The great folks I met at Crooks 1926 highly recommended Actors Anonymous on the digital stage to me, a one-woman show starring Nyokabi Macharia as every single participant in a self-help group for aspiring actors in London. Here mediation junkies and notorious late comers meet in a chair circle, here they share their experiences and frustrations with auditions and castings, signature looks and image building, homesickness, friendships, envy, confidence and competition. It quickly turns out that most are here because they realize they are running out of energy, of soul and of heart-blood to keep up with the constant pressure to be notable, exceptional and liked – while trying and hoping to be discovered and to make it while juggling customer service and warehouse jobs to pay the rent. To most here, being discovered has already turned from an expectation to a desire and what stays is the thankfulness for every Instagram bot giving them a follow. And not making it is now a looming possibility.
This is a monodrama, not a monolog. Rarely has the input of an accent coach (here: Tori Turnbow) shone more: The attendees from all over the globe quote their relatives and mentors based on conversations and phone calls but also their nagging voices in their heads. The big fear of having to return in lack of further resources is omnipresent, no matter how proud you actually are on some achievements but returning “empty handed” with no big name to yourself (only a “semi-finished British accent”) would mean at this stage to sneak back. Exceptional is also the streaming quality, the camera perspective switching and the eye contact made with the lens – this is not a dramatized Zoom call but a carefully conducted live play.
While the show runs, its YouTube chat floats and audience members celebrate their favourite lines and scenes with emojis and instant encouragement and excitement. It seems that plenty of people relate to a lot of topics. Actor or not, anyone who ever moved to London from afar will recognize at least some challenges mentioned here, even if no one fundraised your visa and one-way plane ticket and expects you to come back as a chart-topper or West End star. And the difficulty to talk with others not having made this move is also something plenty of people will recall. Above all, the big taboo of loneliness, even when among others, appears several times. And even if a self-help group in any format is not your style or you would be rather seen dead than admitting it, even if the group’s presenter’s voice and tone is as annoying as Alexa on a mindfulness-mission: The availability of help formats like this is important and should never ever be taken for granted.
**** out of 5 stars
Written by Scarlet Simons and Mercy Mutisya