As mentioned previously, I work as an actor.
Actually, I think the correct term right now is ‘resting’ actor.
Fuck it, I’m unemployed.
ANYWAY, having endured three long years at drama school (once you have spent a half-hour class ’embodying a piece of bamboo’ you can cope with anything) I graduated in a whirlwind of excitement, ready to seize my career on stage and screen.
Yet, something wasn’t quite right.
Instead of attending castings for films and West End plays, the only audition I landed in 3 months was for the role of a magicians assistant. In an advert for a NORWEGIAN SEWAGE COMPANY.
This involved pretending to be ‘conjured into a chicken’ (quite what this had to do with sewage I will never know) and crawling around on my hands and knees, loudly clucking, in front of a casting panel of four people.
I was also sent a script to audition for a new short film. This, rather insultingly, was for the role of ‘an older, more overweight version of Vicky Pollard’. I mean, I was SELECTED to audition for this role. As in, the casting director will have scanned a database of hundreds of faces, stopped at mine and gone ‘FUCK ME, SHE’S A RIGHT MUNTER, ISN’T SHE?!’ and put me forward for the casting.
So things were looking rather bleak.
Meanwhile, I was working full time in a local bar, pouring pints for drunken louts who would shout ‘CAN I GET SOME MORE HEAD WITH THAT PINT, LOVE? WHEEEY!’.
Then, around Christmas time, something miraculous happened. I landed my first proper job, in a popular soap. This was to play the small role of a nurse working in an STI clinic (yes I know, very appropriate, ha de ha ha).
For the sake of my career, im not sure whether I should name the programme in question, but lets just say that it half-rhymes with JOLLY GROPES. WALLY BLOKES. Or TROLLY JOKES (you get the picture).
My character was called ‘Nurse With No Name’ (it looks stunning on my CV) and had the task of imparting one crucial line: ‘THE TEST WAS NEGATIVE, JON PAUL. YOU DON’T HAVE AIDS’.
The day of filming dawned.
Having not slept for the entire night, one eye permanently trained on the alarm clock like a keen lizard, I arrived for my 7am make-up call looking a little ‘groggy’. In fact, groggy is an understatement. We are talking shiny skin, wild hair and mad little piggy eyes. Like I had spent the night in a wheelie bin.
This was, of course, when I ran slap bang into my scene partner; the gorgeous actor playing Jon Paul.
Now, I have had fan-like crush on this actor since the age of about 13.
So much so, that I used to have a topless poster of him hugging a baby rabbit, ripped out of a Girl Talk magazine.
And the problem was, although I was well aware of who HE was, I completely forgot that he had never seen me before in his life.
‘HELLO YOU, OLD SAUCE-POT!!’ I cried, embracing him in a bear like hug and slapping him heartily on the back. ‘How’s your rabbit doing?’.
If slightly shocked as to who this delirious, Hagrid-like girl was cradling him to her breast, he didn’t show it and was perfectly lovely.
‘Looking forward to working with you today’ he smiled.
‘Ahh what a delightful young man’ I thought to myself. ‘Today’s going to be brilliant. A memory that I will fondly cherish forever and ever’.
Little did I know what utter horrors lay before me.
Having left makeup, I was whisked up to costume to put on my ‘nurse attire’.
I had been phoned up by the costume department a few days previously and asked for my dress size.
‘Ohhh I’m quite petite. A slip of a thing, really!’ I flagrantly fibbed , fearful that upon learning my real dress size they would cry ‘CHRIST, WE CAN’T HIRE THIS HEFFER!’ and offer the role to someone else.
‘Yes, I think I’m somewhere between a 6 and an 8!’ I trilled.
THIS WAS A BIG FAT LIE.
I stared at my costume in horror.
Laid out in front of me was the teeniest tiniest pair of trousers and shirt I had ever seen before in my life. Something that might just about fit a Cabbage Patch Kid doll.
Trying not to hyperventilate, I plastered on a joyous smile.
‘Oh thank you SO MUCH! These look PERFECT. I’ll just slip into them and be out in a sec’.
What ensued thereafter, I can only liken to trying to stuff a large blancmange into a thimble.
I somehow managed to get the clothes on… But any sudden movements and I would have literally EXPLODED out of them. The only way I could physically move in the trousers was to maintain a sort of ‘squatted’ position, like I was about to lay a large dump.
