Category Archives: Ideas and creative pursuits.

Telling stories



It’s been some time since I’ve written on my own website. Things have been so busy  promoting the show that I’ve had no time to stop and reflect on all that’s happened over the last year. And quite a bit has. Good and bad. As with many  things in life, this story started with a loss, albeit a small one, a tiny vocal chord that ceased to work for some time, but still, its significance to me was huge. How it turned my world upside down and knocked my confidence some of you will know now, having seen the show and how running offered me a respite and way of healing out of that silence.IMG_7094

I shared on stage, a period of time in my life, probably in  the most honest, exposing way I have ever shared anything to over 650 people over three weeks.  Crazy? certainly. Terrifying? Almost definitely  ( I spent the first week before going on stage getting so angry with myself for putting myself in such a scary position. I felt sick, stomach rumbling, heart racing – a bit like before the marathon ‘Why Loo?? Why? Who’s stupid decision was it to go on stage in cheap  Primark Lycra, with no make – up on and tell people about how you felt you were disappearing?’ I felt like I was hurtling dangerously towards something I could no longer control and whatever happened from this point on, there would be a ‘truth’ out there, a story shared in all its brutal glory. But of course acting is another muscle. Even if it’s been in the quieter regions of TV and film, its ready to burst, under the surface…..and then…. there descends a calm. A moment of sheer exhilaration. Of knowing you’re on stage again. You’re using your voice, hearing laughter, hearing the odd sniff. You’re doing what you’ve always loved doing. It’s just that you haven’t had the opportunity to do it enough.


It’s so hard at times to feel that you’re achieving  your aims as a performer in this business, that you’re being  heard. There was  a huge element of risk attached to me sharing my story in such a public way. Who would want to hear it? Could they hear it? Would my voice last? Would it be considered self- indulgent…narcissistic?  What if no- one comes?

And in a true archetypal Hollywood style five days before I opened the show, just when you think the hero is about to save the day, there’s that damn second inciting incident in the story – line. My agent gives me the red card. Nice. It was coming. We both knew. Just that neither of had packed the suitcase and left…in fact I was still going up for jobs and getting them and paying commission but they thought they’d made it clear that things weren’t working out. Ah, I’ve been here before in relationships – I thought we were ‘on a break’ but to them it was over some time ago.Confusing. Yes.  Like a marriage? After twenty two years, yes. Disappointing? Very. There are times when you really need to be represented and this was one of them. But this is a ‘business’ after all. A contract. And do we really want to be aligned to someone who is no longer interested in us? Or hasn’t been for a long time. And like relationships, there will be others. Just a shame they couldn’t share such an important moment for me and some of the amazing responses. Third inciting incident, I get a cold straight after this and it’s doubtful if I’ll be well enough to do the first show. I drink gallons of lemon and honey …all seems lost,  I’m now metaphorically and physically getting everything ‘off my chest’ ….but thankfully, the story line lifts to its positive conclusion and I’m there, doing it, looking a bit pale, but sheer adrenaline gets me through and it goes well.



Press night picture in the Stage. (The lemon and honey worked..and sheer fear)





I have absolutely loved working on Can you hear me running? Rehearsals were exciting and knackering. The whole team worked so hard on it and it was far from being a ‘One woman show’. Jo Harper’s fantastic script, Dan’s beautiful music and score ( and tolerance of me behaving like a crazed woman with my bizarre repetitive back stage routines) , Steve G’s tender direction encouraging me all the time to just be honest and ‘tell the story’, Steve Kirkham’s amazing movement direction bringing so many unresolved physical parts of the play to life, Adrian’s Gee’s brilliant set, Eva Auster’s  clever projection complimented by Tom Turner’s lighting, Tamar Saphra’s help running through the play with me when Steve was unavailable and generating more ideas and of course Sophie Johnson, our amazing stage manager who held it all together as brilliant stage managers do when anything goes wrong, with whom you feel safe, and that no stone is unturned…a good one makes you feel like everything will be ok even if the roof caves in. I’m proud of myself with what I’ve achieved but I’m also very proud of everyone involved.IMG_6947

Left to right: Steve Grihault, Adrian Gee, Tom Turner, me, Dan Glover, Sophie Thompson,Tamar Saphra, Jo Harper, Eva Auster.


