My Relationship with Make Up

As a young teenager, I was a massive tomboy. For well over five years I tied my hair up in a ponytail every single day; at school I wore trousers when everyone else was in a skirt; and at home I was wearing wide ‘boyfriend’ style jeans or what I liked to call ‘sporty-shorties’ (three-quarter length jogging bottoms). Any sort of make up – even nail varnish really – was very far from my mind. At the time when everyone was getting their ears pierced I was way more concerned with whether my one pair of trainers would last another season because I really didn’t want to go shopping for more.

Make Up Blog Post Pic 1

Aged 15 – looking as much like a boy as possible.

I didn’t own any make-up at all until my year 11 prom, when me and my mum went shopping for a little brown mascara, a pink lipstick and a brown pencil eyeliner. I had no idea what I was doing with this stuff but I felt like I should look a little made-up to go to prom! It was quite an ordeal at the time finding a dress and working out what to do with my hair, as I was still not a very girly-girl! People had been being told off at school for wearing too much make-up and having their skirts too short for years, and all of a sudden on this night it felt like something I could do – I could totally dress up like everyone else!

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Aged 16 – at prom

For the next two years, things stayed more or less the same. I wore hardly any make-up – even on stage – and for our second prom in year 13 I asked a friend to help me with some eyeshadow because I had no idea what to do. Finally at the end of my gap year I decided that I needed to head to university with a larger collection, and have been adding to it slowly since then. I still don’t wear make-up everyday, but for nights out and going on stage etc, when I want to look a bit smarter I’ll spend some time applying some concealer, eye make-up, powder etc. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I have come to the conclusion that not many people do! Youtube is very helpful though!!!

I count myself very lucky that I haven’t felt very self-conscious about my appearance or skin through my teenage years. Of course there are things I would want to change or fix when I look in the mirror, who doesn’t?! But I have always worn clothes that I wanted to and not really cared about what other people think. For a lot of people, make-up makes them feel more confident in their own skin, but I felt more conscious when I was wearing it. I didn’t know what I was doing with it and felt kind of silly. I could never understand why people spent hours getting ready or wanted to spend money on it, it just wasn’t my bag.

But now that I wear it more often, I actually really enjoy putting it on. The act of dressing up and the whole process getting ready to go out is fun; putting on some showtunes and having a jam in the bathroom, its all part of the evening itself. I no longer feel self-conscious about wearing make-up because I just put on as much as I want to on that day. Sometimes I do go out without make-up because I don’t have time or whatever: it’s going to be dark in there and no-one will really care. I like to put it on for myself not for anyone else, so I wear what I feel comfortable in at that moment.

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Aged 20 – I was pretty proud of my eyeliner!

I guess my message is that if you can you should wear whatever makes you feel comfortable. You should be able to present yourself to the world in the way that you want to, not based on what anyone else thinks. In my opinion, everyone is way more concerned with what they themselves look like that what you are wearing anyway. I know that that is a much easier thing to say than to do, and that I have been lucky in that my insecurities haven’t really been centred around my appearance, but I felt like telling this story might be food for thought.

We are all very individual people, so present yourself that way, in whatever makes you feel the most like you.

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Films that make me cry

Unashamedly, I am a rather emotional person. Many things can make me cry given just a moments notice. Films are a big one. I guess as an actor I am quite practiced at allowing myself to be absorbed by a world that isn’t my own, and feeling involved in other people’s stories. But in fact crying at a film is one of my favourite things to do.
There are films which I will put on because I know they are going to make me well up and feel all emotional. I like the fact that I can release my emotions without anything actually happening to me. After 2 hours or so I can step back out into my own world, fresh, released and ready to carry on. Or at the very least I’ve allowed myself to cry about what was really bothering me. Sometimes you just need a good cry, so these are my top films for bringing tears to my eyes.

