Candide – a true ensemble show

This is the best of all possible worlds. So said German philosopher Leibniz. Voltaire wasn’t so convinced, and after a devastating earthquake in Lisbon in 1755, he wrote Candide, his philosophical novel in which he poked fun at this theory.

Given the current reign of positive thinking – the world is your oyster, you can do anything you put your mind to, it’ll work out fine – mismatched with the increasing effects of global warming, it seems fitting that Mark Ravenhill chose this topic to dramatise in his play Candide, written for and performed by the RSC. Luckily for those of us on the MA Acting at East 15 Acting School, this was chosen as one of our three final-term plays. And extra-luckily for me, I was one of the cast.

This was the first show I’ve worked on with professional standards and a fully professional outlook, and it was a fantastic experience. Our director, Chris Meads, inspired us all to work harder and go further with the work, and the satisfaction I gained from putting so much into it was immensely rewarding. There were days when I worried I wouldn’t have the stamina to do my best, but this was where eating healthily and getting a good night’s sleep came in. It’s so easy to scrimp on both when you’re doing a show, but I cannot stress enough how important they are.

Candide 2 Corbett

Working with Chris aside, the biggest joy of the process for me was being part of a company of brilliant actors and wonderful human beings. Over the three weeks of rehearsal we bonded as a family. Sure, there were annoyances, niggling little habits were amplified, and dressing room tension was unavoidable – that wonderfully crazy mayhem of people jumping over one another to locate their particular bloodied bandage, try to squeeze a fellow actor into a corset, powder their nose for the umpteenth time, or struggle to identify their own pair of tan tights from a heap of 20. God, I miss it already. But I have a great fondness for each person in that cast, and felt quite lost without them after show week.

It’s not just the actors that I miss, either. The beauty of working on a production with such professional standards meant we had a full technical crew, and it really made me appreciate the mountain of work these people put in to bring a show to the stage. When the actors raise a hand gracefully to the lighting box during the bow to acknowledge the input of their technical crew, it is heartfelt, or at least it was for us. These magicians made sure we were dressed for the part, lit us so we could deliver our Oscar-worthy performances to best effect, constructed scenery to help create the little world of our play, made wonderful props for us to play with, and worked tirelessly to make the production work. Our ASM Hannah looked after me backstage when I was feeling faint from the heat, and our DSM Emma was an absolute hero, staying late with the director to sort everything out, long after the actors had relaxed in the bar with a beer before heading home. Us actors, we’ve got the easy part!

What a wonderful and enriching experience, and what a brilliant text to play with. Mr Ravenhill, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Uncovering the hidden treasure within a bloody good script like this one is yet another of the tasty treats in the goodie bag. Add one inspiring director, a family of actors and a tireless technical crew, and you’ve got a show folks! A show I am very proud to have been a part of.

 

Aaand…. action!

Last week I acted in my second short film. The first, although of merit, was a student project. This time it was the baby of lawyer-cum-producer Derek Parsons. With the amount of time and care put into the project apparent from the start, the stakes were higher.

Edward the movie 2

The plot of the film was enticingly grisly. I play a young woman who has a fight with her overbearing boyfriend and meets an unpleasant end. The challenge of choreographing the fight scene convincingly enough was an instant attraction for me. A few later additions to the script, providing a nice little twist, only made me more interested in the project. That and simply the chance to get more experience on set made the whole thing a wonderfully valuable experience.

When time is so tight, as with most shooting schedules, it became clear how important it was to always be listening and ready. There was no room for messing about, as there often is in play rehearsals. I tried to remain focused and attentive, and did my best to follow any instructions ‘to the T’.

Edward the movie 3

The intimacy of working in a small space with a crew of people all doing their bit quickly turns strangers into friends. I had a wonderful time working with these people, and within a few hours I was massaging fellow actor Cassells’ temples, my stomach was acting as a prop for cameraman Phil’s screen, and I was quite happy to lie there with a duvet over my face while I played dead, surrounded by a room of people. This is the beauty of acting, and of the business itself – it breaks down barriers and builds a bond of camaraderie and trust. You need to get on and get the work done in a short space of time, so there’s no need for the usual social restrictions.

