How to play a small role? I’ve no idea.
How to get into one? Read along…
It is generally acknowledged – in the world of acting – that there is no such thing as a small role.
A role is what you make of it. I firmly believe that, and that’s why I was actually pretty excited about this new role I’m playing (the maid) in The House of Bernarda Alba. I’ve always loved watching plays where the small roles blow my mind. I’m not playing this character with that intention but I’m loving the challenge of finding out who she is when there isn’t that much information about her in the text.
Some of my character’s lines are announcements for example, and I’m finding it challenging to play those lines intentionally but without pulling the focus too much. In some cases I’m not on stage for a long time and then I suddenly appear to deliver one line without interacting with anyone so I‘ve had to find a way of keeping things both simple but meaningful.
So how have I done this?
1. Going old school. Not only have I written a whole bio but I’ve gone detective mode and created a story board with objectives, obstacles, props to play with, timelines, etc. This has been crucial for me to know where my character is coming from, where is she going an why. I know a lot of actors do this with their characters but there’s a lot I’ve had to imagine/invent myself to fill in the gaps for all those scenes my character is not on stage.
2. Channeling my character’s inner animal. In this case, I’m a chameleon. Keeping that in mind has helped me to find my character’s physicality and even play intentions accordingly. I chose a chameleon based on the information I had of my character in the script. I then researched more about chameleons and with that I’ve been able to bring more playfulness to my actions.
3. Thinking about what my relationship is with each character. I stole this one from an actress I’m currently working with. I thought it was brilliant especially when you don’t have many lines. Sometimes a look can say much more than any word so thinking about how I relate to each character in the play has definitely given me something to play with.
4. Finally, squeezing the juice out of each word. Good writers are clever with their words even when they might not have written many for a certain character. Although I’ve intellectualised my character’s intentions, I’ve been warming up my voice by saying my lines and sensing how they sit in my gut. This exercise has made me fully understand my intentions, action them in a certain way or change them altogether.
So there, now I only hope this malarkey has actually been a sensible use of my time!
Hey! Been ages. Lots since I was last here. Been busy acting, been busy wife-ing, been busy mummying. I’m on my way to casting right now. This pic is of me today having breakfast at home with my little one before heading off.
My attitude towards my acting life has become much more chilled since becoming a mum. I have less time to worry or get nervous…or even prepare for auditions/jobs which I admit makes me a little anxious. However, the more experience I have in this business, the more I realize it’s important not to over-think or over-prepare. I didn’t think I did this but now I realize I did. I still learn my lines and do my research of course but I don’t have much time to prepare my delivery as I used to so I trust that my instinct will guide me…and it does! Sometimes I get the job and many times I don’t, but I’ve been absolutely loving being surprised by what I may bring to the table.
This change has been so crucial that I no longer fear auditioning. I actually look forward to the unexpected. I think that that makes me much more present and hopefully much more interesting to look at. It doesn’t always work of course; being a mum has also meant I’m sleep deprived and sleep deprivation severely messes up with your head so I struggle with being in the moment when all I can think of is sleep! However, all in all, the spontaneity that I see in my child everyday I’ve been applying at work and it feels, oh so very good.
In terms of bits of work I’ve done recently, I’ve been doing quite a bit of acting corporate jobs which are always cash-nice and I recently was in a short film called Conscript directed by Oliver Brown which is being selected for different film festivals (fun), and another short film called Babies by my mate and awesome director Martin O’Brien.
Have been auditioning, have been rejected, have been working, have been having lots of fun. Grateful I love my job.
It’s been a while since I last wrote something here. My life is SO different now I sometimes don’t know who I am. HA! That’s sort of funny and slightly worrying. It’s like I’m living in a blur. A lovely blur. A tiring blur. A challenging blur. Definitely the best blur of all. It’s been tricky but I wouldn’t change being a mother for the world. I feel complete. Completely messed up. Lol. That was a joke. Although there’s truth in jest. I’ve been so busy with mum duties that I haven’t put much thought into my career. But life is funny isn’t it? And Murphy’s Law seems to be the bread and butter of every actor’s life I know; when you want work there’s nothing for ages, and when you’re not looking everything comes up at once!
Well, the latter is what’s happened to me. I wasn’t even close to thinking about acting when all these auditions/jobs started to come up within a space of 2 weeks. I had mixed emotions when it happened; I was mainly excited and also anxious which led to me having a bit of a manic reaction. In a way I couldn’t wait to do something other than mummying, but in another way I wondered if it would be actually possible.
