I have never been good at finding digs. The first time I went on tour I often shared with one of my cast mates who was much more organised and worldly than I was. One night we turned up in what soon became clear was a room in a violent pub in the Badlands of Salford. As the wind howled outside and drunken customers shouted in the corridors we kept a watchful eye on our bedroom door like prime candidates for victims in a horror film. We moved digs the next day. In another city we were shown our room and noticed a huge swarm of tiny bugs in the carpet. She quite rightly decided we wouldn’t be staying there, so we made hurried, badly acted excuses and got a taxi back to the theatre where we poured over the digs list. Describing what had happened to one of the stage managers he said “Oh that place, yeah I know where you mean. The last time someone stayed there they found a turd in the cupboard.”
There is of course a sweet spot most of us aim for with digs in which you stay with a landlord who is easy to get on with but who in no way wants to be your best friend or mother. This is the ideal. Too involved and you crave personal space, but on the other hand if he or she is too hands off you can end up feeling like a polite (albeit rent-paying) squatter.
Most of the time I’ve stayed with another actor in the cast, which, if you’re touring is easy enough to do as you’ll have already got to know everyone in rehearsals and figured out who you’d most like to watch Making a Murderer with. Sharing with other actors is fun and practical in terms of sharing taxis and walking home in the dark. Also it makes the grim places you end up in, far more bearable. I once did a week in Aberdeen where the whole cast stayed together at a B&B that was so grotty it would’ve made a shit stained mattress on the street look cosy. Every morning at breakfast, the landlady angrily took our order wearing an egg stained t-shirt and looking very much like someone had dropped a See You Jimmy hat on her head…. There was biro on the lampshades and fag burns in the sheet but the fact that we were all there together made the whole thing comical rather than horrific.
I find it a strange part of the job, living elsewhere. It can be brilliant, bleak, calming, stressful, confusing, smelly or downright lonely, depending on where you end up. And after many years I still haven’t got it right. I am currently in digs which are clean (tick) I have my own space (tick) my own bathroom (tick) but they are slightly too far out and a lot of noisy sex and (worse) smooching, is now happening in the room next door. It’s funny isn’t it? When you become an actor everyone warns you about the lack of jobs, the low pay and the inability to get a mortgage but no one warns you about the turds in the cupboard.
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