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The supporting role

August 01 2022

As some guy said a while back, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. But it can be difficult figuring out your role. Let the Pavement’s satirist-in-chief guide you in your quest for understanding.
By Chris Sampson

It sometimes feels like I played a supporting role in a long-running comedy drama called Somebody Else’s Life. A minor character, yet I was promised (if not in writing) that one day I would star in a spin-off series, to be titled My Life. Yet when the show ended, my spin-off was not commissioned. So, what to do with my existence? A character, a creation – left to amble aimlessly in limbo. Maybe I could try panto? (Oh, no you couldn’t!). Or what about voice-over work? In a ho-hum kids’ cartoon adventure – of the sort not recalled with great warmth and affection by an entire generation?

There it would be: a slim plot, in which a trio of toothsome (and unrealistically well-behaved) nippers are sent on a quest by a sage old Turnip who decants drops of wisdom, and who are protected by an enchanted armpit, or something, from the fiendish machinations of a Flatulent Cactus and his army of Bearded Miscreant henchmen. What would I get? Top billing alongside Hollywood A-listers? Or “Bearded Miscreant #3” buried in the minor credits?


Or perhaps I’d be reduced to producing the aforementioned flatulence? Ineloquent obscurity! What else could there be? A low budget, largely unwatched (and unwatchable) online soap opera, set in a 1950s funeral parlour? Where I play a mouldering corpse, sacked for twitching during a torrid scene of emotional poverty and, erm, corpsing (no pun intended) when major characters deliver the sort of excruciating dialogue common in soaps.

The city under a sleepy moon, art by Chris Bird. © Chris Bird

Or maybe I’ll end up dressed in period costume, as a toothless, hunchbacked medieval simpleton tour guide in some third-rate, draughty heritage castle or monastery, where they fleece gullible tourists by flogging ‘em homemade Ye Olde Pickled Onion Vodka at an outlandish price.

Can there ever be a juicy part for me? Could I pull off the performance of a career – of a lifetime – if given the chance to shine? Or shall I forever remain the sort of “Ooh! What did he used to be in?” sort of whassisname who all too frequently litter the footnotes of life’s dullest productions? And does that matter? Or should I remain in the role life seems to have cast me in, of Never Gives Up in the never-to-be-cancelled production of Hope Springs Eternal?

So, yes, I finally found the part for me after all. Treasure it; relish it. Embody it! Don’t expect or demand top billing. Enjoy the part you’ve made your own, and if you get picked to play a role higher up the bill, then so be it. If not, be proud of what you have brought to the part you have.

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