Today, Life, the Universe & the Little Blue Bowl

Today, Life, the Universe & the Little Blue Bowl

elaine

So Elaine you graduated from Guildhall, that is an amazing school to go to, how did you feel when you graduated?
I felt very proud! There were points I thought I would never make it to the end! It was also overwhelmingly odd and sad to leave the place I had spent so much time in for the past 3 years. I’d learnt things about myself there I never knew existed, I was challenged and encouraged every day and I’d made friends I believe I’ll still love when I’m 100 years old and totally mad. I thought I would be scared to leave but actually I felt excited and ready to see what was next.

Did you always want to be an actor? 
Pretty much yes! When my mum first took me to stage coach I was most looking forward to the singing and dancing (I wanted to be a back up dancer for spice girls) and I thought the drama would be boring but right from the start I loved it. I also wanted to be an author when I was younger so I guess being an actor that writes is quite apt!
 What do you love about theatre?
It’s the one of the few times that a group of people come together, put away their phones and focus on something outside themselves. A good piece of theatre can make you forget all the crap you’ve been carrying around with you all day. Equally it can open up something inside you you’ve been avoiding and help you understand it better. I just love that something as traditional as telling a story is still so powerful. We have more technology than ever, more knowledge then we know what to do with and yet still someone just standing and speaking truthfully on stage is listened to and wondered at.
 How do you find juggling earning your rent and auditioning/working in London?
It was really tough at first and I still find myself in my overdraft more often than I’d like but you find a way to balance, you have to! I’m lucky I’ve found two other jobs I really enjoy that offer extremely flexible hours and good pay so if some weeks I think “I really need a couple of days to do something creative or prepare for an audition” I can take it. Dog walking and pet sitting has been a saviour because I can earn money whilst writing emails/learning lines/drafting a script. Some months it’s tough because the flexibility means you aren’t guaranteed a set amount of work or pay a week, but if you can take a step back and not panic and try to budget yourself if becomes very possible.
 You have a show at the Camden fringe? Tell us loads about this please?
When I was in my third year at Guildhall I wrote a solo piece. I had no idea why I wanted to do it, I just knew I was excited by writing a part for myself and being able to share a story I wanted to tell. The piece was called “Decibels” and was about 20 minutes in length. I had 4 performances at Guildhall and, to my surprise, received a positive and warm reception to the piece. I was then fortunate enough to be asked to perform it at The Royal Theatre in The Hague with a company called STET. Four of us went to The Netherlands to perform our pieces in September 2015 for a week and it was amazing to share work with an audience of people who didn’t know us and that had paid to come. These 2 experiences taught me a lot about writing and performing a solo piece, 20 minutes alone on stage is a long time if you don’t get their attention from the start and they can immediately tell if you’re not being truthful and won’t respond to you. When I came back I knew I wanted to have another go so I began writing a new piece. What I’ve ended up with is a new solo show derived from that first piece. It has elements and, in some places, bits of text taken from the first piece but is, in my mind at least, a totally new story with a different message. It’s called “Today, Life, the Universe and the Little Blue Bowl” and is about 40 minutes long. My mum actually gave me the title totally by accident! It’s about a young girl in her 20s who’s reached crisis point. We meet her at a “well, what now?!” moment. We’ve all had those moments where we have no idea where we are going which is why I think it’s so interesting to explore as an idea. It’s a universal feeling of “oh fuck.” It’s a comic piece (hopefully) because it fascinates me how close laughter is to crying and pain is to pleasure.
 How do you feel about audition fees at drama school, Guildhall is £63 now and they only just really brought in fee waivers for low income students?
