Thursday, 16 June 2016

Falling in Love is so Hard on the Knees: Siobhán Daly on the power of falling in love

Falling in love

Shakespeare. I'm often asked why I am so passionate about his work and about the work of Grassroots. Aren't there enough Shakespeare companies? What are we doing that is so different and who cares anyway? 

It is a question that I have reflected a lot on over the past few years, and indeed, have scrutinised my own feelings and motivations as we have gone through everything from building a company, to having money stolen from us as well as business information, to performing at the RSC and becoming the first ever resident company at Leicester Square Theatre in the West End. 

The only answer that I can really come up with that captures every thought and aspect of my feelings, is that I fell in love.

I remember the first time he caught my eye. 

I was newly at secondary school and studying a speech by Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream, which we also had to memorise:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in:
And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies.
Take thou some of it, and seek through this grove:
A sweet Athenian lady is in love
With a disdainful youth: anoint his eyes;
But do it when the next thing he espies
May be the lady: thou shalt know the man
By the Athenian garments he hath on.
Effect it with some care, that he may prove
More fond on her than she upon her love:
And look thou meet me ere the first cock crow.

Max Wilson as Oberon and Emily Jane Kerr as Puck in our 2012/2013 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

The imagery of sweet musk-roses, eglantine (sweet briar rose) and woodbine (honeysuckle) captured my imagination, and I could hardly believe that a mere sequence of words could collectively have such transportive power to the extent to being able to evoke smell or the visions of this magical bower. What was this seductive, immersive sorcery?!

And it happened. 

I was completely enthralled and enamoured. I kept asking when would we be studying the next Shakespearean play. We had to wait far too long in my impatience to learn more, but were so richly rewarded by Macbeth. The Tempest was enjoyable, despite the new relationship having to survive the obstacle of a truly painful production of the play. We stuck together and moved through it.

Matthew Walker as Prospero in our 2012/2013 production of The Tempest

Falling out of Love

But it was a difficult relationship.

We didn't always get on. 

Sometimes he said things that were utterly obscure and I would think he was being difficult on purpose. It would upset me, and I consulted various books trying to figure out what on earth he was going on about. Maybe someone else out there could shed light on where he was coming from. I hoped. I wanted to stick with him, but it was trying.

Then I had to study and perform Cymbeline at RADA as part of my degree. 

I definitely wasn't on amorous terms with him after that. 

I can't entirely recollect what it was about that production that I disliked so much. From memory, it feels disjointed, lacking in clear storytelling, a gloss over what isn't exactly an easy play at the best of times.

I decided I'd had enough. It was far too much hard work and we didn't speak for quite some time. Years in fact. I buried him away and hoped he would go away.

He didn't.

Realistic Love

It was rather like a coal burning away deep inside my heart. The more I pretended it wasn't there, or I ignored it, or buried it further down, the more it defiantly glowed with an annoyingly increasing intensity. Without me quite realising, he was wooing me all over again.

I don't really recollect an inciting moment, but I had become fed up of being afraid.

It was hard at first. It took a lot of humility. I struggled to admit that I was intimidated by Shakespeare, of what I didn't actually understand and to be open about the fact that I felt, particularly in light of having studied at such a prestigious school, so shamefully embarrassed about the work that I had to put in to try to comprehend those difficult passages or words.

I realised that I had put him on a pedestal, and in fact had stopped relating to the real man. It is impossible to sustain romantic feelings of first love. I had to go back to basics, on my own terms, and get to know who he really is. 

It was so much more satisfying.

Mature Love

Something magical happened.

In being open and honest, I was able to really fall in love, not with an idea but with reality.

One of the things I tell all of our Grassroots actors is never feel ashamed in rehearsals about asking what you don't understand because I can guarantee no-one was born having complete knowledge of Elizabethan English, and everyone has had to study and learn. I encourage the use of dictionaries, and if actors are still stuck, I see no problem with using modern English editions to dig out the meaning, and then apply that insight back to the original text. In a collaborative, nurturing environment, which is what we encourage, this means that the actors was also provide support for each other in exploring the story. Together we can find out what is really means.