Despite the natural chaos a baby brings, I have a very chilled life at home. I never thought I would say this but I felt out of my comfort zone when thinking about working in London. This wasn’t because I wouldn’t be able to cope with the city or anything like that but mainly because it meant I’d be miles away from my baby. He has been breastfed all his life you see, and he’s not too keen on taking the bottle. That combined with the very little notice you get for these jobs, meant that taking these opportunities on board would be a bit of a stretch.
Thank God for that though. Stepping out into the unknown is never as hard as one originally envisions. For the first job where I played a Bulgarian maid, the director was so ultra cool and understanding that he welcomed me, my baby and nanny (aka husband) to the set for a whole day of filming!
The second job was doing ADR work for a feature film to be released this autumn ( I can’t say which…). This was my first experience doing ADR. I loved it. On the first day I traveled into London with my baby and we hung out at The National Theatre for a while. I thought I was being naive when I put him in the sling for a nap; with lots of things going on around I thought sleep wouldn’t happen…but it did! I found hiding under the stairs particularly dark and useful. In the afternoon, I went to my job and my husband took over. On the second day, my husband helped out as well and off I went to work. Yes, I’m lucky my husband has a flexible job and yes, he’s pretty darn cool too.
Baby sleeping at The National Theatre.
The biggest ‘mummy’ challenge I faced doing this job was plainly said, managing my boobs. I brought my pump to work thinking it’d be easy to pump during breaks. HA! We did have breaks but they were way too short for me to glamorously relax on the toilet seat… luckily I was wearing a blazer thick enough to cover the huge circles of milk leakage on my shirt.Oh, and the pain! I won’t go into that but it was bad. Lol. Professionally speaking, the challenge of this job was saving my voice. I was asked to literally scream and at one point it dawned on me that I had to sing a song for an audition a couple of days later!
So yes, that crazy week ended with me going for a theatre audition at the New Diorama Studios. My husband couldn’t take any more time off to help out so my mother in law came to the rescue travelling all the way down from Nottingham to be with my son for about an hour. A star!
Preparing for this audition was uber fun mainly because I kept getting distracted by my little one crawling towards my props and chewing them away. Thankfully and surprisingly I found this hilarious rather than stressful. I incorporated an element of clown into my devised piece which my son loved so I kept doing it over and over again; I learnt it and he giggled so that worked pretty well. I also had to prepare a song. Easy peasy, I mean what baby doesn’t like a bit of singing no matter how lame it may sound? I confess I would have liked to have more time to prepare but I also realised that preparing just enough is good enough. Over preparation can kill creativity and with a baby you have to make the most of the little time you have.
On the day of the audition, travelling to London wasn’t as smooth as I hoped. My hair was a total mess, my trousers were covered in carrot purée and I was debating whether or not to nurse five minutes before auditioning. I did have about 3 minutes to breathe and focus before going in and as soon as I entered I was in a different place, a place that felt like home.
…..ahhhh….bliss all day afterwards….what a gift it is to love what you do…
So….I got the job (yay!) which goes to show that sometimes things work out better when you try less. This goes against the philosophy I grew up with (work work work work); and I mean, there’s nothing wrong with working hard but I know it wasn’t only hard work that got me the job. It was also enjoying each and every moment of the process: the limited preparation I had and being in the moment at the audition without giving a damn about carrot purée type accidentals.
Woohoo! More soon…je suis back!
We all know The Sound of Music is a classic but I’m not writing to discuss why that’s the case. The Sound of Music has a very special place in my heart because it was one of the few childhood films which encouraged me to dream. I know now that I didn’t quite understand all of its depth when I was a little girl, but I was fascinated by it for a reason. Deep down, I think I knew there was truth and nobleness in the film.
A few weeks ago, my mum in law got the movie for me. I was the HAPPIEST person on earth when I watched it again after so many years. However, there was something that struck me about the ‘Climb Every Mountain’ scene when I watched it this time. I know the lyrics by heart but I don’t think I had actually sat down to think about what they meant…
Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.
A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.
Climb Every Mountain is a song about finding meaning to life by living it to the full. That doesn’t sound too revolutionary I know, but I think it is. Life is not about reaching a dream (as we are often told), but about finding it, and the only way we can find it is by stopping to try to find it.
