Rosh Hashanah is looming again and as ever I find that the shift in temperature and the new smell in the air are my cue to take stock - to look back on the year, at who I once was, who I hoped to be and who I have now become. I'm currently working with much younger cast members. They take their art very seriously and have the freedom and single mindedness to devote themselves entirely to the play, stay up late with a bottle of wine dissecting the piece, and enjoy peaceful weekends involving yoga while working on their character's motivations.
I used to be that person but have shed that skin like an old Yomtov coat. Now I've found myself cast in the role of the older, wiser Jewish mother of the troupe. So far in the past two weeks I've baked three cakes and plied everyone with Danish pastries. They think I'm a feeder. I see it as my duty to keep them from living entirely on protein. I have become a very different person.
My working life can be divided into two eras - pre-child and post-child. Pre-child, during rehearsals of a play, I too would stay up late working on the character, learning lines, sleep with the script under my pillow to help the lines go in (old tradition, can't break it!) rise in leisurely fashion, do a bit of stretching, make a lovely coffee and head off to the rehearsal room, awake and rested. I'm currently in rehearsals for the NT/Headlong production of Mike Bartlett's rollercoaster epic Earthquakes in London. My post-child working morning couldn't be more different. It usually starts at 5am when my five year old plonks herself on my bed, shuffles up on my pillow, dislodges my carefully placed script and stretches out - pushing me to one side and my other half to the other. We are usually too knackered to move her.
When I was a bright young thing I wanted to be nothing more than a constantly working actress, moving steadily from one job to another notching up quality credits on my belt. Family and friends were important but the work always came first. I didn't have many acting role models with families so I assumed it was something that an actress had to do without. After all, how could one be free to pick up at a moment's notice with the huge weight of responsibility of a child hanging around one's neck? I was always the edgy one in rehearsals, free and single. Never for one minute did I think I'd morph into the one making the company cheesecake.
But this Rosh Hashanah I'm looking at the person I've become. I'm a devoted mother and loving wife - two roles that I could have easily missed out on and yet so happy I had the bravery to embrace. Not only has it made me kinder, gentler and more patient, it has also made me a better performer, writer and company member. I'm learning some complicated dance moves, practising new songs in four-part harmony while also picking apart a very complicated text. A few years back this would have fazed me. Now because work is something that is enhanced by my home life, it feels very precious.