When I auditioned for Guildhall it was £50 so I didn’t actually realise it had gone up that much! I’m torn because I know what it’s like auditioning for schools. When I was trying in 2012 I went pretty much everywhere and it was always £50/55 a time plus the train down and back home as I lived in the north of England at the time. If you get to the last round of somewhere then you feel like you at least “got your money’s worth” but if you get chucked out first round then that’s an expensive 3 minutes! I had to save for a year beforehand to be able to do it and luckily my parents also helped as well. It’s super expensive and means some people who would love to audition simply can’t and that’s so sad. However, having been to a school now, I also know how much they have to spend to fund their audition days. Guildhall is 3 rounds to get in. They hold weeks and weeks of first round auditions, a few more weeks second round and then a week of third round. They also hire alumni to steward the auditions to give actors who aren’t working at the moment a hand with income. That’s a lot of people to pay for a lot of days. I really have no experience with organising this kind of thing or budgeting large scale event, so I have no idea if it needs to be as expensive as it is now but I know the money isn’t wasted. I would love it to be able to be free so that everyone had a chance but it’s a difficult balancing act I think.
 In drama school , how were people supported who struggled financially? 
Guildhall were extremely generous. In my second year I was given a scholarship from the school to help me financially as I was far away from family and there’s no time to work while training. I was given this money every term until I left and without it I would really have struggled. I know many of my year that needed help were given as much as possible and if anyone was really stuck there was always someone to talk to and emergency funds. We were very lucky that scholarships and grants were made accessible to us and we were helped with applying for them.
 People often comment how actors shouldn’t complain about the cost of drama school, but most degrees people can maintain part time jobs as lectures are a few times a week, drama school is a full on 45 hour week with work on top. What do you think about the current situation of maintenance grants being cut, do you think it’ll be harder for more and more low income applicants to get through 3 years training? 
Yes it’s almost impossible to have a part time job while training, I know a couple of people who did it but they were exhausted and barely earned enough to to make a difference. It’s a big obstacle for a lot of people about the maintenance grants and sadly I do think it will deter some talented low income applicants even attempting to train. But what’s important to know is there is support out there! Trawl through the books of supporters of theatre, there are people out there willing and able to help and if you don’t ask you don’t get. If a school wants you they will try to help as much as they can so if you’re struggling you should talk to them as they might have a solution. I would love for there to be more financial support for drama school students from the government, especially those living in London where the rent and transport costs are high, but for now it looks like we have to find our own paths and solutions as best we can!
What do you think is the most important asset for an actor to have in todays industry?
Belief! In yourself. In your craft. In your skill set. In your career. In your path. In the text. In the play. Just believe you can and you will. Sounds so cliche but the moment you doubt yourself people will use that as an excuse to write you off. You can never guarantee anyone is going to be on your side so be your biggest fan and your biggest support and you’ll never feel alone. Yes, everyone has down days and times you think you can’t act and maybe you don’t work for a year and start to think “I should be a zoo keeper instead” but those are moments you experience and then you let go. Also be able to make a good cup of tea, just because a cup of tea always helps.
 What advise would you give to your younger self, all the way back when the idea of being an actor popped into your head? 
Remember this moment when you’re older! Younger me was confident and sure of herself, she knew what she wanted and how she was going to get it. To quote little Elaine “I’m going to go to acting school in London when I grow up, they do drama all day there!” As children we have the perfect amount of assurance without being too cocky. Its passion and determination and drive and we aren’t afraid to tell people! I wish I could go back and tell myself to hold on to that and never forget how it felt to be certain.
 Can you give us a few words on why you support Actor Awareness? 
It’s just such a good family for actors! As we have already discussed it can be a lonely place acting. Financially and emotionally it’s draining. It’s great to have a platform where actors can speak out, find support, have help with new work, get advice and not feel alone. It’s being part of a community who all want the same thing and that’s something special.
Tickets are available now at http://www.camdenfringe.com/show.php?acts_id=678 Moors Bar Theatre in Crouch End 17th-20th August 2016 at 8pm.