Jackson, the actor who plays my boyfriend in the film, is a fellow member of the Southsea Shakespeare Actors (SSA), but we hadn’t acted together much before the shoot so it was nice to work more with him and get to know him a little better. I also enjoyed chatting with the sound guy Steve, camera assistant Jo, photographer Milos, makeup artist Blaise and actor Cassells, and watching Sam, the DIT (digital imaging technician, but yes, DIT is funnier) at work with the footage. It was a pleasure for me to work with a professional actor (!!), and likewise I revered cameraman Phil. You could tell this guy knew exactly what we was doing, and when he was ready to shoot you shut up and got ready to work. It was fascinating watching him and the rest of the crew work. I feel like us actors have the easy bit to do!

Julia, the production assistant, was an absolute joy, right from the first introduction when she grasped my hand in both of hers, to the hug goodbye. She made sure we were always comfortable, and was always ready with a smile.

Edward the movie 4

My part in the film was shot over one evening and a full day. During the evening we shot two scenes including the fight, which left Jackson and I absolutely knackered. We gave it all we’d got, but were still surprised at how tiring it was just pretending to fight.

During the full day’s shoot I spent a lot of time playing dead, which is more difficult than you would expect! The main thing was to try to hold my breath and not blink while the camera was focusing on me, and then sneak in a blink and breath as it moved its focus elsewhere. There’s a point where I’m under the duvet, which I was rather nervous about as I suffer from mild claustrophobia. However, I didn’t want to make a fuss and be difficult, and knew it was needed for the shot, so I just tried to breathe steadily and keep calm, and got on with it. Blaise, the makeup artist, gave me a deathly pallor, which at first gave me a shock every time I looked in the mirror. However, I gradually got used to my new look! That doesn’t meant to say I wasn’t glad when we took the makeup off and I returned to my usual skin colour – I looked positively radiant!

The whole experience was fantastic, and so useful for a fledgling actor. Getting the chance to be a part of Derek’s creative vision felt very special, and the energy on set left me buzzing and wanting more. I’m so excited to eventually see the final cut!

My first acting paycheck!

This week I received my very first acting paycheck. Until recently, everything I’ve done has been purely for the love of it (well, and to gain experience to boost my acting CV, along with trying to improve as an actor). However, I recently had my first professional acting gig with Thursday’s Child, a new play by local playwright Clare Campbell-Collins.

The all-important envelope

The all-important envelope

Earlier this week, the cast (three in total), director and playwright got together for a little catch-up, and the chance to give Clare any feedback about the version of the play as it was performed. It was lovely to see everyone again, if not slightly surreal. Since the last performance back in March, my character Anne has been floating around somewhere over my shoulder, still hanging on and not sure what to do with herself. Seeing everyone from the play brought everything back, and suddenly I felt Anne stop hovering and seat herself comfortably but firmly on my shoulder, watching everyone and waiting for her turn to come back into the action. There are plans to bring the play back for a few more performances in the summer, which pleased her very much. Continue reading

Viola

We are now well into rehearsals for Twelfth Night with the SSA (Southsea Shakespeare Actors), and I am finally starting to sense Viola. This being my first major speaking part, I think up til now I have just been trying to take it all on board – the lines, the many rehearsals, the lines, the backstory, the lines, the responsibility of actually having to carry a scene here and there rather than flit on, say your two lines, and march proudly off. As I’ve settled more into the rehearsal process however, I have now started to detect a new voice, coming in just here for a moment, just there for another. At first I was too busy focusing on what I was actually trying to say on those lines to give it much thought, give her much thought, but now I’m starting not only to sense her but to actually feel her. Sometimes she’s peeking over my shoulder at the script, as I sit there on my bed desperately trying to learn lines, other times, and these are of course the most magical, she’s there with me, inside, waiting to take the reins, to have her moment – sometimes patiently, sometimes not so much.

Of course, she’s a part of me, not just some independent being roaming the corridors of my day-to-day life. Let’s call her an offshoot – she is born of my life, my blood, my being, but as each rehearsal comes and goes she becomes a little more independent, she starts to develop her own way of walking, her own way of talking. Her voice gets a little louder. Now, unlike an actual offshoot, she will never exist independently from me, not unless she is captured on film to survive beyond my little window of time here. But I like to think of her as apart from me, all the same. It means when she comes to me, when it is her who is speaking, and her that is laughing and loving, crying and rejoicing, for that little time I’m not me, and I am free.