Most importantly, this work is crucial, because once we can grasp the heart of the play, we can communicate it to our audience. They too can feel the love we have for Shakespeare, that we want to share, because, to quote Juliet,

"My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

Loren O'Brien as Juliet and Boris Mitkov as Romeo in our 5 star 2013 production of Romeo and Juliet
We long to strip back the pretence that has accumulated around Shakespeare, the fear and the intimidation. When we dispense of these unnecessary additions, a heart to heart connection can be made. Finally. You don't need to dress up, talk differently, be on your best behaviour, pretend to be someone else because you can connect from where you are, as you are.

Of course, it takes work, every good relationship does. To quote the modern wordsmith Steve Tyler, falling in love is so hard on the knees. But it is so rewarding. Seeing audiences who have come to the theatre for the first time ever because their friends have told them about the play, and to hear them say "I can't believe that was Shakespeare, I enjoyed it so much", which is something I heard regularly during our recent production of Twelfth Night, is absolutely thrilling.

And that is why I am passionate. 

Because everyone deserves to fall in love.

Tamaryn Payne as Lady Olivia and Ellie Nunn as Cesario/Viola in our 2016 production of Twelfth Night, celebrating Shakespeare 400 from London's West End

Siobhán Daly is the Artistic Director and Producer of Grassroots Shakespeare London.

To join the adventure, please check out

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Shakespearean Spring Jam: Chris Thomson on partnering with Grassroots

It is not a foolish assumption of mine, I hope, to say that we can all agree that theatre is pretty much a good thing. Personally I would go so far as to say it is a great, exciting and valuable thing, but then, I am an actor. It is rather like Bob the Builder telling you about the joys of scaffolding. Not joyous to all, but indisputably a good and necessary article. 

The Team in Leicester Square for the Shakespeare 400
'Dawn Til Dusk' Launch (L-R: Kit Loyd, Chris Thomson, Siobhán Daly,
Louis Labovitch, Benjamin Bonar, Richard Soames)
During the run of Twelfth Night we experienced an overwhelmingly positive reaction both in and out of the theatre, you need only peruse the Grassroots' Twitter feed to validate such a claim. Never before have I experienced such a consistent enjoyment from an audience on a nightly basis. Standing ovations, repeat visits, raucous laughter, children on the edge of their seats; this last one in particular, for me, is signifier that we were doing something right.

I have generally been pretty lucky with my acting jobs so far in my career; mostly working in friendly, well-intentioned and creative environments, working with Grassroots for the first time was no exception. Notably with this job though, I made a great many advances and breakthroughs in realisations on how I wish to function within this business. For an actor, the ensemble way of working is indeed intense, but forces one to treat the art, and other actors, with dexterity and care; an approach which I hope comes through in their work’s execution.

Chris Thomson in rehearsals for Twelfth Night
Here’s the thing though; as grateful as we are for them, hordes of positive tweets doth butter no parsnips. For all the great press in the world, the cogs of theatre will undoubtedly grind to a halt should they be neglected by the oil of finance. Of course I believe that your support should be given, from my point of view this kind of job is in short supply in terms of creative and educational opportunity for an actor, and I could go on for pages about why I think we should be given a chance ahead of all the other ventures racing towards the bottleneck of theatrical success and longevity. But why should YOU support it? What’s in it for you, the viewer? Well, I have prepared a short listicle (if the internet has taught me nothing else, it’s that we all love a little listicle) of reasons why you might wish to lend us your support.

1.     Original Practices

Grassroots are a company whose hook is that we work with original practices. What does that even mean mate? Well, essentially it means that we have taken inspiration from the way in which a theatre company might have worked 400 years ago, and incorporated it into the structure of the Grassroots work and performance ethic.

Jim Conway, Ellie Nunn & Darrell Davy in
rehearsals for Twelfth Night
For us, as actors, the main curve from the contemporary system is that we are without a director, and therefore shape the work as a collective. This has it benefits as well as its difficulties. Although it perpetuates a lot more debate, it also means that a larger pool of ideas and angles are there to play with. This, so far, has ended in a very carefully crafted and well-rounded product.