‘How do the clothes fit?’ called the costume boy through the door.
‘LIKE A BLOODY GLOVE!’ I called back through gritted teeth, panting and sweating with the exertion of trying to do up my fly.
I was already starting to lose the sensation in both my arms. The short cotton sleeves were so tight that they had cut off all circulation. Like some butchers string wrapped around a piece of pork.
‘Ready!’ I cried, walking bow-legged out the door, numb arms swinging wildly.
The poor boy looked completely horrified at my appearance but was clearly too polite to say anything.
The only adjustment he made was to attach a large safety pin across the front of my shirt, which unable to cope with the strain of my heaving breasts, was gaping open like some lardy stripper.
I waddled my way to the set.
Now, I consider myself to be a fairly strong stomached girl. One has to be growing up in rural Wales. Such as the time, aged 12, when my Shetland pony was castrated and the vet HANDED ME THE BALLS TO KEEP.
But if there is one thing that I cannot abide, it’s blood and needles.
I was the girl at school who had to have a crash mat put down when having injections. And fainted whilst dissecting a pigs heart.
I rather disturbed therefore, to be met on set by a real nurse who would be instructing me on how to REALISTICALLY INSERT A NEEDLE AND PERFORM A BLOOD TEST.
Cheerfully, she laid out the instruments of torture on the table- wipes, needles, tubes, cotton wool- and talked me through it step by step.
The room started swaying as I broke into a cold sweat.
‘KEEP IT TOGETHER, GABRIELLE’ I told myself ‘This is your first ever day of filming. Now is NOT the time to faint, throw up or shit yourself’.
Unfortunately, having already lost all sensation in my limbs due to my child-size clothing, I was very near the point of face-planting into the floor.
The cameras started rolling.
Sweating, teeth chattering and body parts inflating in random places due to my restricted blood flow, I descended on Jon Paul with the needle. To be fair to him, he handled it well. It must have been a truly terrifying sight- less jolly nurse, more the angel of death.
Traumatused, I was driven back to the studio canteen for lunch.
Everybody sat in cliques. It was like Mean Girls. All the make-up women at one table, all the camera crew at another, all the extras… There was nowhere for exploding trouser girl.
I rang my mother from the toilet cubicle.
‘I’M ALL ALONE, MUMMY!’ I cried. ‘Everybody knows each other and it’s really intimidating and I can’t really move properly incase I ERUPT FROM THESE CASTRATING TROUSERS!!!’
This is when my mother imparted her usual Marge Simpson- like advice.
‘You stroll on over there’ she instructed ‘And say Hello! My name is Gabrielle and I would like to be your friend! Or perhaps you could hand something around, like a packet of Werther’s Originals’.
‘Or I could ring up whoever’s in charge and ask someone to come and sit with you, if you like. I used to do that for you when you were little. I remember when you were at Pony Club and you were too scared to use the portaloo by yourself, so instead chose to defecate in-‘
I think it was at that point that I hung up.
Lunch hour ended and it was time to film the last part of the scene. This involved simply sitting behind a desk and delivering my one line of dialogue-‘The test was negative, Jon Paul. YOU DON’T HAVE AIDS’.
‘Let’s try and get this in one take guys!’ the director called.
I nervously got into position.
A dramatic silence fell. Composing my features into what I hoped was an expression of wisdom and authority, I cleared my throat ready to deliver my one, crucial line.
‘The test was negative, Jon Paul. You don’t have- AAAGH!’.
A sudden, sharp pain stabbed into my right boob, followed by a cool gust of air.
I looked down.
Unable to take the strain anymore, my safety pin had snapped, sticking itself into my chest. Therefore allowing the shirt to burst wide open.
There was a horrified silence in the room. We are talking an entire film crew, director and actors all staring in utter disbelief, whilst I casually sat in front of the camera with both tits hanging out.
I kept the transmission date of my episode a dirty secret.
Which is just as well really, as when it aired they chose to cut out my head out from the scene (By this I mean that my head wasn’t in shot. I don’t mean like a severed head).
Instead, there is just a beautifully filmed shot of my clammy, inflated clown hands, shakily administering a needle.
My friends rang me afterwards with words of encouragement, as a sat necking back gin in horror- ‘We could tell they were your hands, Gab- we recognised your mole!’
I am going to stick to nursing a pint.