Inside Out

This Pixar movie tells the story of eleven year old Riley moving from Minnesota to San Francisco and her emotions – Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust – trying to help her navigate her new life. We spend most of our time inside Riley’s head with these five characters personifying her emotions,watching how they interact and how their actions affect Riley’s out in the real world. Yes, this is in fact a children’s film, but it is also a brilliant commentary on growing up and even mental illness, to a point.
I love this film. It is funny with its reasoning behind things like getting a song stuck in your head; its really clever putting a story behind the way your mind works and I relate not only to Riley but also to Joy. Joy just wants Riley to be happy all the time (and who wouldn’t want that), and she too has to go on a journey to see things from a more grown-up point of view. She says at the beginning that she doesn’t really know what Sadness’ job is, but ends up learning so much from her and helping Riley to become a much more complex person.
The truth in this film is, I think, what gets me: Joy can’t make Riley happy all the time; no matter how hard she tries, Riley needs sadness to be a proper person; and sometimes you have to let go of the old happy memories to make space for new ones that might be even better.

Beauty and the Beast

The new live action version of the 90s Disney classic came out last month and it was everything I wanted it to be! As a child I wasn’t much of a disney person because I used to get too scared of the villians (Cinderella was a favourite for a long time because there weren’t any scary looking monsters), but I did have a Beauty and the Beast jewellery box which played ‘Tale as Old as Time’ and three year old me used to play it to baby Lucy to make her stop crying. Then I performed in the stage version of the musical as my last show at Beaumont School, so the story now holds a very special place in my mind. To be fair, the reason this film makes me cry is probably very specific, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a mention.
At the cinema, I did not stop crying for the whole film. Happy, nostalgic tears, but still tears non the less. It was all a bit overwhelming to see the story brought to life in a new way. I loved the extra story points adding to the background of the characters because it felt worth making an adaptation but still so true to the original. Alan Menken’s new music fitted in beautifully and the inclusion of the instrumental version of ‘Home’ from the stage production was genius and really tugged at some heart strings. One verse of the new piece “How does a moment last forever” has definitely become a favourite of mine.

This is the Paris of my childhood
These are the boarders of my life.
In this crumbling dusty attic
Where an artist loved his wife
Easy to remember, harder to move on
Knowing that the Paris of my childhood, is gone.

Definitely, Maybe

This film tells the story of Will Hayes trying to explain his divorce to his eleven year-old daughter. The majority of the film is spent 20 years prior to this within Will’s story of how he met his soon-to-be ex-wife, with short little jumps back to the present day when Maya objects or asks questions about the characters in his story.
Without giving away too much about the twists and turns of this plot (because my favourite moments in this film come right at the end!), the reason this story hits me, I think, is admiration for Maya. She is eleven years old, watching her parents split up and yet manages to show such empathy and understanding for the situation. She is so selfless; just wanting the people around her to be happy; seeming mature beyond her years. But Abigail Breslin’s portrayal, with the writing and direction given to her, makes the character seem completely inkeeping with the story, rather than showing traits that seemed too adult for an eleven year-old. I love that as a twenty year old I can admire the acts of an eleven year old and her relationship with the adults around her – it restores my faith in humanity a little!

There are many more that I would love to add to this list (Love Actually, My Sister’s Keeper, Never Let Me Go etc etc etc) because I get very into the world of a film. The new Star Wars films will probably always make me cry a little because they have been such a big part of our family life as I’ve been growing up. But these were the ones, off the top of my head, that will be my go-tos for an emotional outlet for at least the near future!

Enjoyed this? Why not have a read of Stars Can’t Shine Without Darkness or Music to my Ears.

Mindful Listening

Podcasts have been a new thing for me in 2017, not exactly a new years resolution, but something that just came into my life in January this year. It’s a very mindful thing for me – more so than I realised it would be. You have to concentrate on it more than listening to music or watching Netflix or you lose track of what they are on about. Walking up to uni in the morning, running at the gym, or washing up after dinner, listening to a podcast stops me mithering so much about everything and makes me feel a bit more present.

