I was prepared to play the ambiguity he preferred. It was exactly the way I saw Luka, and so I took part in an unforgettable production inside a one-time police gymnasium in Hackney, wonderfully transformed into a timeless, transients’ hostel by the designer.