Original practice also refers to a return to original intentions. Centuries ago, before theatre was a corporate machine that needed feeding with big names and fancy lights, before it was decided that spectacle was required at the expense of quality content to keep the masses happy, before we started making theatre for the actors and stopped making it for the people, the role of theatre was to entertain and to educate. It was not the reserve of the spangle-dangled gentleman and glitter-knickered madam, it was intended for all to enjoy, from Lord to latrine monitor. Grassroots’ wish is to help create a landscape where good theatre, and indeed Shakespeare, is easy to find and enjoyable to behold. Which bring us to…

2.     Accessibility

We hear a lot about this in entertainment. Are we really sure what this is actually supposed to mean? I suppose it comes down to a combination of things. To our understanding this is what it means:
Tamaryn Payne as Lady Olivia in Twelfth Night

-       Clarity. I know when creating Twelfth Night our biggest priority was to tell the story really, really well. You do this by knowing the text inside out and making every thought absolutely clear. Productions too often get caught up in all the concept and spectacle of a production and forget about the foundation of the art, storytelling. This is a Grassroots core value.

-       Price. As we know, one of the issues in encouraging people into the theatre is price, and in that vein, value for money. A night at the theatre is, in general, expensive and a rare treat. On top of that, if you have just spent a lot of money on something not so great, you are most unlikely to go again and feel like it was money well spent. No wonder so many feel unwelcome. Not only do Grassroots very carefully craft their plays with the audience at the forefront of their thoughts, they will continue to do their very best to ask a reasonable price in return.

-       Welcome. Come one, come all. Young and old, theatre goers and novices. Bring your popcorn (a girl bought some really decent smelling lentil soup in one night, she wouldn’t give me any. Had to settle for a cashew nut biscuit from the lad behind her. It was fine, bit dry), bring your commentary, bring your slippers. Make yourself damn comfortable, we are here for you, not you for us. When you come and see us it should feel as comfortable as if you were in your own living room, come as you are. We want you coming back, we are building…

Siobhán Daly and Emily Jane Kerr promoting Twelfth Night
Up at the O2, 52m above London

3.     Community

There is concerted effort to break down the divide between actor and audience. Grassroots love to encourage communication between their actors, Online and offline. A show is not complete without its audience; you are just as valuable an ingredient as the text, the actors, the music, the costumes, all of it. When you re-visit us in the future we want it to feel as if you are coming back to see and old friend. It is club, but everyone is invited, all are welcome. It all adds to the…

4.     Quality

The care and fierce detail observed in the rehearsal room is top drawer. All in the name of putting the best experience together for the viewer. However, we realise that what we arrive with on opening night is by no means the final product. You, the viewer, are instrumental in rubbing that last sheen of quality on to the theatrical surface. Every laugh you offer, every gasp, every grunt and every silence is important to us; we listen to every one. We are not afraid to grow and change, we hear you. Every reaction helps us to add detail and to produce the finest vintage for you. We are striving…

5.     The best of intentions…

Richard Soames as Feste in Twelfth Night
All of the above points, and all the attributes I have probably missed, fall under the blanket of good intention. This company is built on nothing but love for the work and desire to bring our audiences the best. Capital gain is not how we measure success here, but we do need a little financial support to keep going towards the point at which we might deem ourselves successful. We only wish to be able to sustain the ability to keep bringing the public the best, by being able to hire the best people to do that.

So help us out here chaps. Perhaps you can’t empty your pockets for us, or even toss us a copper right now. At the very least do your best to get the word out. Go forth and slather this article over the internet like Shakespearean Spring Jam over a Bardy Brioche. To paraphrase Grassroots Associate Artist, Emily Kerr, ‘If you like what we are doing, please support us in any way you can. If you don’t… don’t.’ 


If you would like to financially partner with Grassroots Shakespeare London and join our journey, we have a number of campaigns including '10 for £1k', Give What You Can, Legacy Donations and corporate sponsorship to suit fellow adventurers like you! 

Please head over to our website and check out our 'Support' page where you can donate via Paypal, or for larger donations, please email

Monday, 2 May 2016

Emily Jane Kerr on comedy and bubble baths

It is Monday afternoon. I am currently in my pjs. I am exhausted. I don't think I have ever been this tired. Honestly. 

