What got you started?
I think it was my love of words, language and conversation as a kid. My Mum couldn’t leave me anywhere as I’d just start chatting to strangers in the street. I was very curious about the world and spent long hours reading books or constructing characters in my head. I remember a primary school teacher complaining that when I was thinking I pulled a thoughtful face when I was thinking she said “You don’t need to do that” to which I replied “But how will you know I’m thinking?”. Seems performance and living out loud came naturally to me at that point.
What was your big breakthrough?
My breakthrough was realising that I’m not a career for life person. I’ve had almost logical but quite random leaps as part of my career path coupled with phases where I’ve tried to change but nothing has happened. Once I stop pushing doors all sorts of opportunities present themselves.
What have you sacrificed for your art?
My sense of boundaries. I frequently find myself in situations or in conversations thinking “Crap, I really shouldn’t have said that”. People who claim theatre/performance art doesn’t screw with your perceptions are lying.
Do you suffer for your art?
Yes, of course. It’s all about graft, hard work, pain. It’s more than just getting up and saying the lines so the bloke in the back row can year you. It’s not meant to be easy.
What’s the greatest threat to theatre today?
A lack of funding for theatres, especially regional ones. And the notion that musical theatre will always be in vogue. Andrew Lloyd Webber has not been the saviour of British Theatre and never will be. Companies like Punch Drunk, Blast Theory, Improbable and Forced Entertainment will be.
Stage or screen?
Yes, please! Plus radio. At University I had the pleasure of having Alan Beck teach me a module on Classical Theatre, he was lovely and had an infectious passion for radio dramas. He inspired me to have the dream of one day appearing on The Archers.
What advice would you give a young actor?
Forget the idea of instant fame. Things like X-Factor & shows like that give the illusion that you don’t need to work & graft. Am fed up of seeing people being celebrated for just being famous. When did we all agree to that?
What’s the biggest myth about actors?
That they’re all, luvvie, sweetie darling. That may have been true at some point but the theatre world is far more cutthroat than the air kisses may portray. If you’ve not got a killer streak running through you like a stick of rock it can be hellish.
What work of art would you most like to own?
The Young Man with Red Hair by Modigliani. He conveys character and feeling beautifully. It’s also nice to see a redhead in art that isn’t Mary Magdalene or a Burne-Jones.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
I think it was Bette Bourne who said “Look after your body, learn your history..” and there’s a third thing which is probably “take care of your short term memory” but I can’t remember it. I’ve got it on a piece of paper by my front door.
Do you read your reviews?
Yeah I have done. I usually resist for a while and then crumble late at night and try to see if someone else has linked to a review I know exists. I’ve not got to the point of asking people to email me saying “Read this” or “avoid this”. Some people point out nice reviews to me which always makes me smile. Although accidently coming across something that totally blasts you for your work is poisonous. I still wake up at night cursing a bad review I read four or five years ago. I can see the words even as I type now. You can’t unsee things.
Is there anything about your career you regret?
I don’t regret any of my career steps, they’ve all played a part in making me who I am today. To not have those there would alter me as a person. I do regret not learning to walk away from things that aren’t going well sooner. So, yes, I do regret something.
Career: Secondary school teacher, artistic director of Innovista theatre company, lead faciliator of the Russell Commission, project and events support at Birmingham University Guild of Students, currently working for Birmingham city council in the Transforming Education department.
High point: “There’s quite a few. Running theatre workshops on the shores of the Black Sea with really engaged students from across Ukraine. Working with Improbable theatre at their workshops in London. Seems being part of a collaboration is important.”
Low point: “Giving up teaching. It was a hard moment to sacrifice a long held dream but totally needed.”