Theatre Review

cuttin it

by Charlene James at The Royal Court

(First produced at the Young Vic.)

This powerful, heartbreaking and haunting piece of theatre begins as a seemingly innocent, upbeat and sweet story about how two teenage girls become friends. This deception which lulls the audience into a false sense of security makes the rest of the play all the more devastating and shocking because this isn’t another ‘nice little’ story. This award winning play by Charlene James, instead broaches the difficult topic of FGM (female genital mutilation) in the UK, and gets it absolutely right. James dedicates the play to the staggering 500,000 girls and women in Europe that Amnesty International estimates are suffering from the life-long consequences of FGM. The play with it’s sharp wit and clever writing is fuelled by a sense of urgency and an anger that will eventually bring any unsuspecting audience member to tears by the end.

It is refreshing to see two female actors on stage, playing complicated and compelling females not stereotypes, whilst taking on the huge demands of the play. Adelayo Adedayo gives an outstanding performance and the acting from the small cast made up of Adedayo and Tsion Habte is brilliant throughout. Adedayo plays Muna originally from Somalia, a feisty, street smart and popular teenager who loves Rihanna and her little sister. Habte plays Iqra, a mild mannered, naive and shy teenager who recently moved to England from Somalia following the death of her family. The two teenagers who at first seem to be opposites, happen to connect and realise they share the same secret: they are both victims of FGM. Muna is scared her little sister will be mutilated meanwhile Iqra believes it is the only way for a girl to become a woman, the only way to be pure for their future husbands, a tradition that must continue…

The imposing set, made up of a concrete block of stairs, is effective in making the audience feel alienated and distanced. This adds to the sense of unease and discomfort we feel as the story unfolds.  That is until the last moments of the play, when the set turns sinister and almost becomes a graveyard for many young girls that are victims of FGM. This eloquent production from Gbolahan Obiesesan and striking image to end is enough to leave the audience thinking about FGM for a long time to come. The message is simple: the estimated 137,000 girls and women living in the UK with FGM (*1) cannot be ignored any longer. Since 1985, FGM has been illegal in the UK and since 2003 it has been illegal to take a child out of the UK to be cut (*2). This alone however, as clearly illustrated in this production, is not enough to stop FGM and more action needs to be taken.

In this harrowing and devastating piece of theatre, we begin by laughing with two school girls and end up weeping as their lives are shattered. The ending of the piece does not particularly come as a surprise, perhaps because of the inevitability of FGM for girls born into this culture. The piece begs questions such as: ‘how is this happening in the UK?’ ‘How can we stop it in the UK until it is ended worldwide?’ ‘Why is this even happening at all?’ This production highlights that FGM has more to do with community, culture and tradition than anything else: “We do it because we have always done it”, “It is who we are” and “We do it because it is our culture.” It seems so impossible and so unjustified that this is happening that the haunting thought: ‘What will make them stop?’ floats in the air like a bad smell as the lights go down. Unrelenting, emotional, moving and intensely uncomfortable: book your tickets for this show now because this story needs to be heard and change needs to happen. Prepare to be haunted for some time after the show.

emeliaEmelia Marshall Lovsey

Sources:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/female-genital-mutilation-fgm/fgm-facts-statistics/  *1

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/06/female-genital-mutilation-foreign-crime-common-uk *2

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/

Events

 lgbt

LGBT Scratch Night at The Bread and Roses Theatre

So every month we hold  a scratch night of new material, actors, writers and directors get a chance to showcase their work to an audience. At the last few scratch nights we have had directors, agents and producers come and the interest in the events is gathering momentum. If you follow our Twitter @actorawareness or our Facebook page, you can keep up to date with the next scratch nights, submission opening and deadlines.

LGBT night we have a line up including comedys, musicals and even a victorian piece

Book Tickets now:  http://www.breadandrosestheatre.co.uk/actor-awareness.html

Writers nights: Held every month in various locations. This is a informal forum for people to gather and generate ideas. It is a safe environment so people can bring an idea, a script, we can read material out or discuss ideas. Places are £8, please email tanheartssteph@gmail.com for a spot

Cabaret Night- More detail to follow but we have a very exciting event coming up!!

Film- we have several film ideas n the pipeline that hopefully we can tell you about one day soon, so keep your eyes peeled

Access for All- is it just a dream

Churchill

So it’s that time of year where hundreds of people, young and old, are auditioning for drama courses. Auditioning can be a very nerve racking and soul destroying experience. In the working world of acting I can walk into an audition room with composure; I can read well, hold myself and give off an air of professionalism. However, throw me into a room where people scrutinise and decide if you are worth 3 years of their time, I tend to crack a little. Last year I managed to secure myself a place on the Foundation course at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts and the training is invaluable. Time is flying past so quickly due to the very active, full on nature of the course, proving to be a very worthwhile experience..

The only problem?…MONEY.