Emily Jane Kerr in
Grassroots' 2014 production of Othello as Emilia

I have done a 10 show a week schools tour (for 3 months). I have done two double show 30 day stints at the Edinburgh Fringe. Considering I (spoiler alert) died on stage every night as Emilia in Othello, and all the other tragedy that happens within the play, I am still more tired after our two show day of Twelfth Night than I ever was after a two show day of Othello

Now, I am aware I am two years older than I was when performing in Othello and now much nearer to 30 than I have ever been (watch it...) but it can't just be age... It can't. Please, someone tell me it can't be.

I think what I've come to realise is that comedy is actually quite a serious business. No really. The amount of focus that is required to perform Twelfth Night is quite astounding. The mental and physical agility required to navigate the text of one of Shakespeare's most interesting comedies, and our intimate space at Leicester Square Theatre, is huge. No wonder I'm exhausted. 

Emily Jane Kerr in
Grassroots' 2016 production of Twelfth Night as Maria

The timing in the physical and verbal comedy between myself (Maria), Benjamin Bonar (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) and John Pickard (Sir Toby Belch) needs to land every night and I think I underestimated the amount of focus that requires. It's been four years since I last performed in a full length comedy, and it's been a bit of a shock to the system! But thanks to the hard work, focus and support of our wonderful ensemble of actors (not to mention the comedy masterclasses I've been getting from Richard Soames of 'The Beta Males' 😉) I think I'm pulling it off. I'm just lucky I've got the support of my two troublesome boys (Ben and John) on stage every time, and support goes off stage too. I can feel the kindness and generosity as I walk into the dressing room at the end of each scene. Everyone listens to the audience reactions (be it laughter, gasps, whispers, or even 'uh oh' as we had from one woman the other night!), we want to share the show with the audience and we want to share in their joy. 

And what joy it has been! Honestly we've had incredible responses from audience members (none of whom were paid to be nice!) and you can read some of the responses on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Go and have a nose, you know you want to. 

Chris Thomson said last blog: 'We made [the show] for you. All of you.' Chris is quite sensible (and has a great beard) so I'd trust him on that. We really did so it's amazing to see so many people sharing the laughter and joy with us each show in our lovely home at Leicester Square. So if you haven't seen the show yet, what are you waiting for? 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take my aged, nearly 30 year body and have a bath. 


Twelfth Night plays at Leicester Square Theatre until 14th May.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Not for me: Chris Thomson on Shakespeare, Wotsits & creating Twelfth Night

I’m semi-excited.

Chris Thomson in rehearsals for Twelfth Night
I’m sitting in a temporary pre-fab English block that might conceivably be made out of quite thick paper, there is no heating, and it’s January sometime in the late 90’s. We have to endure a double period of English before lunch, sat in our hats and coats, under the jurisdiction of Mr Harrison; a six and a half foot, lanky, sad-sack of a man whom is visibly terrified of the modern teenager and always wears a look on his face that is very similar, I would imagine, to that of a balding and particularly melancholy basset hound. The present mood, in this room of under-insulated 12 year olds, is that of ‘not-excited’. However, the rank of the excitement is promoted to ‘semi’ (ooh-er) when Flop-Sweat Harrison hauls the VCR and TV set into the room, rattling along on its crappy little trolley.

We have been studying the Scottish play. Lanky Harrison has been doing his best to get us to engage and understand some of the text but he’s struggling. We have been particularly focused on the scene involving the drunken gatekeeper, which is supposed to be comic relief apparently, but I can’t see it at all, I don’t understand it. In fact, I don’t really understand much of the play at all, we have been looking at it for two months and I’m still not quite sure what the whole plot is. I know there are witches though, Big-and-Long Harrison has tried to push the witches; ‘Witches are cool right?’ In a presumably desperate attempt to get us to engage with the play, he has found a video of it in the school library and he’s whacked it on before slumping down behind his desk in a clammy crumple. We sit through it, because anything is better than doing actual work. We are all agreed that it seems terrible; the gatekeeper scene is still not funny, probably because we still don’t understand what the hell is going on. It finishes, Mr Tall-and-Moist heaves himself up from his chair ejects the cassette.

“So, what did we think of that then?”

“Well Sir”, Danny Wiggum, class anarchist, “I thought it was wank.” A giggle arises from the small hoard of his mates through a heady haze of pre-pubescent sweat and Lynx Africa.

“And why is that Danny?”

