Michelle Payne

micheele payne
You have been supporting Actor Awareness, which we appreciate, you have a short play in their Health scratch night, what inspired you for this piece?
I was mostly inspired by a horrendous five minute video of what really happens on a dairy farm! I’m part joking, but seriously, it’s scary how little people know (or want to know) about the food they’re consuming! Nutrition and diet is obviously a big part of our health that people don’t really seem to be confronting much in day to day life – I mean besides failed attempts at cosmopolitan bikini body diets. I do a lot of teaching work in primary schools, and found myself in a staff room full of teachers complaining for a whole hour about their bodies! -Each as they microwaved their tesco ready meals and sat around a table littered with biscuits and cakes. So when I started writing my play, it began as two characters discussing the sugar tax – something I strongly disagree with and I wanted to remind people that the government know we’re all addicted, (“You’ll still be fat, just poorer for it!”) and instead why can’t the companies actually making the product be taxed instead. The play then developed into the staff room scenario I’d found myself part of the week before. We all worry about our health, but we DO have control over what we are putting inside our bodies.
You also have written a play Orchid that was part of last years Camden Fringe and this years Blackbox Festival at the Etcetera Theatre, what is this play about?
Orchid came from frustration! Quite simply, there’s not enough jobs for creatives at the moment, and I wanted to make some! It’s about the pursuit of happiness, a spiritual journey and what it really means to have wholehearted belief in yourself. Orchid is the name of the main character, and she’s a strong, intelligent 18 year old girl trapped in a post-apocolyptic underground world, just wanting to see the sun shine. I am in the process of booking a third run with this play, for the third week in September at Theatre Utopia in Croydon. You can follow @ORCHID_Play on twitter or visit our website for more details.http://www.orchidtheplay.co.uk
Orchid is co-written with Daniel Len, directed by James Milton with associate director Emma Pritchard and our composer is Tom Baynton. The Blackbox cast included myself, Jimmy Jameson, Will Richards, Hilary Murnane and Kilian McIntosh.
What inspires you to write?
I’m mostly inspired by my frustration with society. It’s tough trying to be a young creative and make a living in London. I often feel disconnected from how our country is being controlled, and writing plays is a way for me to not feel so helpless! If I can have my say and share my opinion and help audiences start discussions then I’m happy. I love people and relationships, so that’s my favourite part about writing. There might be this amazing, epic setting or storyline but I love when it just boils down to the people that I’ve created in my head just having a chat!
How did you get your play up and running? i.e crowdfunding , financial aspects 
It was hard graft. For the Camden Fringe run I managed to fundraise about £700 from very, very generous family and friends – people I will forever be grateful to. More recently though, rehearsal spaces are just coming straight out of my Front of House wages! Ha.
What do you love about theatre?
I love that it can provoke discussions and make you feel. I love not being myself for an hour or two and fully investing in what’s happening in front of me. We are losing this with the Netflix generation as we check our whatsapp and play 1010 while we’re ‘watching’ our favourite series. There’s too many distractions in life. With theatre there is one thing to concentrate on, and one story to get lost in.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell her that being a playwright can be a real job. I never thought it was something that I could choose as a career path until last year and it has been so rewarding so far.
How do you feel the industry -in your opinion- stand regarding ensuring all backgrounds have access?
This is a tricky question and I think it depends on potentially your own personal contacts. The old ‘its not what you know…’ thing. It is definitely getting better! I am so grateful for Actor Awareness, as finding good platforms for new writing can be tricky and unless you produce your writing yourself, it’s hard to contact and invite industry people and progress your work. I recently had a conversation with an actor who had been to a very good drama school, and he was saying how I was in the same position as a girl in his class. He was explaining how she had written a play for her dissertation and then was given an amazing theatre to be showcased at – but this was only because this particular drama school had the contacts and the funding. I had to explain how I wasn’t in the same position as I presented him with negative figures from hiring two fringe venues with my own money haha. But he genuinely couldn’t understand why I was finding it so difficult to get my work picked up.
What do you do to stay motivated as an actor and playwright? 
Lots of theatre! I try to see as much as I can. I love going to the Royal Court. Just being in the building makes me burn up with excitement. That is the ultimate goal, to have a play or two… or three on at the Royal Court! I also spend lots of time with supportive, hilarious friends. Classes and workshops are also a great way to self-motivate, I always come out feeling reaffirmed and confident with my skill set.
How do you feel about Drama School audition fees? What would you do to make it more accessible? 
Now I’m split with this question as the audition fees are rocketing every year and it’s getting ridiculous! However, as a teacher, I hear children every day telling me they want to be famous, and there has to be a way of whittling out wannabes and finding the people who just want to train and ultimately tell stories. The audition fee can sometimes help to work out who’s serious about training as an actor/actress in an oversaturated industry, but we also will miss out on some potentially good people because they can’t afford the audition fees and the travel and the overnight stays etc. I feel that if people really want to go they will scrape together the fee, just because when I auditioned for schools, I worked and saved specifically for the audition fees because I knew which schools I wanted to audition for and why. But I also live in London so I only had to play £7 on my oyster card for the days travel – if I lived up north and wanted to go to a London school, I could’ve maybe only have afforded to audition at two schools instead of five. To sum up there just has to be an alternative to £65 per audition – unless they’re going to spend more than five minutes in a room with the auditionee! This is just greedy and elitist.

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