I started off listening to The West Wing Weekly: a podcast rewatch of the Aaron Sorkin series The West Wing where the hosts discuss one episode a week with various guests involved in the creation of the show. The West Wing is one of my favourite series ever and if you haven’t seen it you really need to, so when I heard about the podcast I had to get into listening to it. It’s fantastic to hear from people involved about how they made the programme, from directors and actors to cameramen and expert advisors, as well as the politics of the show in today’s climate. So after awhile (once I had caught up and had to wait a whole week for my next episode) I branched out and found myself a nice little collection of subscriptions. Along the same lines as The West Wing Weekly, The Gilmore Guys and Best of Friends have joined the ranks, walking through other excellent television series Gilmore Girls and Friends. But I have also found a couple of lovely theatre related podcasts, which was really the reason for writing this post.

Theater People

(Yes, Daddy, I know theatre is spelt wrong there but as the podcast is american I thought I would honour that!) Each episode of the Theater People podcast features an interview with someone working in the theatre community in New York, with interviewer Patrick Hinds. The conversation will usually begin with whatever project is current for the artist and then jump back to the beginning of their career. Patrick has interviewed Lin Manuel-Miranda, Laura Osnes, LaChanze, Laura Benanti, Elaine Paige etc etc etc. I love hearing about everyone’s different pathway to the theatre and the roles they are taking on now, and Patrick’s interviewing style makes it all feel very relaxed like you really hear what these people think. Sometimes the interviews are conducted in dressing rooms in theatres on Broadway and we might hear snippets of sound checks coming over the monitor or people’s food orders arriving at stage door – it makes it all seem very real. Definitely worth a listen for those who love a bit of music theatre – I’ve discovered several new favourite soundtracks through this podcast recently!

Broadway Backstory

Patrick Hinds is back again in this podcast merging several interviews together to tell the story of how a new Broadway musical ‘goes from just an idea to reality’. Series one of Broadway Backstory has now finished but you can always go back and binge listen to it and wait excitedly with me for series 2. Episodes have included the stories of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’, ‘In the Heights’ and ‘The Secret Garden’ (all some of my faves). The collection has been chosen brilliantly so that each tells a different journey from people with different backgrounds, most ending up at the Tony Awards. Even if you haven’t seen or heard the musical before, it’s more about the people who were involved and how they felt through their journey. Another cracker to delve into.

Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast

 

In each episode of the Royal Court Playwright’s podcast, Simon Stephens (playwright behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime) has a conversation with another successful British playwright who has at some point featured at the Royal Court. I am not a playwright, nor am I ever likely to be, but these conversations are about more than just the writing process – which is of course interesting in itself. Again, these are stories of journeys from humble beginnings, but also about managing workload when you are creative and work for yourself; about handing off your creation to let someone else put their stamp on it; and beyond the personal, it’s often a commentary about the state of British theatre. I am not yet caught up on all the episodes, but so far I have listened to interviews with David Hare (who apparently now hates Verbatim theatre!), Dennis Kelly and Rachel De-Lahay, all of whom I have seen/read works by and very much enjoyed. Another fantastic insight into the world of creativity.

So those are my current podcast favourites bringing me a little bit of mindfulness each day. I really would recommend giving it a try – you can give yourself an hour of focused thought whilst getting on with other things in your busy life.

We are all a little broken, and that’s ok.

Throughout 2015 I created a scrapbook to help distract myself when I needed to. Each page carries a positive message to help pull me through and see the situation from a different angle. I tried to make all the pages as colourful and textured as possible so that it felt real and replaced some of the more destructive things my hands could be doing. As a creative person, it was a great tool at the time for distraction and expressing my feelings but now, as a very sentimental person, the book is a great reminder of where I have come from. I hope that now, through this short video, these messages that I wrote to myself might help someone else who needs a little boost.

The music in this short video is my cover of ‘Holes’ by Layla – a song on my ‘Emotional Outlet Playlist‘.

Hope you enjoy.

Last Night I Wrote Lists…

keep calm and make a list

Over the course of the last few years I have come to realise that I thrive on being rushed off my feet. I perform best when I have to work out how to fit everything in; when it’s stressful and I’m running on adrenaline because I have to make the most of every spare minute. Thanks to Music Theatre Society my first term at the University of Leeds began exactly like this, as we put on Confessions, a new musical, in about 4 weeks, and it really didn’t let up until Christmas – I was very lucky with the projects I was involved in.