A year ago a very spiritual man prayed for me, and after a few minutes he had a vision: it was a vision of me standing in the middle of a long path planting colourful flowers. Although the colourful flowers were brightening everything around me, I kept looking at the end of the path desperately wanting to know what I would find at the end of all the planting! LOL. It makes me laugh every time I think about that vision because I am so totally like that; I miss so many cool moments in the present because I can’t wait to see what will come next! We’re all a little bit like that I reckon…
Anyway, listening to the song reminded me of that prayer; it reminded me that I’m called to live by giving love as a woman, a wife, a daughter, a mum (eek), an actress, whatever. Then the dream, my life dream will reveal itself. In fact, perhaps I’m already living the dream 🙂
Here I leave you with the song. I’m gonna sing it and belt it!
Well, I’ve been mainly baking a baby in my tummy!
As soon as I got back from the Shakespeare tour in The Netherlands back in March, I got pregnant. Thankfully, I didn’t have much work lined up then because all my body wanted to do was sleep. I feel so lucky that most of the work I’ve had over the past few months has been work I’ve been able to do from home. I have been to a few auditions though, and I’ve quickly learnt that I must not leave the house now without a selection of snacks! About 2 months ago; I was about 7 weeks pregnant, I had an audition for Doctors at the BBC. I decided to drive there; the audition went fine but the drive back home took me 3.5 hours! I had no snacks in the car and I literally almost passed out. I couldn’t see any services on the way and I was 100% stuck on the M25; no cars were moving. I had to call my husband because my brain wasn’t alert enough to think and he told me that the nearest place I could stop for a bite to eat was Heathrow Airport. I quite enjoyed stopping at the airport for a snack actually; I literally devoured a ham and cheese panini and that gave me enough calories to face the M25 again.
I’ve been pencilled for a couple jobs but nothing concrete has happened lately – acting wise. My bump is actually showing a little now; it was hard to hide it in my last audition. I think soon it will be obvious that I’m a pregnant actress. I’m quite excited about that; who knows which work opportunities will come my way, but the ones which will certainly come are those that I create myself! I don’t want to say too much about that at the moment, but I’m working on something personal, fun and creative…
Anyway, I want to tell you about the main non-acting job I was involved in over the past few months. It was actually a writing job which I did in partnership with my husband. We were given the mission of writing primary schools resources for an amazing charity called Apostleship of the Sea. Have you heard about them? Here: http://www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk/
The set of resources we wrote is still under revision but it will be on their website soon. We were trusted with this task by Martin and Clare O’Brien – directors of Ten Ten Theatre – with whom I’ve been freelancing over the past three years. What I loved about this job (apart from its flexibility) was learning about something completely new for me. Fishing, fisheries, fishermen, fish stocks, International Labour Organization? I knew very little about this subject so it was a brain challenge which couldn’t have come at a better time. The thing about acting, is that when you are ‘resting’, your brain (or at least mine) still needs to be stimulated, otherwise there is free room for self-doubt to creep in. Anyway, I’m not going to give you a lesson about what the current situation is when it comes to fish stocks in the world. I’m sure you already know that what we’re doing to the environment is shocking. However, what I found even more shocking was that the conditions in which some seafarers work (not all of them of course) are appalling; there is a lot of illegal fishing going on, where trafficking, exploitation and abuse are the norm. Thankfully, there are world organizations like the ILO and Apostleship of the Sea (amongst many others I’m sure) which look after seafarers; so there is hope.
Anyway, I hope I didn’t bore you too much. I just thought it’d be nice to give you a little update. More coming soon!
This blog entry is about Denmark, the lovely place where one of my favorite philosophers is from: Søren Kierkegaard.
Why this random blog?
Because I’m once again touring with the Shakespeare in Performance Project in The Netherlands and last weekend we worked in Copenhagen. Random? Yup. Cool? Hell yeah.
This is what struck me about Denmark:
1. Its quietness
At 8 am in the morning this is what Copenhagen Central station looked like. Empty! We were later told that rush hour is earlier than it is in England but still, Copenhagen is super calm, I mean we went out for a wonder on Saturday and we were all wondering where everybody was!
2. Its Smørrebrød (better known as open sandwiches)
These are exquisite, not only in taste but also in looks.
3. Its functionality
Three examples below.
a) Plug sockets above one’s seat on the train. They’ve got this so right. It’s a small thing but it saves time; it’s kind of pathetic to admit it’s annoying to bend down to find a socket but I only admit it now after having experienced the Danish system…all you have to do is reach up and ca-ching!
b) Cars have got a sticker of a clock on their windscreen so when you park in a public parking space all you need to do is move the hand to the appropriate arrival time. Eco-friendly methinks.
c) Free wifi on train.
