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.


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!).

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

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.


Stars Can’t Shine Without Darkness

I am a very different person to the girl I was this time last year. In just under a month I will be heading off for my first year of university, and I am 100% sure that I am more prepared than I was 12 months ago. This year, having taken a step out of the education system for a while, I feel like I’ve grown up so much!

Until last September, my entire world was focused around school and the work I was doing there. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been if I had wanted an easier ride, but at the time it felt like all I needed was within that environment. When I left, it felt like everything had fallen apart – I didn’t have a centre anymore. Having struggled with the anticipation of this for over a year, when it actually happened my mental health suffered in a brand new way. But this lead me to something very important; a life lesson that I needed to learn.

It came from a youtube video that I saw in late September. Hazel Hayes is a vlogger and short film maker on the internet, and for the last 18 months she has been documenting her life in a series called Time Of The Month. Each month she films short sections of her life and edits them together beautifully into a half an hour episode, letting her audience know what she is up to and allowing hersef to reflect on the month that has just passed. At the end of these episodes, Hazel sets out themes and emotions that have been prominent through living the month and editing the footage and this section always, always makes me cry! I find myself relating to her story and her life so intensely every time, all the while trying to remind myself that I don’t personally know this woman (however cool I think she is!)

This is by far my favourite series on youtube at the moment and I look forward to seeing it every single month. One of the most impressive things is how authentic and honest Hazel is in sharing her life with hundreds of thousands of people. Sadly, in July 2015 Hazel experienced the end of a relationship and (luckily for me) she decided to share this experience with the world. The episode entitled August 2015 (the second after this change in her life) was published on 7th October 2015 with absolute perfect timing. I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling about leaving school and how much life had changed even though I thought I wasn’t ready for it. But then I saw this and Hazel said the words that I couldn’t find; she was describing what I was experiencing, so that I started to understand my own emotions. Everything that I want to say is in the video below, so instead of typing out word for word what Hazel says, I thought you could just watch the section at the end of this video.

Grief. That’s what it was. I was grieving. But it wasn’t for a person or a physical thing, I was grieving the life I used to know. That girl who went to school and sat in those classrooms and performed on that stage was gone and it didn’t feel like there was anything else to go to. I didn’t know what I wanted because I just missed it. I needed to give myself time to grieve that life before I could enjoy this new one.

Hands down this was the most important thing I realised this year, because then I could start make it better. I’d always thought (perhaps quite naively) that grief was only about losing someone, I’d never thought about it in any other context so I couldn’t articulate it. But once I understood those feelings, I could start to move passed it. My mental health began to improve and I started to get on with life in the real world.

It now feels like this was the lesson that sent me on the journey to adulthood. This is all sounding very cheesy, but genuinely crying at the seven minutes at the end of this video was the first step on that ladder. So, if you ever happen to read this Hazel: Thank you so much for sharing what you felt because I’m sure that I am not the only person who was helped by your words.

This video also gave me a big leap towards the piece that became Base Layer (our devised piece of theatre aiming to reduce the stereotypes surrounding youth mental illness that we performed in July) because I thought that if I had been helped by someone sharing their thoughts and feelings, perhaps my journey could help someone else. There is a recording of our performance of Base Layer here or you can buy tickets for the final performance on 10/09 here

Grief is a natural human emotion that occurs way more often than we let ourselves think. It’s OK to feel loss and sadness when something changes in your world (no matter how small you might think it is) and the best thing you can do is to acknowledge that and let yourself grieve. Something will eventually make you so happy you could burst again, but that wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t had the sadness. It’s a very hard thing to remind yourself when the chips are down, but Stars can’t shine without darkness.

Stars can't shine

The Chain

One of the things that help me the most is music. I have a playlist on my phone called ‘Emotional Outlet Playlist’ which has music to listen to at all sorts of moments. There are tracks to make me cry; tracks to make me smile; and specific tracks to listen to at crisis points. I am hoping to be able to share a series of these with you, but who knows how regular that will be able to be!

So, for now, this is my cover of The Chain by Ingrid Michaelson. It’s a song that, for me at least, is a lot more than just the words being sung. The atmosphere that is created is what has helped in those moments. I recorded it on the baby grand piano we had in a cottage on holiday this summer. Hope you enjoy it.

Tickets for the final performance of Base Layer are now available on the Abbey Theatre’s website. We will be performing there on Saturday 10th September, so make sure you don’t miss out! To find out more about the production, go to the Base Layer tab on the blog.

Finding the words

Base Layer is going to be a devised production, so that we can tell our own story and raise awareness in our own way. However, due to the exam commitments of our cast and crew, we only have two weeks to rehearse the piece. Therefore, Base Layer is going to be made up of extracts from pre-existing plays so that we have a script to work from and to speed up the content creation.

To find the extracts which are most useful to us, we have to read lots of play scripts – some of which prove to be useful but others aren’t so relevant. I have found reading scripts a very different experience to reading a book written in prose. Looking at a script on the page, you get through the text a lot more quickly than you would in performance. You can speak the lines in your head a lot quicker than if you were on stage, and pauses aren’t as relevant at this stage.

One thing that I have noticed is that I have become more comfortable reading in this format the more I do it. I have become less aware of the character names at the side of the page, more accepting of the style and more involved in the story. With experience and practice, I have been able to visualise the play in my head more easily. I can imagine what I would do with the play: the people I would have on stage, the movement they would perform and the design in the space around them. It has become fairly obvious which plays we should be using, because I have connected with those ones and been able to visualise a production more easily.