My second term moved at a much more civilised pace. I performed in a play (‘Miscellaneous’ with The Toasted Peacocks, a new company based in Leeds) and still felt involved in the other societies I am a part of. But life wasn’t quite so crazy. I think at this point in the year, I did need this because I felt like I lived up in Leeds more this term (rather than just staying there) and became more comfortable in my flat and in my life up there. I also enjoyed working on my degree way more in second term (crazy I know!).
List

Now, however, I have six months ahead of me with way less structure than in term-time life. There will be busy weeks in there, and there are projects coming up which I am aiming for but I want to stop just waiting for things to happen to me. I spent a year after I finished school creating my own structure and fitting various things around each other – I want to get back to doing that, instead of relying on other people because I’m not very good at doing that anyway!

So last night, when there were four million things whizzing around my brain and I couldn’t sleep, I got up and made some lists. Lists of things I want to do, and how to get them done. Some bigger goals like things I want to do in second year, and what I want to do with the next six months, right down to what I need to do this week. Most of the bigger targets have internal steps to help me get there, and some haven’t quite got a clear path yet but I think plans will unfold the more work I get done.

One thing that came up was ‘Hey what’s stopping me getting the Theatre of Minds blog going again?’ I hope that I can make it as regular as it was last year, with posts about theatre and mental well-being to keep inline with the project we created, but who knows – this is the plan at any rate! Let’s face it this is a post for me more than anyone else, but if you were here before: welcome back, and if you are new: I hope you stick around a bit and find something interesting in our project. Anyhow, here I am taking control of what I want to happen; making myself busy with self-set targets and not waiting for people to hand me life on a plate.

List 2

Donation to Young Minds

Apologies for the lack of updates since our last performance – term time got into full swing and we had to wait on a couple of things before making our announcements.

Firstly we would like to thank everyone who came to see the extra performance on Saturday 10th September: the audience was much bigger than we were expecting and everyone felt very engaged with the work we were presenting. Thankyou very much to everyone who helped us at the Abbey Theatre – especially Tina, Paul and Susie who I know in person did a lot of work to help us out – we felt very welcome and supported over there.

Secondly we are delighted to announce that we will be donating £2,535.75 to Young Minds. Thankyou very much to everyone who has donated or bought a ticket to one of the performances; it is thanks to your generosity that we have reached this fantastic amount. You will have helped other young people suffering with a mental illness as well as helping their families and friends understand how to help them best. If you would like more information on the work that Young Minds are doing you can take a look at their website, or this post on our blog.

Theatre of Minds is not finished. We will continue to update the blog when we can, and it is our aim that at some point in the future we’ll come back with a whole new project and production. For now, if you would like to look at the work we have been doing, you can check out the Our Work tab on the blog and follow us on twitter for regular updates.

Thankyou for all of your support – the project was bigger and better than we ever could have imagined and we are all so proud of what we have achieved.

Until next time.

xxx

Practice makes Perfect!

To see our Rehearsal Video Diaries, visit the Our Work page of the blog.

Monday 5th September 2016
With a bonus performance of Base Layer on Saturday, this was the first rehearsal day after the summer holidays. During the day, Lucy and I popped in to Beaumont to pick up the rostra for the set and then met the cast and crew at the Abbey Theatre at 6pm.

Tina, the Theatre Manager at the Abbey, was there to welcome us and sort us out in the space. I had a small discussion with Paul who was helping us out with the technical side of things, and then promptly passed over that conversation to Alex and Joe on the lighting team. The boys then worked very hard with Paul all evening sorting us out with lighting angles etc – in fact they were “the most productive we have been… ever!” according to Joe. So we really appreciate the team we have got there.

As soon as the actors had all arrived, we set to work adjusting the performance for the new configuration. It was lovely to see everyone again and pick up where we left off. There were several giggling fits as we tried to remember how everything had fitted together before. I was very impressed with how everyone had remembered their lines, but fitting that in with the chair duets at the beginning of the piece proved a little challenging! It was a great first rehearsal and we pretty much covered half the piece in the three hours that we had in the space.

