9 Jun


Jeremy had broken the first barrier – a young aspiring actor had to face. He had found himself an agent.

He ran through most of the agents in Contacts, the official list of things theatrical. Most of them said “No” sight unseen, a few of them asked him to come and see them, him waiting for hours and then giving him a cursory glace before any saying “no”. The list was alphabetical, so it took some time before his discovered he name Cordelia Stansfield (nee Miriam Goldblatt)

When he arrive at her office at the top of a tall building in Charing Cross Road, he sat himself on a long wooden bench next to other young hopefuls and waited for her to call him in.

He was a little disturbed at the sight of the other actors. Most of the boys wore old sorts jackets, badly frayed at the cuffs and patched with leather at the elbow. The all had hair rather longer than necessary and badly executed shaves.

They looked decidedly seedy, but were positively elegant next to the girls. The young women wore cheap finery, satin skirts and blouses and were plastered with thick make up, looking for all the world as if they were already made up to go on stage should some star – and understudy- fall sick.

They made up for their general tattiness, by talking in very loud, very posh voices and smoking a great deal.

One short tubby girl with bright marmalade coloured hair, heavy green eye-shadow and jammy lipstick which had strayed to other parts of her physiognomy, smudged over her moth, a little on the cheek, and most of it on her front teeth. Jeremy gave an involuntary shudder and felt quite ill at the sight.

He realised he was out of keeping with the rest of them. Having recently left the army, he was in the habit of keeping his hair short and of being meticulous about his clothes, keeping everything cleaned and pressed and generally tickety boo.

When he entered the waiting room, the other young thespians gave him a cursory glance, decided he wasn’t worth bothering about, and continued their loud conversation. His heart sank when he realised that he was about tenth in line to go in and see Cordelia Stansfield and was therefore agreeably surprised when he heard his name called first by the Linda, the secretary. The others gave him steely glances, trying to sum him up.

The girl with orange hair protested.

‘Darling,’ she said to the secretary, ‘I was here ages before him.’

‘Sorry darling,’ replied the secretary, Jeremy had an appointment.’

‘Oh I see, darling.’ said the girls with the orange hair and she turned to Jeremy giving him a jammy smile, ‘Sorry darling.’

Jeremy bowed his head in acknowledgement.

‘Come along darling.’ said the secretary and led him into the office.

It was a spacious rectangular room, lined with large photographs of very famous actors, each signed with a loving message “To darling Cordelia with fondest love, Larry” said one over a portrait of Laurence Olivier. Jeremy wondered if it was real.

AT one end of the room was a leather armchair, and sitting in the armchair with crossed legs displaying a generous amount of peach coloured  elastic legged, Celanese bloomers, sat Cordelia Stansfield. She was small and squat, with probably the ugliest face Jeremy had ever seen. A huge hooked nose, so long that it almost touched the long pointed chin, leaving a tiny space for a pea-size mouth and a luxuriant black moustache. She had littlepig-like eyes of an indeterminate colour, low furrowed forehead and on top of the square pugnacious head, a huge red wig. The pea sized hole in her face was completely filled up by a large cigar which puff out clouds of smoke which surrounded her, giving her a dreamlike – nay, a nightmare, quality.

‘Hello dear,’ she said in a harsh cockney voice, ‘ Sit down.’ and she waved a tiny pudgy hand in the direction of a wooden kitchen chair.

Jeremy sat. He couldn’t take his eyes off her, full of horrified fascination.

‘Well, you’re a pretty boy,’ she said , ‘Are you queer?’

Jeremy reddened.

‘You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to. But I expect you are. Just my luck. It’s always the same whenever I fancy somebody.’

She leered at him horribly. He tried to look away but was totally unable to tear his eyes away from the basilisk stare.

‘Don;t worry about me,’ she said with a coarse laugh,’ I’m used to being stared at. That’s what comes of being a great beauty.’ and she laughed uproariously.

‘I’m frightfully sorry,’ stammered Jeremy,’I didn’t mean to be rude.’

‘Polite and sexy – that’s quite something,’she said, ‘have you got any clothes?’

Jeremy swallowed.

‘Yes, I’ve got the necessary.’

She started to tick of the list on her fingers.

‘Sports jacket, flannels, lounge suit, dinner jacket, tail suit, formal shirts, dress shirts, selection of ties and socks.’

‘Yes, I have all of these.’

Cordelia took a heavy draw on her cigar and blew out the smoke in a huge cloud.

‘That’ll save me a lot of trouble. In Spotlight?’

‘Yes, I took out half a page.’

‘No agent?’

‘Not so far, that is why I came to see you.’

‘I saw your photograph when you wrote in. Very good. Must have cost a bob or two. Angus McBean doesn’t come cheap. Money in the family?’

‘Not really, my father’s a clergyman. But I do get small sums of money from time to time.’

‘You were a disc jockey in Germany?’ That’s all to the good.’

She was silent for a while, looking at him speculatively with her little screwed up eyes. Suddenly she smiled, and in that instant stopped his heart. The famous smile, rarely used, split up her face into a million tiny wrinkles. When she smiled she had the charm of somebizarre will animal. It was the secret of her success.

‘I’m not a bad old trout, you know,’she said,’And I’m a bloody good agent.’

‘Do you want me to audition?’

Cordelia stood up. She was still the same size as she had been sitting down

‘Don’t believe in’em my dear. Trust my nose I do. I like you, Jeremy. In fact I’ve got the hots for you. Shall we work together, do you think?’

Jeremy nodded.

‘Good. I have an audition for you. Tomorrow, four o’clock. Barton Green. New Theatre company taking over, heard of Jessica Sherwood?’

‘Musical Comedy star?’

‘The very same. She and her daft upper class husband. For some extraordinary reason, they’ve taken over an old touring house in Barton Green and plan to put on weekly Rep. Good thing if you can get it. All the casting directors and managements will come to see Jessica, making a fool of herself. And it will help  you get our Equity card. Three contracts out of town and you’ll be joining the most prestigious company in the business. You might as well cash in boy eh?’

‘Sounds good.’

‘Right, well you be sure to get it. Don’t tell the old bitch you’re queer. If she fancies you, and I’m sure she will, Don’t put her off – understood?’

Jeremy nodded.

‘In the meantime, I’ll have a go at Phil. He likes me, always has done. Think I could give that one a good time – know what I mean?’ and she gave him a lurid wink.


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