Middle Age Life: Truth from the Turn
Some days I think that it is a miracle that at the age of 48 (thirtyish as I tell people) that I am still ‘Thesping it’ and have had a glorious though not glittering career of 26 years. I am at the age when the mid-life crisis is desperately trying to kick in and intrude on my life; to all intents and purposes, it is succeeding.
I always vowed that I would try and age gracefully and not go in for dyeing my hair, joining a gym and hanging out with teenagers. Happily, I can report that I still have absolutely no inclination or desire to do any one of those three things. But last year one night I found myself in the A&E department (Accident & Emergency) of Whipps Cross Hospital in London, (I lived around the corner from it.) Staggering into the place I informed the staff that I was experiencing a particularly bad PTSD episode (unfortunately I have neither the time or the cyber space to go into why I suffer from PTSD) but I digress.
Before I knew it, I was ushered into a room where I met two of the hospital’s psychiatrist’s. After answering their questions and subjecting them to my life story – Two marriages, two divorces, two trips to rehab, one massive nervous breakdown, unexpectedly becoming a father ( & being informed via a text two minutes before my fifth and final WICKED audition) the loss of my house (Credit crunch) and the loss and death of my fiancé, and the Mother of my child to Type 2 Diabetes, they then asked me the only question that really mattered… “Mr Hudson, have you ever considered harming yourself?” At first, I wasn’t entirely sure if this was a sincere suggestion, an order or a question but anyway I duly told them that NO I had never intentionally harmed or considered harming myself. And at that, I was given a decent dose of diazepam (Valium medication) and happily sent on my way. That night I slept like a log.
Just before leaving the hospital I asked one of the Psychiatrists the following question, “Is it normal to wake up early every morning feeling anxious?” I was told that yes, it is normal and especially now that I am within the throes of Middle Age.
This for some reason is something that I have not been able to get out of my head and indeed it is something that I spent some time looking into. When we are young we feel indestructible, indeed the very idea that one day we might die seems such a distant concept that it, in fact, it feels completely unobtainable. But by my humble age of 48, I am beginning to experience a number of things. Thing 1: Casting Directors seem to pigeon hole Actors over the age of 40 as being potentially a health risk and especially Actors who work in musicals. I have lost count a number of times that I have been told that the musical world is a young man’s world and that if it wasn’t for the fact that many forty somethings begin to experience a certain amount of so-called ‘knee trouble’ then they would still be playing ‘Jean Valjean’, the ‘Smelter on the Barricade’ or the singing and dancing ‘Spear Carrier’ to the day that they die! Personally, I have never had any knee issues and currently, I am jumping, dancing and ‘rolling’ in the current stage tour that I am working in. For some reason, my workload on the stage seems to get greater and more physical the older I get, not the other way round.
Thing 2: Over the past five years I have tragically seen a number of my good friends and colleagues pass away due to the Big ‘C’. Thing 3: Financial issues range largely and now that I am a Father a whole new plethora of worries have floated to the surface. Thing 4: A year ago I realised that being an Actor meant that I wasn’t actually qualified as anything. I am not even qualified to teach Acting, bizarre wouldn’t you think considering that I have worked in every sphere of theatre for 26 years. so, listening to my fear I did what I shouldn’t have done and I let my fear drive me into the appalling predicament of trying to train as a Teaching Assistant.
In a very short space of time I realised what I have kind of always known, the fact and great truth that the reason why I am an Actor is because I have spectacularly failed at and been fired from everything else.
If it is one thing that I have learned it is the fact that the employment community often makes the mistake of thinking that because you are an Actor and a ‘Performer’ that you can do anything. I shudder when I hear a potential employer tell me “Oh, you can do this!” If I had a penny, a cent or even a pathetic Yugoslavian Dinar for every time I had been told that I would be richer than God! (Or at least richer than Billy Graham, Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey.) Yes, Actors can bull shit ‘til the cows come home but the worst thing is being unmotivated and believe me selling double glazing, editorial space, securities, commodities, real estate or tickets for ‘Romeo & Juliet The Musical’ ( A classic) can really rob you of your self-worth.
Fear is a terrible thing that plagues us and the older we get the worse it can get. We live in a world where work and financial security is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Years ago, the very idea that a person couldn’t get a job (any job) seemed such a ridiculous concept. People were always dissuaded from becoming Actors or Performers because there simply wasn’t enough work for everyone and at any one-time statistics would show and still show today at only ten percent of Actors are ever in work.
These days when ever some fool (usually someone’s mother or father in law) dares to tell me that my particular profession is very tough and that Actors very rarely find decent employment I waste no time in telling them that in fact they could be speaking for anyone or everyone these days.
Indeed jobs (any job) are becoming few and far between, only yesterday at breakfast did I read in the FT that over 47 percent of jobs performed by a human work force will become fully automated in less than three to five years. Not only that but jobs such as truck driving or van deliveries will soon by carried out by drones and driverless cars. And so as far as I am concerned the more efficient that society and the world becomes, the fewer and fewer people there will be in a job earning a regular, comfortable and steady wage.
But despite this, I try not to be the Town Crier or Messenger of all that is doom and gloom. The good news is that for us Actors the theatre will always be a live medium and so, therefore, will always require live and living and breathing Actors. Even despite the fact that the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain is streaming its shows to various cinemas the fact still remains that people who still desire a live experience will still have to go to the theatre.
So, being 48 and recognising this great truth does, in fact, help me to manage my anxiety and especially at 9:30 am every morning when I am nearly crazy enough to throw the TV and Jeremy Kyle out of the motel window.
The world is forever changing, technology is making most things obsolete and people are still ageing and growing old. After two marriages and a very tough death, I am still in market place to meet someone special. My experiences have not left me jaded or bitter and as yet (broke as I am) I am still not prepared to walk away from the stage. I am a lucky man, lucky, hard-working and tenacious! I am not dead yet, my worries will not get me and thanks to those two psychiatrists at Whipps Cross Hospital I am still one tired old turn giving his all in the theatrical job market.
Also by Lincoln Hudson:
Join TheatreArtLife to access unlimited articles, our global career center, discussion forums, and professional development resource guide. Your investment will help us continue to ignite connections across the globe in live entertainment and build this community for industry professionals. Learn more about our subscription plans.
Love to write or have something to say? Become a contributor with TheatreArtLife. Join our community of industry leaders working in artistic, creative, and technical roles across the globe. Visit our CONTRIBUTE page to learn more or submit an article.