Friday 5

Original rehearsals for the opening sequence

Tuesday 6th September 2016
24 hours later, we were back in the studio rehearsing again. Having made it to the half way point (ish) the day before, we spent the rehearsal going over the second half of the performance. Some of the movement sequences took some time to adjust to the new space – having the audience in an L configuration is very different from the spaces we have performed in so far and it makes sight lines a little trickier. Lots of things happen on the diagonal now, and we’ve had to be careful to make sure we still use the whole space.

When we reached the end of the piece, we then went through our ‘chair choreography’. When not on stage the actors sit on chairs within the audience to create a stronger connection between them, so for 8 actors we have 8 spare chairs in the audience. We had to work our way through each person’s journey on stage and work out which chair they needed to be sat in at which point. This actually proved easier than when we were doing the same thing for the Beaumont performance in July because most people have the same chair for the whole production. Now, we have just one more rehearsal which will mostly be focused on the technical side of things before show day on Saturday.

pathways

Plotting walkways for the new space

Our performance day (10th September 2016) is also World Suicide Prevention Day, so we hope that you will be able to help us raise awareness by attending the performance – given that our work is centred around youth mental health difficulties. Tickets are available on the Abbey Theatre’s website and all the money raised will be donated to Young Minds. we hope to see you there.

 

Here we go again!

We are no less than a week away from our performance of Base Layer at the Abbey Theatre. Being asked to perform again is such a fantastic opportunity to share our work with a wider audience, so we really hope to see you there.

Thank you very much to Susie Major – the press officer at the Abbey Theatre – for writing and organising our latest article in the Herts Advertiser. We are very grateful for all the support that the theatre has been giving us in organising the extra performance – we couldn’t have done this alone! Have a read of the article below, and make sure you book tickets to see our young people’s story of mental illness here.

Herts Ad 3

Young Minds Parent’s Helpline

All of the funds raised from our production of Base Layer will be donated to the charity Young Minds after the final performance on Saturday 10th September. Young Minds are the UK’s leading youth mental health charity and work with young people and their families when they are struggling with a mental illness.

Young Minds

Young Minds run a confidential parents helpline used by over 10,000 people in 2013 to help direct parents to the right support for their families. Parents, carers, grandparents and professionals like teachers and social workers have used the helpline to try and help a young person under the age of 25. It can be very difficult to make the first step of making this call, but the Young Minds advisors are trained to help you explore your worries and understand what your child is going through. They might then pass you on to a mental health specialist for further consultation.

All you have to do is call 0808 802 5544 (free from a mobile or landline) between 9:30am and 4pm on Monday-Friday and there will be someone there to help.

There is also an online contact form to use if it is easier to write down your concerns rather than saying them outloud. Anyone can contact the charity when they are in need – they have heard it all before and no problem is too small.

The aim of the project is for Young Minds to be able to help everyone who needs them but they can only do with with donations from outside sources in order to further their work. Through our work on Base Layer we have already raised over £2000 to in donations and ticket sales. If you would like to help support the charity, our crowdfunding page is still open for donations, or you can buy a ticket to come and see the performance at the Abbey Theatre on Saturday 10th September, the profits from which will also be donated to the charity. Please help us support the work of this fantastic group. Mental illness is everywhere and everyone is affected!

The Comedy of Errors

On holiday in France, down near the Dordogne, a couple of weeks ago we enjoyed a production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors (in English!) in a village square near where we were staying. Since I already had to write a review for some A-level drama summer work, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to tell you about the production.

Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors Review
In the square of the French Bastide Monpazier, I saw a production of The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare performed by Antic Disposition on Wednesday 10th August 2016. As it was performed outside, immediately, you could see links between the performance conditions today and what it would have been like at the Globe. For example, as it was performed in a square, there was a lot of background noise during the performance much like there would have been when it was first performed.

