The Diary of a Nactor

By Gerard Menuhin.

January 15 2016. I feel very proud of myself and important. I’ve just been asked to sign the Official Secrets Act. This is because I’ve been cast in one of these ‘open theatres’, as we’re told to call them. I’m thrilled to bits! It’s really good news as I’ve been waiting tables ever since I joined the union, about five years ago. Now I’ve got a role. It’s not much of a role, but it pays real well –$5,000 for a day’s work. I get to play a dead person.

My role is to lie quite still in the street, until I’m told I can move. It’s meant to be after an accident, so the police and ambulance crews will be there. They may or may not carry me off on a stretcher. This depends on Trixie Eisenstein, the director. She’s related to the famous Russian director Sergio Eisenstein. I’m sorry to go prattling on like this, but it’s fearfully exciting to be working again. The play is called ‘Unknown Act 232’. That’s very avant-garde, isn’t it? It’s a new kind of theatre, which takes place spontaneously, in public. Of course it’s not really spontaneous, as we all have to rehearse our parts, but it has to look spontaneous. So I’m to be spontaneously dead.

Apparently my role is related to national security! I don’t know why I have to sign the Official Secrets Act to get this role, but I was told I wouldn’t get it, if I didn’t sign, so I signed of course. I’m not supposed to tell anyone about it, so do keep this to yourself, won’t you. How do you suppose pretending to be dead is related to national security? I had the opportunity to ask Trixie why I was dead. She asked me why I wanted to know. I told her it was motivation. We actors need to know our motivation to be convincing in our roles. I mean, I said to her, did I die of grief, or was I shot? Trixie said I might be killed in an explosion, or maybe by a runaway vehicle. I’m concerned to lie at the right angle. If I’m killed in an explosion, I could lie all in a heap. If I’m run over, I might sort of bundle myself together, with my head on the ground and my behind in the air. What do you think? Is that too theatrical?

July 14, 2016. It went off quite well, if I say so myself. I reported as ordered, at 10pm. An assistant director showed me where to lie down on the sidewalk, but first he told me he was going to tear my shirt and smear dirt on it. That’s a shame because it was one of my favourites. A few other actors were lying about. Passersby looked at us strangely, but they were shooed away by the crew. Anyway, about half an hour later a truck rolled to a stop a few yards from where I was. The driver got out and walked away. I peeked the whole time, so I could see what was going on. Trixie called to us all to lie flat. Then I heard some yelling and screaming. Suddenly there were lots of shots, some hit the truck. This went on for about ten minutes. Then all the ‘dead’ or ‘wounded’ among us were lifted onto stretchers and driven in ambulances for some distance. We were told to get out and walk home. I caught a bus. Later, I saw on television where the French President Mr. Françoise Hollandaise was making a speech about some terrorist attack that had taken place. Seemed like almost where I was and at about the same time. Was this a coincidence? Or a coincidincy, as we actors call it? Anyway, I see my account has been credited with the agreed amount.

I must have been doing something right, as I’m engaged to play the same role in the next open theatre shows in London and Berlin. Trixie says, if I do well, I may even get to play my part in a full-length movie, in Hollywood. But I’m worried about being type-cast as a dead person. I asked Trixie about this, but she said there were no talking parts.

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