Cressida Bonas

The perils of auditioning on Zoom

The perils of auditioning on Zoom
Image: Rebecca Reid
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So we can hug and kiss each other, but facemasks could be here to stay. There are some people I would rather never hug and kiss again. Nor am I sure I want to socialise in big groups, outside or inside, now that I have become accustomed to cosy nights in. My husband, Harry, calls me the hermit crab. I have spent too many happy evenings eating spaghetti bolognese watching Netflix. On the other hand, I’m longing to dance wildly at a live gig and preferably not on my own. I am dying to drink wine with my girlfriends and chat each other’s ears off. It can’t come soon enough.

The acting world is beginning to open up. I have a FaceTime audition with a film director. It’s a particularly heated scene. Without meaning to, I rehearse my lines in the background of my husband Harry’s Zoom work call. His colleagues must wonder why I’m waving my arms about while shouting at the wall. Fortunately, he’s on mute.

We have spent our first year of marriage in a pandemic and thankfully there haven’t been many marital dramas. Although our flat is fast becoming a library, much to Harry’s despair. Consequently, he has decided to build some more bookshelves. Not managing to hold them all, some books were chosen for the reject pile. This was a tough call - I prefer attractive looking titles on poetry and the meaning of life, rather than Harry’s practical manuals on travel and mountaineering. Honestly, I would prefer his to go. But, of course, that wouldn’t be fair. So, the battle between books on ‘reflecting’ and books on ‘doing’ continues. But I have realised they both have a place and perhaps it would be less interesting if we had a similar collection.

Being a reflective, naturally inquisitive type always leads me to ask deep and quite personal questions. It often gets me into trouble and probably exhausts my close friends. But now I have the opportunity to ask people I admire to greater understand the human condition via my podcast Fear Itself. I ask guests what they are afraid of and how they find resilience. Recording on Zoom has not been without its challenges. Interruptions have included; lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, pneumatic drills, jet washers and sirens, not to mention the leaky ceiling, warring couple upstairs and the lady next door who likes to rearrange her furniture.

I went to see The Ey Exhibition: The Making of Rodin at The Tate Modern dragging my two nieces, Esme and Florence, with me. With the new capacity restrictions, it felt more like a private tour rather than the usual bustle of having to peer over someone’s shoulder to look at the art, or embarrassment of sauntering across someone’s line of view. Walking amongst Rodin’s sculptures was a welcome treat compared to the recent one-dimensional existence of lockdown living. There is one bronze on entering the exhibition and then all of his most famous sculptures are seen in plaster (their rawest form). The work shown here is about process. This is something I am trying to learn in my own life. Sometimes it seems we become too attached to the end result rather than slowing down and enjoying the steps in between; the doing and the being. Suddenly I’m reminded of Harry’s books on our crowded bookshelf. This is why I have always enjoyed the rehearsal stages of being in a play; you’re merely needed to be present and create. There is nothing to prove.

Feeling there was a danger that my nieces might get bored we played ‘gallery games’ including 'who can do the best impression of a The Thinker?' and 'how many naked bottoms can you see?' Endless bottoms - we lost count.

I have loved watching the odious Tony Kroesig being played beautifully by my friend Freddie Fox in the BBC’s adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s novel The Pursuit of Love. As a child, I read Mitford’s novels. I’ve re-read them over lockdown, and they are even better the second time round. My mum introduced them to me and likes to remind people that she knows all of the classic quotes by heart. The older generation have a sense of ownership over these stories; It’s personal for them; a window into their past where the characters are much more than just fiction. 

I have also felt feelings of nostalgia while watching the eccentric members of the Radlett family come to life. Sharing secrets in cupboards, writing in journals and daring to dream up adventures for the future is all too familiar from my childhood. Cousins Linda and Fanny’s relationship is at the heart of the story (played by Lily James and Emily Beecham). It reminds me of the deep love I have for my sisters and the dreams we share over breakfasts, or more recently on the telephone. Our passionate conversations are never self-conscious. As a teenager I wondered whether I was more like Linda or Fanny, perhaps a little of both. I was hopelessly romantic and impatient for life to begin, but also a little fearful, treading lightly as I went.

Listen to Cressida Bonas's podcast Fear Itself here