Ooh, it's been a while since I last blogged; but don't worry: I haven't just been sat down waiting for something to happen! I've been busy!
I've done some Chekhov with the same company that I did As You Like It. Most people think that Chekhov is turgid and boring thanks to over analysis of plays such as Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard at school. Consequently, what most people don't realise is that Chekhov thought he was (and is) funny. I think that Three Sisters is even described as a farce. I did once see a very funny production of that play, but Eric Sykes was in it, so they did have the advantage! Well, we did three of his actual comedies and whilst he's not the easiest author to wring laughs out of we definitely managed a few! It was nice to show people that I can be funny without any structured gags or innuendos!
I've started doing a workshop of a new musical called Hoods which is based on a famous Rat Pack film, Robin and the 7 Hoods. Well, you can see the clear pantomime connection there: Robin Hood is a classic pantomime story (as we demonstrated in Sevenoaks last Christmas!). However, there are more panto connections than you would expect. There's at least four Dames in the room: myself, Drew Jaymson (who is responsible for the show), Richard Foster-King and Damian Williams. The cast is like a who's who of musical theatre, so there must be year's of panto experience in the room; and it's being directed by panto baddie du jour Craig Revel-Horwood. I was quite worried on the first day about being out of my depth; but once I'd put everything into perspective it was far less daunting!
I've also started exploring voice over work. I realised that my voice is key to a how I create a character, especially as a dame and it occurred to me that this was an avenue of work that I should be exploring. I'm so pleased I made that decision, as it's allowing me to explore characters that it is very unlikely that I will get asked to play on stage! So far, I've played Macduff in Macbeth (and I might add: I actually think I might have been alright!) and I'm currently recording the role of Warren Worthington AKA Angel for an audio drama of X-Men. Hilariously, here's what the producers think I would look like as that character:
I don't think that whoever plays him in the films will feel any threat about me taking over! But please: enjoy, laugh, be unable to believe what you're actually looking at!!
The last two months haven't been totally panto-less.... don't panic! First of all I've been obsessively watching RuPaul's Drag Race which has got me thinking about gender and cross dressing and it's place in our culture. It is definitely ingrained in Western Society and yet there is a taboo to it that the drag queens on the programme, at least, clearly feel that they're overcoming. Our understanding of drag as an art and transgender people is very different in the UK and America and I'm fascinated...but it's such a broad subject! I don't think that I can discuss it now, but I'm certainly going to at a later date. The role of the dame obviously adds massively to the confusion about gender identity - so I'm going to need more time to talk about it at length!!
The second thing that I've been doing is helping Jamie and Simon at Magic Beans audition dames for their production in Dunstable. And I cannot tell you how fascinating that was!
I've been lucky enough to be on several audition panels over the past year and there is no better way of understanding the do's and do not's of an audition. I've learnt that first impressions really are everything: how you greet the panel...what you're wearing...how confident you appear....you're attitude. It's a fine line of course: you don't want to be too personable or confident, because that seems arrogant; but if you don't demonstrate enough of those qualities it can make the whole process awkward. The hardest thing to do is the most vital: just be how you will be when you've got the job. Even though you generally don't know the people auditioning, I think you can always tell who's being natural and who is putting on a performance.
The dame auditions were particularly interesting. It's a very privileged position to see what performers get up to in the audition room and I was surprised at the range of people that think they can play dame. (I'm classing myself in the "think" category too!) We had several well known dames audition, which I was very excited about. We had people who have just started playing dame and we also had people who have never played dame before.
What surprised me was the range of understanding. The experienced dames mostly did their 'usual'; they were larger than life, confident and you trusted that they could do it. Then there were people who were definitely heading in the right direction. You can see all the elements, but they just need to be fitted together a bit better and there would be a fully formed character. Then there's the people that clearly haven't got any idea: which I find a bit offensive! It's not difficult to find examples of good dames on YouTube and the like and it's not difficult to put a spot together that makes sense.
I really got the sense that some people just liked the idea of putting a frock on; they may have even thought that was all there was to it. I hope they've realised it's a lot harder than it looks! You've got to have energy, a fully-rounded character, a spot that is logical and tells a story, good interaction skills AND be prepared to make a fool of yourself.
We're not just pretty faces y'know!