“It’s just not for me, Sir.”

‘It’s not for me.” Well, isn’t that the problem? 400 years since Shakespeare started writing, with the intention of entertaining everyone, and here we are at a point where the world has skewed the intention to the point where Shakespeare seems to be perceived as for the academic, artsy and privileged audience. Looking back at that classroom I can see it starts right there. I don’t know how it is approached in school now, but if it hasn’t moved on then I’m sure the young teens of today are on the back foot about the whole thing, just as I was. Now, in fairness to Sop-Flop Harrison, that version of Macbeth was crap. I have seen it since and it is still ‘wank’. But look at that gatekeeper scene now and I can see it as no other thing than an absolute gift. A gift for me; the actor, and for everyone else; the audience.

Richard Soames as Feste in Twelfth Night
Grassroots open with Twelfth Night today. It has been nothing but an absolute privilege to watch and help our company build this show from the text up. I am slightly sad; as many of the moments I have seen flourish over the past few weeks I probably won’t be seeing again, as I will probably be neck deep in card games and Wotsits in the dressing room. I won’t get to see Toby drunkenly dancing along to Feste’s love song again, or to watch Malvolio pondering wittily through his letter, or to appreciate Olivia chasing Cesario around the room with abandon. I shall have to enjoy them all in an audio manner. What I can promise you from all of this is that Grassroots do not do theatre ‘for them’, which is certainly what seems to happen more often than not, I have seen enough heavily conceptualised Shakespeare to know. They take Shakespeare right back to its roots, where the highest priority was the audience and to tell them a story.

Emily Jane Kerr as Maria in Twelfth Night
Jim Conway brings you a pompous yet charming Malvolio. Darrel Davy has built you an Antonio in the form of a tender gentle giant. Richard Soames’ Feste is a wonderful pondering puppet master. Emily Kerr’s Maria is ballsy and endlessly energetic. John Pickard brings to you a brilliantly bumbling and oblivious Sir Toby Belch alongside Benjamin Bonar’s precision comic delivery of the tragic underdog, Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Kit Lloyd has found a Sebastian that is curious and impulsive with an infectious energy that is a joy to behold. Tamaryn Payne’s Olivia is clever and refreshingly light and an excellent match for Ellie Nunn’s fearless Viola. Duke Orsino appears in the smouldering form of Louis Labovitch. I’m there as well, lolloping around, playing the Priest and the Captain, both of which I’m told are passable incarnations at the very least.

We made it for you. All of you.

Twelfth Night runs at Leicester Square Theatre from the 5th April to the 14th May.

Come and see it. It is really quite good.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Benjamin Bonar on rehearsals, Grassroots style!

We are currently in our week of previews and as we look forwards to celebrating Shakespeare 400 from the heart of the West End, that you would like to have a last glimpse into the Grassroots rehearsal room! Take a peek.....


Friends, Romans, Countryman lend me your ears! Gather around, pull up a pew, take a load off, maybe grab yourself a beverage? Or a light Snack? Light some candles? Put Enya on. What I am trying to say is make yourself comfortable, it’s blog time.
Benjamin Bonar in rehearsals for Twelfth Night as Sir Andrew Aguecheek

I deliberated over whether quoting Mark Antony was appropriate considering we are currently working on Twelfth Night, but then I remembered we are Grassroots, and we do things a little differently.

Last night the springs in my mattress decided to buckle, essentially creating a vortex in the centre of the mattress that no matter how hard I tried to fight I could not escape that blackhole of uncomfortable-ness-ness. I have no idea why this happened? I was not, despite what my landlord may think, doing back flips or engaging in any other vigorous activity… Sigh… This resulted in me getting about 2 hours sleep, and considering I have recently had to give up caffeine I’m sure I don’t have to explain what it was like coming into rehearsals this morning. 

But I will anyway, it felt like this:

If you can’t be bothered to follow this link it’s basically of a deer screaming like a human. I suggest you watch it. It’s funny. 

