Cast of Crabs
Unsolicited life lessons and an apt collective noun.
I’m walking through Chinatown to see my friend R- when I come across a restaurant window displaying a remarkable metaphor for my life. A cast of crabs in a tank, en route to the dinner table. They’re spending the last moments of their life engaged in a remarkably pointless competition: fighting to sit atop a rival’s head. I make a video of this, but it’s many years ago now and I’ve since lost it. It looked a bit like this.
I’m here to see R- who’s a very good actor who you will probably know from a number of interesting shows if you have even a passing interest in stage or screen. So I’ll fudge the details of this, so you can’t tell exactly who he is - but believe me, the guts of it are bang on. He’s just back from a theater in not New York, where he had been cast to play a character from a well known 19th century detective series who is not normally associated in the readers’ mind with a man of R-’s, er, race. It seemed a very bold move at the time, this being, as I say, many years ago now and therefore prior to the subsequent buzz for race-blind and even transracial casting that will wash over Netflix and the BBC and so on. It was an especially bold for this not New York theater at that or any time. Suffice to say, it never actually happened.
R- rehearsed away, and I know him to be very diligent in his approach to a role, as well as being an affable sort who tends to get on very well with everyone in the cast and crew. There was some complication about the Artistic Director being overseas during the casting. The AD sits above the director in the pecking order, and is responsible to the sponsors and audiences and for the current and future existence of the whole company etc, though is not involved in day-to-day rehearsals. Anyhow, after a couple of weeks rehearsal, s/he returned and sat alone in the audience during a cast stagger-through and the next day R- got a knock on his hotel door and was handed a check for his entire season’s wages and a plane ticket and invited to return to New York that instant. The language around the whole thing was handled very carefully, as this is America, with legal and media engines thirsty for the biofuel of human drama, so the whole thing was put down to ‘artistic differences.’ I do think that R- could have made a bit more of a fuss but it’s really not his style.
But it makes a lot of sense of why R- has invited me to dinner in Chinatown at a time that I had assumed he was in not New York, yet here he is, coaxing me to have a second beer at 1pm on a Wednesday and pledging to pay for the whole meal.
I accept with thanks and we crack into our crab.