 All Photos Graham Saville.



Can you hear me running? team.


I still can’t believe that the very defect that paused me from being on stage for a while  and left me feeling invisible has now led me back onto it making such noise and being so visible. That and of course putting on a pair of running shows one cold autumn morning. One of the best things about doing the show? I saw so many people I haven’t seen for ages. I joked with a few of them that we needed to catch up and then realized that we had by me telling the story on stage. Many were moved by the show, had no idea that my vocal issues had such a profound affect on me. There was a lot of shame attached to how I felt at the time as I didn’t feel justified in complaining about it. It was only a loss of voice – I wasn’t ill, but inside I felt like I was slowly evaporating. The running kept my feet on the ground. Somehow, this way ironically performing an intensive vocally challenging show, alone on stage seemed the right way to express it. Suddenly, its a story, hopefully that had a universal theme and not just another thing that happened to a forty something. We had time to develop it over two years and really think about how this would reach a wide audience. I felt very grateful to all who came. Very touched that people came to support. Thank you..and for the people who couldn’t but offered words of encouragement and shared posts.    The other great thing about being back on stage? You can be anywhere ( even if it is back in your own youth running up Moel famau) and be anyone ( even if  it’s your old self) because sometimes life gets ugly and you see some bloody awful things, and you really really want to be somewhere else and we all need to see something else don’t  we?  And pretend? An imagine?  By disappearing into the play I’ve made myself appear again. I just told a story, that’s all. One that I happened to be in. I hope I get to run it again because having had a rest in Wales…I’ve stoked a fire and loved making a bit of noise, SO glad I took the leap.  So glad I took a risk. So glad I made myself scared when I felt like running a mile! Till the next run………


Felt the fear and it was loud and clear.