Richard Soames (Feste) in rehearsals for Twelfth Night
So by all accounts today should have been awful. But it wasn’t. In fact, I would go as far as to say that today I had a great day. From the moment I walked into the room and was greeted by my fellows I couldn’t help thinking how lucky I am. You see we actors are a funny bunch. We live to work. We are truly happy when we get to practice our craft, and make no mistake, it is a craft. We work

tirelessly to make what we do look effortless. To make you smile, laugh or cry. To remind you what it is to be human. We are but your humble servants. All that we do, we do for you.
Tamaryn Payne (Lady Olivia) & Chris Thomson (Captain)
in rehearsals for Twelfth Night

I hope to see you all at Twelfth Night. I believe we are creating something magical. The cast and crew are some of the finest people I have had the pleasure of working with. I am inspired by their talent, their passion and their bravery. I am sure you will be too.

And with that, blog time is over. It should be noted I am currently writing this whilst sitting on my new mattress. 

All’s well that ends well…

Just to be absolutely clear we are doing Twelfth Night.

Ellie Nunn (Viola) and Louis Labovitch (Duke Orsino)
in rehearsals for Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night is at Leicester Square Theatre, celebrating Shakespeare 400 from the heart of the West End until Saturday 14th May.

Tickets are available from

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Grassroots Way: Emily Jane Kerr on the first week of rehearsals

I'm currently on my way to day 5 of rehearsals. 

We've blocked the whole show. 

We managed to sing in 4 part harmony within 2 hours of meeting each other for the first time on the first day. 

We've got 5 more days- oh yes, a small point: 10 days rehearsal then we open Twelfth Night at the Leicester Square Theatre for a 6 week run.

Some might think it madness but I think the Grassroots way is an incredibly freeing way to work. For those that don't know, we have no director. For some actors that might be scary but I love it! Rather than one person's idea you end up with 10 other ideas that could be equally brilliant: what a gift! So many choices! 

We all have ownership over every single bit of the show and the life of the play carries on off stage. You can only scratch the surface in 10 days; you can dig for the story, block the show, create the arc: but actually the playing and discovery happens during the run. And that makes for a very exciting show. 

Emily Jane Kerr and Grassroots Shakespeare
Producer Siobhán Daly extreme  flyering for Twelfth Night,
52m above London!
Do I have concerns and worries? Of course I do. 

But do I feel like I can bring them to the group? Absolutely. 

It's a very specific way of working that requires a very specific type of person: creative, caring, generous, playful, brave and receptive. 

That's a Grassroots person. 

And we've got 17 of those people (including our producer and creatives)... How lucky am I to be surrounded by that much joy for 8 weeks?

Benjamin Bonar, Emily Jane Kerr and Kit Loyd
performing Shakespeare 52m above London for
Shakespeare 400.

Emily Jane Kerr is an Associate Artist of Grassroots Shakespeare London and has performed in A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest and Othello with the company. In Twelfth Night, she will be playing Maria from 5th April - 14th May. On Saturday 26th March, she will be performing scenes from Shakespeare, Up at the O2, 52m above London, as part of the Shakespeare 400 celebrations.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Chris Thomson on auditioning and anxiety

Chris Thomson recently joined Grassroots to play Captain, as well as double with Priest and Officer. Before he was cast, we knew that we were looking for a talented, strong actor who could create powerful and individual characterisations for the different roles, be able to play comedy and drama and know when the difference was called for, while also being a great ensemble member. We were slightly worried. Was it too tall an order? Could we find this person? Where could they be..? 

Then we met Chris who gave one of our most memorable recalls and won us over totally. It was very insightful to read his side of the process and we asked him if we could share it with you. 

Here it is!



Chatty McWorkmate: So, what you doing this weekend?

Me: Got an audition Sunday.

Chatty: Cool. What for?

Me: Ah you know, this Shakespeare thing. It's a good job actually, potentially really exciting.

McWork: Is it?

Me: Very, yeah.

Chatty Mac: Well, tell your face.


Wife: Hello?

Me: It’s me. (I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet.)

(I’m hunched in a doorway, using it as a wind breaker and momentary protection from the piss storm lashing down on Shoreditch. No one pays me any mind. I am not a local, but with my face plumage and tartan shirt they have accepted me as one of their own. I am waiting for the worst of the torrent to pass and watching an old lady who looks a lot like Ronnie Corbett wrestle with a disobedient umbrella – she’s just gone arse over tit on the pavement as a swift gust has turned said umbrella inside out. The wind has tugged that thing back like a reluctant plastic foreskin, it has.)