First off, the majority of foundation courses aren’t under student finance, so you have to muster up around £8500-£9000 for the course; and that’s excluding the living expenses whilst on the course itself. If you were doing a foundation course in something else at university you would get funded…but this is the arts. By most, arts courses are seen as frivolous and a waste of time. I personally don’t see my future career in the arts as frivolous, but the government seems to disagree. In my opinion, all Education should be free…but of course that’s being idealistic. The current government want to slowly take art from our schools. They don’t seem to realise how important design, art and the performing arts are to our society and socio-economic growth.

As a mature student I am ineligible for most grants and funding. Therefore, by the time I’ve finished my foundation course I’ll have racked up a massive loan, and if I even get onto a BA I’ll be working solid all summer to pay it off before I have to start the process of finding money out of thin air all over again!! How is anyone from an underprivileged background, be it a single parent or low income/working class family, meant to afford to get through or even apply to drama school when audition time arrives, knowing they will be overcome with debt! I am lucky in that I trained as a nurse first, meaning I have some source of income for the duration of my course; even if my income is low, I get by.

Recent data shows that within drama schools today, there are a lot of students from state schools and low income backgrounds. If I think of the students at my school, this is fairly accurate; not all of the pupils are well off. I think the main problem starts at school level arts education. The arts are not valued; they are under appreciated and pushed to the side as a less important part of the curriculum. I come from a state school and my passion for theatre does not derive from their input. I couldn’t sing, so I was rarely chosen to perform in school productions. My passion comes entirely from the need to tells stories and the inspiration I got from theatre; the escapism and humanity I felt from the shows I saw growing up as a young adult in London; they have made me who I am today and shaped my love of the arts. I have worked in schools and seen the huge disparity in the opportunities, and hopefully one day Actor awareness can start reaching out to these schools and help in some way to keep the arts a vital element of school life and child development.

The majority of drama schools in England are in London, and the rising costs of living in London pushes newly graduated actors from lower income backgrounds to find work to pay the rent, meaning they can miss auditions and opportunities due to work commitments. The price of headshots and showreels is forever rising, and casting website subscriptions can be a struggle to maintain. A working actor has a lot of work to do and a lot to pay for before they can even secure a job, network in the right circles or even get an agent; that’s why people from lower income backgrounds have a lesser chance of making it in the acting world, as these factors are all easier if you are from a more affluent background. Now this is reality, and I’m not saying if you have more money that’s ‘unfair’ on the rest of us. Talent hopefully prevails in this industry, but there needs to be a conscious effort from people in the industry to source a diverse range of actors; from casting directors, agents, producers etc. The people at the top need to make changes, and the government needs to notice that the arts are an intrinsic part of society.

Tanya Perry a teacher in London was a Graphic designer for years before turning to secondary education. Here is what she says about the government and it’s attack on the arts.

‘Well I think that it’s already on its way to being demolished. I don’t think they can ever truly get rid of it, hopefully. I think by demolishing it will lead to a shortage in the jobs that makes London the creative hub it is. Without arts there is very little culture. Without design and art our towns would be hollow, no cinemas, no theatre, no exhibitions, no galleries, little museums; our homes and our countries would be economically depressed. In design there are people thinking up new products, new ways to use technology, new ways to implement technology in products. There’s essentially nothing without art and design that has substance or character and we can’t compete with countries on a global scale, with whom treat the arts as integral to forward thinking and a intelligent society’

There needs to be more funding available to people of all ages in the arts industry, to help pay the raising costs of accommodation and the extra costs of drama school, such as books and materials.

I believe that drama school audition fees need to be regulated. The accredited schools should have a system where people from lower income families should be able to receive a discount or a free audition place. Each Drama school should be allocated free audition slots for lower income students. I’m not saying abolish fees, but why not make them reasonable. Most aspiring actors will audition for around 6 schools, and at £50 an audition, it isn’t cheap.

Some schools even make applicants who are applying for the BA and the MA pay for 2 separate auditions, even thought it only takes one audition; they decide which course you are appropriate for and recall you based on that.

One good thing that the majority of schools do is have their auditions held in different places across the country, meaning if you don’t live in London you don’t have to rule out applying there because you can’t travel all that way. However, it is expensive getting yourself all over the country to the auditions, and some schools, such as RADA, require you to travel for every stage…that could be up to 4 journeys!

If the government keeps making cuts and slashing away at the curriculum and funding, how long will it be till what we see in our theatres, in our films and on TV is not a good representation at all of the society we live in.