Before any dialogue started, an opening movement sequence set the scene. A bell was rung in time to the live music to firstly make clear to the audience that this play was set in a hotel. Secondly this helped to make sure the audience were focused on the bell at appropriate points when new characters were being introduced, for example, the two sets of twins. Firstly, we met Antipholus and Dromio of Ephesus meaning that when we saw Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse put on the exact same clothes a few seconds later, the audience could see where the mix up might take place. As we had seen the two twins separately beforehand, when they were dressed the same, we could still tell them apart meaning that the story could be told without the audience being too confused. To reiterate that they were twins, later on, director Ben Horslen had the two sets of twins stand back to back showing that they were indeed identical.

the company of antic disposition-s the comedy of errors

Similar to the original performance conditions, there was very little set on the stage. One of the only pieces of set was a door and during act 3 scene 1, a very simple movement of turning it around 180 degrees meant that the entire setting had changed so that one minute, we were on the outside of the room and the next minute, inside. This was very effective because while a split scene would have worked, the audience were only focused on one area of the stage where all the action was taking place rather that two. It also meant that we could see more clearly the interactions between the characters on stage. As the actors were constantly reacting to the audience, it added comedy to this scene. One place I thought it was particularly effective was when Antipholus of Ephesus (played by Alex Hooper) wasn’t allowed into his own home so he turned round and faced one side of the thrust stage, giving this area of the audience an individual reaction. This happened throughout the play meaning that each audience member saw a slightly different performance because not everyone saw exactly the same interactions. This scene also brought out the importance of the class system in this setting. Originally, I thought that the main characters were from the highest class, however, when a woman dressed in an expensive fur coat of the 1920s walked past, they all changed their body language to impress her. All the actors stood up straighter and brought their ridiculous actions to a halt, showing they were conscious not to act immature in front of a woman of a higher class.

keith higinbotham and andrew venning in antic disposition-s the comedy of errors

Antic Disposition decided to base their production on the film “Some Like it Hot”. One section that particularly mirrored the film was the chase scene that they inserted into act 5. Everything was moving very fast meaning that the audience couldn’t really tell what was going on. For the first time, it was hard to tell the twins apart because they kept moving and you couldn’t really get a good look at them. This confusion added to the comic effect of the rest of the piece and enabled the audience to not worry that they didn’t really understand. Secondly, it was very effective because it linked very closely to the chase scene in “Some Like it Hot” as the same music was played in the background during both. Also, during this scene, one set of Antipholus’ and Dromio’s dressed up as women to try disguise themselves which very closely mirrors the disguise in the film. The reason that having this link throughout the play was so effective was because the majority of the audience were older meaning that they would have seen the film beforehand and would therefore understand the context. Cleverly, director Ben Horslen knew that the average age of his audience would be older due the area of France that his company was touring, meaning that by basing the play on an older film, he would appeal to his audience.

keith higinbotham and alex hooper in antic disposition-s the comedy of errors

During the play, you could tell that the two Dromio’s and the two Antipholus’ were twins but this wasn’t because they looked identical. The actors who were cast looked similar enough so that they could pass as twins but the audience could still tell the difference. This was essential because otherwise, it wouldn’t have been as funny because even the audience wouldn’t know what was going on. Additionally, the sets of twins were only on stage together right at the beginning and right at the end meaning that it didn’t really matter whether they were identical or not. The actors all used their physicality and mannerisms to make themselves very similar. For example both Keith Higinbotham and Andrew Venning playing the two Dromio’s wore their hats in the same positions on their heads and held their chins pointed down to keep it on in the same way. This was most apparent when the Dromio brothers were attempting to greet each other at the end because it was the first time they were interacting on stage. Both characters had such similar personalities, neither would make a move towards each other. They spoke in the same tone of voice which again helped to make it clear to the audience that these two characters were twins even though they didn’t look exactly the same, adding to the comedy of the errors seen throughout the play.

The final performance of Base Layer is on Saturday 10th September at 7:30pm at the Abbey Theatre in aid of Young Minds. Tickets available here. We hope to see you there.