Wife: Oh hi babe, how was it?

Me: Ugh, fucking awful. Completely fucked it.

Wife: Oh shit, really?

Me: Yeah really bad.

Wife: What happened?

Me: Nah, being a dick. Went brilliantly actually.

Wife: Hey, you’re a twat. I was really nervous for you, I know how much you want it.

Me: Were you?

Wife: Of course I was. You’re a twat.

Me: Yeah, sorry. I am. But no, it went really well. In fact I can’t remember an audition ever that has been that positive and that comfortable. They were lovely, as far as I can tell I did good acting. A few laughs, was in the room longer than I should have been… all good signs. Did my job well today I think.

Wife: Well that’s great.

Me: Yep. Anyway, on my way home now.

Wife: Cool. Bring me food.

Me: Yes darling. Love you.

Wife: You too, bye.


Lunchtime. Yes… got me some bloody leftovers in that Tupperware - in that tasty tup-tup. Chilli is always better the next day… bang that in the microwave there. 3 minutes to make a brew and have a quick Facebook scroll…

Oof, this coffee is nothing but functional, Kenco instant is the cheapest of choices! Now, let’s have a look at the old media feeds… Oh shit. They have announced some new cast. That’s me out of the picture then. Said they’d be letting people know soon (‘soon’… thanks, how specific and useful), but if they are announcing new cast I guess that means they made their offers yesterday. Two days of gut wrenching anxiety were totally worth it. Aaaah, that is WANK.

I’m so sure I did a great job though, there was hugging on the way out. Perhaps the e-mail got lost in your junk? Give that a check right away… Nope. Of course it’s not there. There is no e-mail.
I mean look at the guys they have cast, they’ve all done ‘stuff’: TV, West End, been nominated for awards and shit. They are all awesome. What was I thinking… thinking I had a chance… I don’t know…

Oh stop it. Just stop that shit. It’s just a job, walk away from it. You know you didn’t embarrass yourself, you just weren’t the right choice this time… Every. Damn. Time.


Friday night ends a long and disappointing week. I had received an e-mail a few days previously saying that decisions were still being made and people still being seen. Although this update was appreciated and preferential to being entirely in the dark, it still meant that I had spent the last three days in a purgatory of disquiet; suspended somewhere between an ill-advised sense of hope and preparation for impending rejection.

I’m sitting in a wine bar sharing a carafe of Rioja with an old friend (Chris? Has anyone told you that your life sometimes reads like that of a middle class banker-wanker?) when a new e-mail announces its arrival. “Sorry mate. I just need to take a look at this e-mail”.


Great. But not entirely what I was hoping for. Gahd! Can they not just pack it in and give me the job? I mean, of course they can’t, they want the best guy for the job. And hey, it means you weren’t shit. You are still in contention. But a recall means stepping up your game. I decide I’m having this job, even if for no other reason than the fact that I have already invested too much panic and preparation to loose out now.

We get drunk and listen to Peter Gabriel on vinyl.


*Door creeps open* (Interrupting the nice 'pacing up and down the corridor and irregular respiration' session I had been indulging in.)

“Hi Chris, we are ready for you, if you'd like to come in.”

In I go. Hugs, smiles, an associate director in a luxurious burgundy cable-knit (I think I have a knit-wear fetish. Or maybe I'm 58. One of the two); welcoming. What's not to like? “So let me tell you where I'm at”, my opening statement, “I've dressed up nice,” (double denim, what a player) “and I managed to get through a whole day of work without messing them up... until about half an hour ago, when I managed to piss coffee all over my shirt.” Laughter. (OMG this guy is so honest and witty.) “Just thought I'd bring it up rather than you all sitting there for the next twenty minutes thinking 'has he come to see us wearing shit-dirty clothes? Disgusting bastard.’ So, there it is.” I felt it best to tackle 'stain-gate' head on, as the week before, when I was helping to run auditions (yeah, the ones from Table) I zoned out of one guys speech because he was wearing odd socks. I take a seat. “So, who would you like me to pretend to be first?”

