Friday, 11 March 2011


As an actress, writing a blog for a theatre website, I want to give you razzle-dazzle, Hollywood glamour, backstage dirt, debauchery and drama. But this week’s blog is written from a place of confinement. There’s only so much drama that can be achieved, housebound, inside a small basement flat. 

To paint the picture…

Around me, there is a strong smell of disinfectant. Not a great smell but preferable to the smell of wee. Before assumptions are made, I will stress to you, no, it’s not me. I may be mad but I’m not the one who’s incontinent. Not me.

A bit of history…

Throughout childhood, I had a dog phobia that was quite debilitating. Parks were a terror-zone: played in, with one eye to the horizon, watching and listening for a woof or a blur of teeth on it’s way over to eat me. Even now, I come out in a cold sweat if a dog takes me by surprise. So why, as I write, is there a pair of large brown eyes looking up at me with a tail wagging so hard her little bottom looks it’s going to take off? Why is a there little puddle on the floor behind the chair and, why is there, sitting at my feet, a small furry little chew machine also know as a puppy?

Reason 1) I made a resolution a while back- “If something scares you… DO IT “. It seems a good way to push yourself and keep life interesting.

Reason 2): Duster, the puppy

Last summer, I met Duster. I watched him scampering about and began to admire his outlook on life. Everything was worth a sniff, everything a potential friend. I wondered if (excluding all the sniffing of bottoms) more of those qualities should be applied to life… openness, exploration, instinct…

Reason 1 + reason 2 = Nula = life in disarray 

But minus the mess, being on puppy watch is a great. She’s great and I’m smitten. It’s also an excuse to re write the feature film I completed before my run at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It’s a good incentive to sit and write without feeling obliged to get out and do something. Forced to get up at 6am, I’ve been managing to work for a good 12 hours a day. That wouldn’t have happened pre Nula.

And she’s helpful. She sits at my feet and encourages me. She’s also a great help when practising lines. In anticipation of next week’s Tempest audition, she’s being a fabulous Prospero and a wonderful Caliban. With the frequent Shakespeare speeches and Classic FM to keep her calm, I think she’ll understand French by the time she’s 6 months old (and certainly be the star of the class in puppy training)

*Note to stop the high expectations before the pup develops a guilt complex and I become a clichéd Jewish mother

Whilst multi tasking the pup, the writing and the acting, I was interested to read James Franco’s interview in the Guardian magazine. Franco, known as much for his university double life as for his acting (and recent Oscar nomination) is the subject of much speculation: is his academic pursuit a PR stunt, a clever way to make him more than a pretty face?

I think there’s little point in questioning why James Franco is doing all this. I’d rather just be impressed. After all, even if his incentive to go to back to school is PR, the action stands up for itself: He’s there, turning up, doing homework and putting in the hours. Lets just applaud the hard work

One of his comments, that the hard slog brings gratitude for the acting, makes sense. He also said that stops him being engulfed in Hollywood. It rings true that becoming consumed can be destructive, be it for a person or for an important audition.

Simon Beaufoy (writer of Slumdog Millionaire) said something similar in his Bafta lecture

“If you concentrate too much you’re going to fail.”

As a singer, I make the best sound when I’m fully relaxed. I was on my 4th recall for Mimi in the most recent West End version of Rent and the casting director told me to run around the room and roll on the floor. I looked like a loony but the sound flew out.

With acting, it’s the same. In an audition, if you try to be good, you’re often at your worst. If you’re not playing… if you’re not free, open and relaxed, then your head is in the wrong place. Before a show I use music, meditation, exercise or just being silly with friends to try and find this state.

There’s no way of switching off the wants, dreams and the hopes to do your best but filling life with other joys can make work seem a lot less “live or die”

The puppy agrees. She thinks that it is very silly to put so much pressure on being perfect and, really, we should just run around sniffing things and wiggling our bottoms.
frontpage hit counter