How would you describe the work that you do?
I am an actress working mainly in theatre and radio. As well as working for other companies my partner (writer, Angie Cairns) and I founded Square Peg Productions in 2005, a theatre company specialising in outdoor (and where possible site-specific) promenade plays on the theme of “Unsung Northern Heroines”. We have successfully mounted six original works so far and as well as acting in three of them I have experienced every other possible job connected to these productions (other than writing the play), from the initial idea through production processes to the final monitoring and evaluation for funders. It is quite an education!
What do you like best about it?
What do you consider your best work and why?
I can’t really tell. I hope the best is yet to come. There are certainly some pieces of past work I remember being happier about than others, usually because I felt timeless while performing in them and was proud to be part of the surrounding work and production values. I think I have been very lucky in my work and that makes it hard to pick out specific pieces, but I’ll try…..
Savannah Bay by Marguerite Duras. Wonderful writing and playing opposite the late Faith Brook was a master class every night. I just had to try to get better every day. It was a visually beautiful production and the excellent director, Lily (Susan) Todd, gave me enormous confidence which was a huge gift.
Wit by Margaret Edson and The Unconquered by Torben Betts, both for Stellar Quines and both stretches for me in lots of ways. Terrific, poetical texts that had to be delivered with muscle and were physically demanding to sustain. Directed by Gaynor Macfarlane and Muriel Romanes respectively they were very exhilarating to play and I took a massive stride forward in my approach to future work as a result.
What was your first ever job?
My first ever job was when I was still at school. My sister and I got holiday jobs delivering the Christmas post. As an actress my first job was with the BBC Radio Rep in London thanks to The Carleton Hobbs Award. It was an excellent introduction to the profession. The BBC then generously let me leave the contract early to do my first theatre job, Daisy in Daisy Pulls It Off by Denise Deegan, which soon transferred from Southampton to London’s West End. I was very fortunate and it was a great start.
What was the contact/opportunity/job offer that you feel has made the most difference to your career?
Playing Daisy was a great opportunity and put me ‘out there’ right at the start of my acting career in the 1980’s. Most importantly it made me believe I could do it. Subsequently there have been three occurrences that have made a huge difference to me and to my career.
Firstly, meeting and working with two inspirational people in quite different strands of theatre, Alan Ayckbourn and then Muriel Romanes, has shaped a lot of my choices in the last 15 years and provided invaluable experiences. The second is working at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, a magical theatre in the round that never disappoints me and reminds me that anything is possible in theatre. The third is discovering the work of Pan Theatre (based in Paris) who specialise in choreographic theatre and extended voice technique.
What’s the biggest opportunity that you missed or wished you had taken up but didn’t?
No regrets as far I can recall. I mainly say ‘yes’ to everything!
What’s your favourite play or piece of theatre?
I don’t have a favourite play. Too hard to choose just one! In performance, I have never forgotten seeing the Rustaveli Company at The Roundhouse in the early 1980’s performing Richard III, unbelievably daring and anarchic theatre at the time. War Horse is a current favourite for very different theatrical reasons.
What do you like the best about working in theatre?
It’s live so anything can happen and I do enjoy exploring other ways of being, particularly in rehearsal. I love witnessing the risks taken and the blending of so many different skills to produce a whole experience for an audience.
What advice would you give emerging female practitioners in theatre today?
Properly respect and value your own artistic work – it is, after all, a profession.
Practice your skills and make your own work in order to do so if necessary.
Learn from the many fellow artists who do things differently. Be as open to suggestion as you can.
(I try to take all this advice myself but not always very successfully!)
Who would your Stellar Quine of the month be and why?
Amanda Dalton, a wonderful poet and playwright, as well as an inspirational, imaginative and energetic theatre worker, (particularly with young people) who is extremely supportive and encouraging of the work of other artists. She is a rare person in our creative midst and much to be valued.