So, with a heart beating out of my chest with nerves, and that all too familiar feeling of ‘Why oh why do I put myself through this, I could leave, right now, and stop being stupidly sadistic and just, well, stop putting myself in situations I’m scared of’, I performed fifteen minutes of Jo Harper and myself’s piece, ‘Can you hear me running?’ at Tamasha Theatre’s scratch night.
Most actors I know feel that adrenalin rise and that nervous stomach flutter as the half is called, but when you have not stepped on a stage in eight years, and the last time you sang in public your voice sort of ‘broke’ (not great timing in an audition) and then you found yourself over four years having investigations and surgery and very long silent periods of your life, then obviously the stakes were pretty high on this occasion. What would come out of my mouth? A squeak? A growl? Nothing? Who knew. But the time had come to take the risk.
I waited on a chair at the side and looked up to see Steve and my friends waiting in expectation. Some of them had never seen me properly perform. For most of the time since the boys were born, I’ve done mostly tv and commercial work, so this was a side I’d not presented before to a few of them.
The music rose, ‘Dog days’ by Florence and the machine, I stood, walked to a chair centre stage, took a deep breath and spoke. And…all is present…loud and clear.
The reaction was great and for those fifteen minutes the live performer was back, enjoying the rapport, the fun, the energy and lets face it as my husband said the fact that I just like to ‘show off’. Jo and myself were really pleased and felt we could take so much from the experience to move forward with the piece. Our next plan is to look at some funding so that we can develop the rest of it and hopefully get it to full production in the next year. One of the most strange and heart warming parts of the evening, apart of course from brilliant friends who’d turned up to support, was that there was a guy there who had been through exactly the same experience as me, the hospital visits, the speech therapy, the surgery, the recovery, the same consultants that I had brought to life on stage and is now working as a voice teacher. This was his story too, minus the marathon so I’d love to meet him again and see how he could help us with the play.
In other news, I had my meeting at the Royal Court which was fantastic. They’re not taking my play ‘Trace’ further although really liked it, and this was an opportunity for us to create a relationship and talk about my writing which felt like a huge honour. I left with some really useful ideas and just felt an added confidence in my work that I’d not felt before. I also left a play behind which I hope they like.
So having finally finished my tax return, which got the biggest prize this year for finding anything else in the world to do, (I think I actually cleaned the top of one of the kitchen cupboards at one point – or should I erm being doing that anyway? ), I can now look forward next week to a bit of a break, my chopping job on hold too for the time being.
July always makes me a little reflective and although, I’d fully intended not to make this blog too personal, it feels like creative pursuits can’t help but be fuelled by whatever is happening in your non computer life. So, my eldest starts secondary school this year, which is an ending to one era and beginning of another for us all as I have only one school pick up to do, and by some symbolic, cinematic, coming of age novelistic ( is that a word?) way, the last of the gerbils passed away this morning too. They found themselves being well travelled little rodents, having been with us to Malvern, Oxford, Wales, Devon, even Yorkshire I think. We drew the line at camping. Sometimes they served to me as yet another thing to feel guilty about if we hadn’t changed the bedding enough, or given them enough toys but they were cared for, fond of them as we were and it was sad to see Butternuts lifeless body this morning. Her heart was beating so fast yesterday and now just a little shell remains. The box is ready for the boys to perform the burial in the garden later on, next to where ‘squeak’ fellow roadie rodent is buried and once they’ve said goodbye, life, inevitably moves on in childhood to the next thing. I hope my eldest enjoys this summer before he has to put on a blazer, looking like he’s off to work and copes well as things are lost in life. Teenage years can be hard, I remember -(just about, not telling him I was drinking cider and black at fourteen) so hope the hormones don’t upset him too much. Which ties up with my ending very neatly in this post. I lost someone hugely influential in my life last September and watched that beating heart, up close, slow down and his colour fade until there was silence. I’d like to thing that he waited for me to get there so that I could sing to him one last time, ‘How great thou art’ his favourite and also ‘The sound of music’. He tried to sing along, thin and raspy as his voice was, the beat still there, that internal tapping that I have. So when my heart was beating madly on stage for the Tamasha night, I was nervous, but not afraid. It’s like when I’m running, that beating chest is a great reminder that you’re here, your heart’s pumping and while you have a chance then sing it loud and clear. And as Maria, Julie Andrews, herself having ironically suffered from vocal problems not too long ago sang before life started taking things away:

‘I go to the hills when my heart is lonely
I know I will hear what I’ve heard before
My heart will be blessed with the sound of music
And I’ll sing once more

Read more: The Sound Of Music – The Sound Of Music (maria) Lyrics | MetroLyrics

And on that note, that’s me over and out for the summer.

One woman in her time plays many parts.

So here we are in May! I’m not sure what happened to my March and April posts, they just didn’t happen. I’d like to say it was because I was…over in LA or busy rehearsing a new play….or up to my ears in meetings, but sadly not. I did a few commercials which are airing now, one for a bank and one for another cleaning product ( I’ve just got that face) which are always welcome to receive when things get tight, and did a corporate job in Stockholm so all good and appreciated, and my veg chopping job continues a few days a week.
What I can deduce from this activity is that the air I’m giving off right now is that you would trust me in a bank, albeit with what looks like a constipated smile, I care ALOT about having a clean carpet (alright alright…no giggles from friends) and can also negotiate a group of rowdy men in suits, high on chocolate, who haven’t learnt how to not interrupt and finally I have found the ultimate way to slice butternut squash WITHOUT slicing your nail off ( It only took a few weeks to grow back but it was touch and go in a few castings where you hold up your hands).

Good news is that I’m fully back in the swing of my writing class led the Amazing playwright Jemma Kennedy. I’d missed the weekly class and all that it supports in my writing so was relieved to be back. I had to take care in my over excitement not to bounce around like a demented puppy and spew verbal diarrhoea at everyone oversharing information (which I’m prone to do). Fortunately, I’d resisted too much coffee so held back. Just as a plug, Jemma’s play ‘The summer Book’ is about to open at the Unicorn Theatre soon, so get yourselves down there. It looks great and I’m booked already. We looked at my play ‘Fireblight’ in week two of class and it was a great help to hear what I call the ‘grubby’ play out loud. Grubby because it’s a little bleak and I feel I need to wash my hands after reading it. I’ve got some great ideas to work on from the feedback, so now I just need to stop being so lazy and get on with the second draft. I’m finding anything other than that to do, but I WON’T go as far as ironing, I draw the line there!

And so, one of the most exciting bits of progress is that Jo Harper, who is writing my one woman show ‘Can you hear me running’. based on me running the marathon after my vocal surgery has finished a first draft of the play. We had a reading over at mine and it’s in great shape. It’s a subject I could never written about myself as it’s all too close to the bone, but she has managed to get right under the skin of the emotional journey I went on through quite a dark period of my life whilst still making it funny and entertaining. We’ve been sending it off to a couple of scratch nights where we could try out a small section of it and get some feedback, so hopefully, before the summer, we should be able to show something. I have to say it terrifies the living daylights out of me, as it’s such a personal piece but I reckon that it’s time to engage with the whole ‘Feel the fear’ malarkey and all that (gulp). And I’ve sat beside friends last year facing up to far more scary things than that…so, keeping the momentum going.

What the piece also made me think about a lot is how many roles women play out in their lives. As the piece develops it’s about not just about my experience, but about any woman juggling her world whilst staying true to herself. Someone came up to me in the playground the other day having seen my ad and said ‘Oh, so you work for that bank?’. I said ‘Err…no..I’m an actress’. ‘Oh’ she said. ‘But how did you get on it?’. ‘Because I’m an actress and I was playing a part’. ‘Oh, wow…wow’ she said, well done’. and walked off looking flummoxed. I smiled to myself. I’ve become an underground actress. I’m just a mum at school and so it was completely out of context for someone to see me on the screen. I guess I should be flattered or worried I’m not doing more? At least I’m believable as the other day I got the old ‘how do we know you’re telling the truth if you’re an actress..hey…hey? (YAWN). Acting is actually the one place you have to learn to be truthful when you’ve pretended to be so many other things to finance your career. To ‘Lie’ in real life would be pretty useless in social situations. However it did get me thinking about all the other less convincing roles I’ve played out in the last twenty years to support my acting career, so I guess there’s a time and a place for it to be useful. Here’s the list, not in order: Watch repairer (I had three suits worn in rotation over three week periods), customer services in jewellers, paint your own pots café, art shop, café, receptionist, millions of temp jobs..can’t even remember what I was doing things, role play, children’s entertainer, children’s workshop leader, poster and leaflet distributor, marketing assisitant, pasty shop, Madame de Pompedou ( National gallery)…the list goes on. Does it make me a jack of all trades and master on none though?

And so, one woman in her lifetime plays many parts, with their entrances and exits( sorry, now I’ve got my tag line I’m in a roll…cheesy I know) and some prove more believable than others. Being a mum is up there with one of the most truthful ones to date, there’s no getting away from yourself there and fuels an honesty and depth of tenacity I never knew, one You can’t and would never want to exit from. My episode of Foyles War came on the other day from years ago. ‘Look boys..mummy being a WAF officer’…’oh yeah they said, (polite pause as they watch me on the tele look earnestly at a bomber in danger of crashing)… can we put Harry Potter back on?’. ‘Yeah…yeah, lets’ put Harry Potter back on’ I said. The programme is, after all, something in the past, from years ago, even before they were a tiny idea in the bright sky, nothing to do with them, someone with big 1940’s hair they sort of recognise. To them, I’m Mum, and I’m glad to cherish that role, whilst still keen to make sure my little voice of creativity is heard.

Ooh and I’m sorry to the next temp who was left with a mess to clear up at a pharmaceutical company job in Ealing in 2002. I pressed a lot of buttons and things disappeared! I’m sure, however like me, you were soon moving on to the next role!

Ready and waiting.


Well, sadly I didn’t get the advert which would have been great just before Christmas, and on hearing (or not as is so often the case these days) the news, went through the whole ‘should I have worn the same top for the recall…was my hair the same, am I too old, young? Was my hair the right colour, the lucky necklace, did I wear the lucky necklace? Why weren’t they smiling? .. blah blah blah’, the same old useless inner commentary that taunts an actor and then, I simply forgot about it. Because you have to. You may have been an inch too short for the guy playing your husband and no amount of analysing after would make a difference. I also went for one shorty after that, that certainly would have put a few more tangerines in the stockings, but you have to learn very quickly with commercial castings to just stop thinking about them almost as soon as you have left the waiting room. Otherwise, you’ve got halfway down Oxford street and in your head you have spent the money already. I’ve been on some amazing holidays and bought the most luxurious houses after coming out of a casting, living as we all do with the endless day dreams of financial possibility and opportunity. Anyway… it’s a new year. Bring it on 2014.

Other news is that we had the table reading of my comedy script, The Biz of Show which went really well. I don’t know why I thought it would be so hard to organise when in fact all you need is the script, some actor friends and one of those or yourself who is willing to host, find a time, send the e- mail..and bobs your uncle. My friend hosted which I was very grateful for so I arrived with cakes, fruit, water etc. Well I wanted it to look professional and they were giving their time freely.
It was fantastic to hear it aloud and yes… they laughed, and so did I. Are you allowed to laugh at your own jokes? Does it not look really narcissistic? I guess you have to find your amusement somewhere. They all brought the characters to life brilliantly and I clearly saw where I needed to make some changes in the script. So the next plan is either to record it as a radio pilot piece or to just try and get it filmed and show snippets on the web as a teaser. I’m very excited about this and think it can all be done very cheaply and quickly erm..any investors out there? Anyone?…
In other writing news, the sad part is that I’m not part of my playwriting group this term as I’ve had to cut back a little, but I’m planning on returning in the spring, by which time, I will hopefully have worked more on my new play working title Fire blight or Boxes..
I’ve not been enjoying writing this one as it’s a bit urban and grubby and close to the bone but I found this quote

One usually dislikes a play while writing it, but afterward it grows on one. Let others judge and make decisions.
ANTON CHEKHOV, letter to Maxim Gorky, September 24, 1900

Who knows, maybe the one that’s the most difficult to write will prove to be the one people get. I live in hope.

Jo got our pitch off to the Bush Theatre’s submission window for the show based on my running blog and losing my voice, so we’re crossing our fingers that we hear some good news about that and even if we don’t, we’ve got a great skeleton for the piece and we will pursue it another way.
And lastly, I sent a pitch off to Undeb Theatre on Monday who had a fantastic opportunity to pitch for their summer festival. You had to only have two characters, they had to be welsh and you were only allowed one prop. Either way, it was a really good exercise in really nailing what your idea was about. It was also great for me because I always write loads of characters and to whittle it down to a two hander stopped me from getting carried away. I’ve no idea how I’ll do on that one as I was trying to squeeze in moments to do it in between Christmas overindulgence and travelling the length and breadth of the country as a family of four plus two gerbils…yes gerbils…but we’ll see.
And so that’s it for now. Glanced at something the other day very quickly that said ‘Active waiting’. Still not sure what it means. ‘I’m ready and waiting’, but ‘active’ suggests I’m actually doing some sort of physical activity whilst staring at the keyboard like typing with one hand and doing leg lunges with the other. Maybe that’s one to explore another time but I’m guessing it means, DON’T stare at the keyboard or your phone and go and do something different instead as in the old 70’s WHY DON’T YOU, which I now have running through my mind. Anyway, thankfully have some other non creative work to keep the wolf from the door and eyes not permanently waiting. Last quote of the day as we all roll, jump, saunter or leap into 2014

Writing has … been to me like a bath from which I have risen feeling cleaner, healthier, and freer.
HENRIK IBSEN, Speeches and New Letters

We Plough the fields and scatter…..

van gogh

Hello! Hope this works! I’m back on with blogging again. Just started to write my first post on this site and windows decided to start ