New writing at the Scene Gym

Get a bunch of actors, writers and directors together to have a play with some new writing and you end up with a day of creativity, networking and fun.

On Friday 4th November I went along to Scene Gym, an event organised by actress Julia Taylor, the Artistic Director of Scene Gym, co-producer Tim Cook, and dramaturg and script reader Natassa Deparis. November’s ‘gym’ took place at the Old Vic Workrooms in Bermondsey and workshopped four scripts.

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The piece I was cast in was Numeratti by actress and writer Shamiso Mushambi – a fantastic script with a very relevant premise and interesting characters. I played a character called ‘4’, and had great fun playing with the childlike side of me that this character brought out. It was pretty cool having the writer in the room too, though a little nerve-wracking as I’m sure we all wanted to be true to her vision of the piece.

The other cast members included my friend Vicky Winning, who I trained with at East 15, so it was brilliant ‘working’ with her (it’s strange to call something ‘work’ when it feels much more like play!). I also loved meeting the other actors and our director. Mostly, I find actors to be such open people, willing to take creative risks and without a lot of the usual walls people have carefully built up against strangers. The generous spirit of everyone there created a positive and playful environment and reminded me why I love doing this.

It felt great to flex the old acting muscles, and was an exciting opportunity to meet fellow creative folk and hear about their experiences in the industry. Thank you Julia and team for creating Scene Gym!

Mime, puppetry and people

Last week was fantastic. I went to my first corporeal mime class, had a puppetry class at Little Angel Theatre, took part in ‘Scene Gym’ at the Old Vic Workrooms and attended a one-person storytelling workshop with Little Angel Theatre’s Artistic Director, Samantha Lane.

The mime class was taught by Vini Carvalho of Fool’s Cap Theatre, and was a pure delight. Inspired by the work of companies such as Theatre Ad Infinitum, I was looking for a good mime class when this one popped up on Facebook! We worked on opposing forces (and got very sweaty), different rhythms and learnt an offering sequence. Corporeal mime, or contemporary mime, can be used to choreograph pieces, and it felt so good to be there in a class, learning the moves and practising them in front of the mirror. That’s my comfort zone, right there! It harked back to my ballet days. Vini’s planning on teaching the class every week so it will be great to make it a regular part of my ongoing training.

In the puppetry class at Little Angel Theatre we explored motion, firstly using puppetry sticks and then going on to having a play with some cloth bunraku-style puppets. The sticks are a great tool for puppeteers to practise movement before going on to try it with the puppet itself. I am so getting me some! (Or failing that I might chop up an old broom handle.) Just always check for splinters beforehand!

Friday’s ‘Scene Gym’ was an absolute joy – a bunch of actors, directors and writers all together in a room getting to play with some brilliant new play texts. But more on that, and yesterday’s storytelling workshop, in the next two posts!

Along with the chance to be creative, what made the week really special were all the interesting people I met and had the chance to be creative with. Being in a room full of people who all want to work together and create something together gives me the biggest buzz. I love meeting new people and finding out their story, and actors in particular are generally so open and engaging. It’s also great to hear what brings non-performers to the room, for example in my puppetry class and the storytelling workshop. It’s the people that are the true joy of an actor’s life.

Is that you Anne? Anne Boleyn?

Thursday's Child poster

Thursday’s Child poster

This time last week I was prancing about dressed as Anne Boleyn. Today I’ve just got off a coach after an eight-hour journey down from Yorkshire. It’s been a surreal week, drifting around in a creative mist, avoiding the daily grind of Real Life.

After the manic pace of the past month, leading up to the performance of Thursday’s Child, I decided a little break was in order, so headed up north to stay with my family over Easter. Several days of studying for a journalism exam and working on audition material with the lambs bleating outside my window and the snow-dappled fields beyond was a perfect time-out. Of course, I was still studying, but I don’t really do proper time-outs. Continue reading

One day to go…

It’s now just one day to the first performance. As the moment approaches, I feel a strange sense of

The Thursday’s Child cast

something momentous drawing near. This isn’t like any play I’ve done before. It’s not like a well-worn Shakespeare, where there’s been a hundred Portias live and breathe before yours. Anne is mine, and I am hers. I am her vessel, her conduit off the page and to the real world. I give her a human voice, allow her to move and walk and stand there for all to see.

I imagine the others must be feeling the same. This will be the first time these characters have ever lived off the page for an audience. The excitement is hanging on the air, an almost tangible electricity that surrounds me as I go about my daily routine. Continue reading

A new play – the read-through

Steve Blackham, a director I had the chance to work with earlier this year when the SSA did The Venetian Twins, sent me an email the other week telling me of a new play, written by a local writer. He asked if I would be interested in doing a read-through, and naturally I said yes. He would be playing a sort of directorial role in the exploration of the part, and once Steve has directed you one time, you’d jump at a second chance. He has a knack of bringing out the best in each actor, giving them the room and freedom to explore their character on their own terms and play with the characterisation, encouraging them to delve within and see what they bring back up to the surface. Often, the results can be both surprising and extremely useful. He watches and listens intently, and can pick up on the tiniest of things that you never even knew you did, and then help you to incorporate them into the part. If it works, you keep it, if not, you let go of it and explore some more. Experimentation and fluidity is encouraged throughout the rehearsal process, a directing style that I find to be the most conducive to getting the best creative results.

Anyway, enough of that – Steve’s a rather modest chap and would be horrified if he read all of this adoration babble. The script for the new play arrived in my inbox and I eagerly started reading. I devoured it in one sitting and sat back, breathless and moved and in awe. One word could sum it up: beautiful. I read a lot of plays and to be honest I read a lot of crap (though it’s a little unfair to make a proper judgment on a play until you’ve seen it performed), but this was just so bloody good it was a pleasure to read. I mouthed a silent ‘thank you!’ to the empty room.

We had the first group read-through of the play last week, sans the writer so that we had a chance to work through any questions the play arose ourselves, as actors, rather than simply referring back to her straight away. One should do a little thinking for themselves! It was wonderful to see two other members of the SSA family – Patrick (Pat) and Sue – on board, who are always a pleasure to work with, not to mention great fun. With a few glasses of Hardy’s at hand, we read through the play twice, getting it on its feet the second time, which naturally makes it more alive. Just from that session we uncovered so many new elements that we hadn’t noticed when just reading it through privately, and the energy in some of the scenes is already beginning to build.

Steve ended the session with talks of a performance in the near future, which got the excitement buzzing through me – the thought of being able to bring this script fully to life is a thrilling prospect. We left the read-through with thoughts of our characters, the new discoveries and the next step in the journey. Excitement all round!