Small talk commences. I think I'm being charming, I've left my verbal activities momentarily on auto pilot. My brain is doing its own thing: Flashback. I'd been trudging around a park for the 40 minutes immediately previous to this meeting, playing with line delivery and contemplating the embarrassment of a bum audition. The 'embarrassment and failure contemplation' is a subject of thought to which I am no stranger. However, today it is particularly potent as not only is it the first recall (as far as I can remember) that I have ever had, so the stakes are higher, I am also taking what I consider to be a risk. I have been called in to read for three parts (as opposed to the original 'one'), one of which is a sea captain. I have done a lot of work on the language and have opted to use what can be best described as a full on pirate voice (Flashback within a flashback...

Wife: It's really good, but what accent is that exactly?

Me: Think of it less as an accent and more like 'a voice'.) Will they think it a ridiculous choice, that I am an amateur and not taking it seriously? Or will it bring the house down? Well, risk is the way to go with this business. The fact is, I think it is a funny and clever choice, and fundamentally I believe in it. My main objective is to have conviction in the work I have done.

I come to the Captain scene. The face of the actress I am reading with registers surprise and confusion when she discovers that she is standing opposite a cheap Captain Barbosa tribute. It is not until half way through the first speech that the panel relinquish the ability to uphold their professional exteriors and to deny the rising laughter brawling in their chests. They open the latch and full on piss themselves. Being a terrible corpse, I loose it as well, and we all cackle through the rest of my ludicrous interpretation. Was this reaction a welcoming of new possibilities perpetuated by my off-kilter choice? Or was it so oblivious a performance that I had come off as ridiculously as Jedward might do if they were trying out for Miss Saigon, or if Donald Trump were running for President (a mad-cap hypothetical situation, I think you'll agree)? At the time, it felt like a good thing.


The common theme here is anxiety. I rode that fluctuating wave of nervousness for about 10 days. I have convinced myself over the years that nervousness and anxiety in relation to a job are non-useful emotions, and thusly have taught myself to suppress such feelings in order to a) make for a more comfortable audition, and b) combat against the inevitable blow when I don’t get the job. I am starting to realise that although this may make the audition less uncomfortable, it may also make it a boring audition, and a forgettable one as further consequence. I should know this already, I am still pretty sure that my successful drama school audition only happened because I’d just split up with my first proper girlfriend. I wasn’t pretending to be broken and vulnerable in my chosen speech, I was genuinely the stuttering, shaking wreck of a heartbroken adolescent. How method.

Remember that conversation with Chatty McWorkmate? When she said I should tell my face to be excited? A great example of me ‘managing expectation.’ Although I can’t help that I have resting bitch-face, which is often misread, on this occasion the expression probably fitted the emotion. But something changed with this job, and I allowed the weight of the opportunity to affect me at its will.
Every job I have ever managed to get has one thing in common. I have gone into that room of opportunity and decided, ‘I’m having this job.’ The very decision I made in the wine bar that evening. For that to happen you have no choice but to invest yourself entirely, and to make yourself emotionally available. If you are having trouble caring, then you probably shouldn’t be there; cut your losses and be an accountant. Those emotions and those stakes give you what is required to produce your best work.

I found myself questioning if this was really worth the amount of anxiety I was carrying. It so happens that, on this occasion, it was. And I did get the job. And I am ecstatic about it. Apparently I smashed it. Now I’m not saying that to brag (not entirely), but it highlights the point that it is always worth taking the risk and reading a part like grizzly fisherman. Whether it is the right direction or not, it won’t be forgotten.

Apply yourself; this is the word. It will be worth the anxiety. Eventually.

Pending ...



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'Twelfth Night' runs from 5th April - 14th May 2016 @ The Leicester Square Theatre, London:

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Chris is an actor, musician and writer.

Since graduating from the Manchester School of Theatre (2010) his career has been varied; from musical (The Last Five Years) to educational theatre (Wasted, Walking Forward), from comedy (All Our Friends Are Dead, Norris and Parker) to children’s theatre (Stig of the Dump, Image).

Last year he made his directorial and compositional debut on Peter Brook’s ‘The Man Who’ (CLF Art Café/Bussey Building), and is currently composing original music for comedy duo ‘Norris and Parker’.

Twelfth Night marks Chris’ debut with Grassroots and on the West End, a situation about which he is very happy indeed.