Neil Coppen

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Confessions of a Corporate Meat Puppet

September27

When not treading the boards, basking in the spot light and soaking up the applause- most actors have a dirty little secret. A portfolio of work that you’d be hard pressed to find adorning their glowing C.V’s. Despite the artistic gratification that comes with channeling the Shakespearean greats these opportunities are sadly not conducive to covering ones monthly rent. Instead the actor must frequently munch on hubris pie and like a majority of our hard working population bite the corporate bullet. A career alternative that pays the bill’s, feeds the famished belly and keeps any signs of a burgeoning ego closely in check. If anything the profession of acting has taught me stone cold humility, for just when I had thought I had cracked it playing Hamlet and my future bristled before me, along comes a job where for the sake of a few (and at this point very necessary) hundred rand I find myself standing outside a corporate office block at six thirty on a Friday morning dressed as a chicken. Alack for shame, from Hamlet to Omlette in the proverbial flash of a pan. Now when I say dressed as a chicken, I’m talking a yellow lycra body suit that leaves little of my religious orientation to the imagination, and a red feather boa head dress that is to provide the crowning humiliation to it all. Perhaps worse than being the token chicken for the morning is having to make the unimpressed, just crawled out of bed employees jump through a hula hoop. This of course is all in the name of an ‘Amazing Chicken Sauce’ competition – the very source or should we say sauce of my less than fortunate disposition. Despite several attempts to conceal my face beneath the limited plumage of my costume, a staff member happens to recognize me.

‘Oh my goodness!’ she bellows ‘didn’t you once used to be a serious actor!’

‘Na na ,you’re thinking of someone else’ I assure her

‘No, no man, you the guy from those plays, it’s defiantly you!

‘Just jump through the hula hoop wench and get your free cook in sauce sachet’ I mumble under my breath, wishing now that I had taken my folks advice and pursued that B-Com at Varsity. To exacerbate my mounting shame, I am then made to perform a five minute stand up routine to the staff on their lunch break. Only at this point in the proceedings, I portray a genetically engineered chicken with lines like : Wow this sauce makes me feel amazing– I haven’t felt this good since my hormone injections of 2000!

Sick yes, totally morally, ethically, inexcusably sick but humbling. And just when I thought I might have redeemed myself, erased the fowl experience from all living memory, commenced with my meteoric rise to the top– Durban , Bloemfontein ,Broadway! I’m shot down again. No doubt riding on the reputation of shameless-will work for ‘chicken feed’ thespian- I accept a lucrative but less than tempting offer to theatricalize an I.B.S drug for a pharmaceutical company’s National Conference. Standing before a roomful of discerning doctors, I’m forced to stoop to new scatological lows (A poor Woody Allen impersonation was tragically the only way i could go in personifying a nervous bowel). I thought I was alone in my employment as corporate meat puppet, until recently, when I had the sick pleasure of happening upon a singer friend of mine at a shopping mall- singing ‘Born Free’ while dressed as ‘cart wheeling’ tampon. More recently I heard that one of Durban ’s most critically acclaimed actresse’s was spotted at a mall promotion in Empangeni, wondering around costumed as an oversized sandwich! - What filling she had the misfortune or portraying she will not divulge. although I’ve tried to convince her that Lady Macbeth, Medea and Chicken Mayo has a certain ring to it.

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