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Going Cold Turkey

Going Cold Turkey
Social media.Love it or hate it, it’s here to stay.You can’t escape it.Every programme on TV helpfully puts its #suggestedhastag at the bottom of the screen and even David Dimbleby is reminded to mention it during Question Time each week – though I often feel he isn’t quite sure what Twitter is…
Every Lent I like to give myself a challenge and this year I decided to quit social media.I’m not a big Facebook-er unless shamelessly self-promoting whatever I happen to be doing in my career but I was feeling that Instagram was beginning to take over my life.I’d love to know the hours I’ve spent scrolling, staring vacuously at my phone screen, it would be days’ worth of time.And this is disturbing.It is a literal waste of time.Instagram does have its uses – there are some lovely communities on there and who doesn’t love to see a photo of a kitten?However, it is also known as a hotbed for battering confidence and depleting self-worth.It’s easy to forget when looking on Instagr…
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La La loved it?

I spend a lot of January and February each year running around to various cinemas, watching all of the films nominated for the best picture award at the BAFTAs and Oscars – it’s a fun challenge which takes me to locations all over London and to see films which I may not otherwise have watched.
La La Land was arguably this year’s runaway success even though it didn’t (or did briefly) win the Academy Award for Best Picture.  However, talking to lots of people about it, I have noticed that it wasn’t the triumph with audiences that the press would have us believe.  Broadly my friends fell into two camps:  my actor and big theatre going friends tended to love it.  Everyone else was a bit more “meh”.
I think the reason for its success at the awards is twofold.  Firstly, Hollywood loves a bit of navel gazing.    There were so many times during La La Land that I was wryly laughing to myself but no one else around me was.  I could really empathise with Emma Stone’s character – I’ve been in thos…

#28PlaysLater

February. The shortest month of the year.  It felt like the longest at some points.
I have just completed the “28 Plays in 28 days” challenge set up by The Space Theatre - yes that’s correct, I wrote 28 plays in 28 days.  I made the decision to enter very last minute – I saw it advertised on Twitter, had a quick look, fired off an email and half an hour later had committed to the challenge.  I think if I’d thought about it, I probably wouldn’t have done it, but I am so glad that I did.
 At 10pm each evening an email from “Sebastian” appeared in my inbox with that day’s task, which had to be completed and emailed by 10am 36hours later.  The tasks ranged from writing a murder mystery, to being inspired by a song, a play with no plot, a play with no actors, personal pieces, biographical stories of fictional people, finishing a play you never finished and so on.  Each task was different and challenging.
What I found fun was that there wasn’t a lot of time to think.  I mainly had to just star…

Things they don't teach in drama school...

Things they don't teach in drama school...
Drama school is just like the film FAME: acting, singing and dancing every day, emotional, full of laughter, sweat and tears, maybe slightly less use of legwarmers but essentially, it’s exactly the same.
However, when you leave the cosy cocoon and enter the big scary world of being “an actor”, there are a few things that you realise the Professional Studies class should have covered…
Small children will heckle you A lot of drama graduates will do at least one TIE (Theatre in Education) or panto tour at some point in their career.  The pay and comfort of these tours varies wildly from (a) three people in a Nissan Micra with their entire set & costumes and a box of maps, to (b) being driven around by a stage manager in a cosy, fitted out van.  By and large, these jobs involve getting up VERY EARLY in the morning, driving to a school or care home, being offered a cup of tea, negotiating swing doors and stair cases while carrying your set and…

Wicked Skillz

As a performer, you’d think that acting, dancing or singing would be your main skill but it really isn’t.  I genuinely believe that actors must be the most employable people on the planet due to the many transferable skills that we have (which we didn’t know we needed).
IT Wizard Firstly, you need a phone.  If this phone can access the World Wide Web, even better.  If you also know how to push your emails with this phone, take a selfie and self-tape an audition then you’re laughing.  If you didn’t understand any of that, you’re in trouble.

Building a website, emailing and attaching files, formatting a Word version of your CV, videoing and uploading auditions, blogging, tweeting are all talents I have developed which I hadn’t considered were essential.
You can’t teach an old dog… As soon as you start applying for jobs, you quickly realise that though you may have many skills, there are many others which you don’t have.  For example, boy do I wish I could play a portable musical instrument t…

The value of being a tree

Two sets of figures for you:
Total turnover in arts and culture in the UK in 2013 was £15.1 billion, with gross value added totally£7.7billion[1]
For every £1 of public funding paid to Arts Council England, the culture sector pays back £5 in tax contributions.£1 paid in by the government, £5 return.  Pretty good.
Why am I telling you this?  Well for a start, I think it’s quite interesting.  That’s a helluva lotta money!  It shows what a buoyant, successful and profitable industry the arts are.  The UK’s thriving tourism industry accounts for a huge 9% of the UK’s GDP[2] with 24% of visitors in London going to the theatre/ballet/opera[3].
And yet, as ever, the arts are under threat.  Funding from the government to a myriad of organisations is always in danger of being reduced or removed completely and drama and dance GCSEs are at risk being of side lined as they aren’t considered academic enough and this concerns me.  I understand that the UK is not in the best financial situation it’s eve…

Fearless

Why write a play?  To tell a story, to make a point, to educate, to entertain?  I go to the theatre a lot and sometimes I do wonder why the play I’ve just seen has been put on.  Did I learn anything?  Did I laugh?  I don’t always expect a riotous night out but I want to be engaged.
Verbatim theatre has been around for a while.  For the uninitiated, “Verbatim theatre is a form of documentary theatre in which plays are constructed from the precise words spoken by people interviewed about a particular event or topic.” (Wikipedia)  For me, it’s like watching a film which opens with “based on true life events” – I am immediately interested.
Deep Cut & The Riots at the Tricycle, London Road at the National, John by DV8 are just a few recent productions.  I saw JOHN and found it to be a fascinating insight into one man’s life – someone I would probably never meet, who had lived a life I knew very little about.  And hearing his tale, in his words and delivery (performed superbly by Hans Lan…