4. Its ‘utopic’ feel
Everything seems to be too perfect in Denmark. The houses are all perfectly painted and the streets are clean. The views are like something taken out of a book.
5. Its slick (Ikea type) design
This is based on the only Danish home I know but still, its style was very different; no carpets, lots of clean white walls, super cool bold lamps and views like this one where you can actually see Sweden on the other side. Mental.
6. Its free-spirited education system
Again, this is based on the only school I’ve ever worked at in Denmark. Plus, it was an international school. Who knows if all schools work in the same way. Most probably not. However, it’s no news that the educational system in the Scandinavian countries is quite unique and what struck me the most about their style was its sense of, erm, freedom. Schedules had been modified because we were coming but it felt like it was absolutely fine to change schedules a million times. We worked on the Merchant of Venice with the students; this pic is of some art work they did.
Please note: These views are based on a two day experience of the country. Limited but real. And in case you’re wondering…this is what the title of this blog entry actually means: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”. What a wise dude Kierkegaard was.
Peace out! X
Week two was all about the LOLs.
We started by getting ready to perform/direct Oliver Twist! Yup, it turns out that the Shakespeare in Performance Project also does a bit of Dickens.
The highlight of the week was definitely Monday night which involved being unexpectedly pulled over by Dwayne, aka Douane – border control (all clear of course), and a 6 hour long karaoke night; so fun it was hard to wind down.
Tuesday was a day off and it was also a big food day. All we did was sleep and eat. Mc Donald’s never tasted so good and we then went to an all-you-can-eat Chinese place called Wok near the hotel where we stayed for our final 3 nights.
We worked at Metameer school over the next three days. This school has different campuses and on Wednesday we worked in one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen. Here are some pics of us (team), the kiddos performing and the school…
On Wednesday evening one of the teachers invited us over to her place for tea; we had Sunday soup (a Dutch tradition) and homemade quiche. It was lovely.
Evidently, one of the things I loved about the tour was the experience of it all, but from an acting point of view it was great to learn about Shakespeare in an educational context. I performed short scenes every day and played characters such as Quince, Mercutio and Henry V. Directing the plays was also great in that it challenged me to study the characters in a different way and it was fascinating to see what the students would come up with sometimes. Most kids would just do what they were told but there were always some nice and unexpected surprises.
Finally, one of the things I loved about my experience in The Netherlands was being so in tune with God. I learned this job on the go and every day we had to amend the workshops slightly. Last minute changes tend to freak me out a little but praying every morning helped me to ease up and take each moment as it came without overanalysing my moves. I was less critical about my mistakes and enjoyed feeling the presence of God at random moments each day.
Sad to say goodbye to an amazing team but hopefully I will return in the future.
Thanks for reading me!
Week one down. Mental! I still remember flying back from Mexico last week and getting everything ready for the tour, and now I’ve just got one week left in Holland. Seriously time, chill!
Wow, what can I say, I mean if you’re an actor, lover of Shakespeare, interested in TIE and open to different cultures, the Shakespeare in Performance Project is for you! (www.shakespeareinperformanceproject.co.uk)
Having a cool boss and working with fun colleagues is a real blessing so I’m loving this tour partly because of that. Seeing Marc enjoying himself while at work has been very inspiring and encouraging for me. Of course I get nervous, but in this tour you quickly realize that the job is not about you but about the students; and like in acting, when your attention is on the others on stage, then the real magic happens.
I’m evidently loving the car rides to the schools in the morning; I love reading the motorway signs in Dutch (I try), the landscape (yup, lots of windmills), and the people looking super cool riding bikes. Traveling is one of my passions in life and so having this ‘international’ job is a great gift from God. I have enjoyed meeting Dutch teenagers and seeing how they interact amongst themselves and with us.
Here is a picture of some awesome students we met in a school last week (Marc Norris facilitating – far right); they were so up for getting into costume and having a laugh it was ridiculous!
This is another photo with one of the teachers at Farel College who gave Katy (fellow actor) and me a pair of school t-shirts to take home with us.
And here another photo of the three of us having a pizza break in one of the schools.
But what about accommodation? Well, we are staying in a sort of holiday park called Dennenhoek near a city called Harderwijk. Although we occasionally stay at hotels, Dennenhoek is our main base. This weekend, Marc flew back to England while Katy and I stayed. Here are some pics of what we got up to…
(Cycled to Harderwijk, visited the windmill with a free tour included, walked through the town, ate nice food, and chilled at home) #awesomeweekend