Although I have only been looking for extracts, reading all of these scripts has made me excited for other projects in the future where I could use the entirety of one of these scripts. The creative side of this project is the reason we started doing it in the first place – we had to get through all of the organisational things to get to this point, but now that we are here things are beginning to flow more easily.

Base Layer rehearsals begin at the beginning of July, and by that point we will have a plan for the entire piece which extracts from all over the place. Our first performance is in just over 6 weeks so buy your tickets and come and help us support Young Minds, the UKs leading mental health charity. Tickets available here.

Music to my ears

Slowly but surely, we are moving through to the creative part of this project. We are putting our company together, and are very excited to work with the actors and crew members that we have lined up. As our rehearsal process is going to be so short, it would be almost impossible to devise a piece of theatre from scratch that would be long enough (and good enough) for people to come and see. Therefore, most of the story arc and outline of the piece will be planned out beforehand, and this process is starting now.

We want to use extracts from plays to give us a basis with which to sit our performance, so I have been reading and making notes on anything I can get my hands on. But another very important aspect of this piece will be music. Physical theatre and movement sequences will form a big part of our production, in order to highlight the abstract nature of mental illness, and these will most often be accompanied by a soundtrack.

Music has always had a big effect on me as a person. It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember (right back to the home video of me aged 2 performing nursery rhymes to my parents in the living room) and is something that I turn to for help when I need it. Music in films always makes me cry; listening to music on car journeys gives me time to think; and the ’emotional outlet playlist’ on my phone has served me well providing distraction and escapism from whatever is getting me down. I am often teased at home about how ‘my life is a musical’ as I sing my way through stacking the dishwasher, but sometimes it feels as if it is true. I can document my childhood based on which musical I was obsessed with at the time, and certain songs hold very specific memories for me and can transport me back to a performance or celebration or time that I spent with someone special. Music is my brain food and recently I have been learning to use that to my own advantage.

As an actor, I have always reacted well to a musical stimulus. I love workshops where I can spend half an hour developing a character to a constant soundtrack, because I can completely lose myself in the sound and go off to some other world in my mind. For my most recent production, my ‘pre-show playlist’ had songs to get me into character before each performance. I listened to my character’s journey through the lyrics and emotions of the tracks, helping me to forget my own problems and step into Cathy’s shoes for a couple of hours. As the majority of my music collection is of the music theatre genre, most of the songs were telling some other story – completely unrelated to the play that I was in – but in each one, a specific line caught my attention and could be applied to Cathy’s story. I found that this allowed me to focus on the tiny details of my character and what was most important for me to be aware of on stage.

Theatre of Minds already has a youtube playlist dedicated to collecting tracks that could be used for devising, whether they make it into the performance or not. Music is such a personal thing, so I am very excited to see how the actors respond to the tracks and how our differing opinions culd affect the journey of the piece. I hope that we can use music to transport the audience to a world of their own, to involve them in our performance and perhaps create a memory which they can come back to in the future.

If you have tracks that mean something to you, or lyrics that stand out to you which you think we could use in our devising, please let us know because we are always looking for new ideas, new emotions and new inspiration.All your problems will go away...

Why do I love the theatre?

Having just finished in a production last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I am a regular sufferer of ‘post-show blues’ – I am so happy during the run but then when the show closes I really miss it. So I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes me so happy when I’m performing.

I know it’s such a cliche, but when I’m on stage I get to lose myself for awhile. I can leave my own problems behind for a couple of hours and step into someone else’s life. Often times I don’t even notice the audience are there – I’m in my own little world and it feels safe. All the decisions are already made for me and I just have to go out there and be my character: tell their story for awhile instead of living my own.

But something that I love even more than the performing buzz are the people. All the theatre that I have been involved in has this amazing sense of community coming with it as part of a packaged deal! During a run you see your cast and crew more than the people you live with; they see so many emotional ups and downs and that freedom to let yourself go gives you very strong friendships. Theatre brings people together: people from different backgrounds with different skills and passions are part of one big group. It’s not just the creative team who are brought together by the art – the audience are connected to each other and to the actors on stage, by the experience they are sharing.

I am so grateful for the families that the theatre has given me and I can’t wait to create more in the future. Theatre is the thing that I love most, so I want to use that for something else that I feel passionately about. I hope that you will join me in the Theatre of Minds Family.


For the last decade, Laura Darrell has suffered from anxiety and panic attacks. After receiving help from a lot of people, Laura has reached the other side and now she wants to give something back to the world.

Earlier this week, Laura set up an online campaign to spread awareness of mental health issues on social media. To support the campaign all you have to do is post a picture of yourself with a postit note and the words #itaffectsme written on it. The title is a reminder that we all have been or will be affected by mental illness at some point in our lives. Whether directly or indirectly through someone that we know and love, we are still affected and Laura wants to remove the stigma surrounding this. ‘Mental illness has no prejudices about who it affects, so we should have no prejudices about it.’ writes Darrell on 

The reason I decided to post this here is that Laura’s message sits inline with our reasons behind Theatre of Minds. We want to create a piece of theatre showing that no-one can escape mental illness because it is everywhere. What you see on the outside doesn’t give you someone’s whole story, and so the people suffering aren’t always those you would expect. This theatre project will not only raise awareness, but also funds for the charity Young Minds (a young people’s mental health charity). If you would like to support our project, you can find out more about our crowdfunding campaign here.

If you would like to find out more information about #itaffectsme, the guardian published an article this week in support or you can search the hashtag on twitter.

Theatre of Minds supports #itaffectsme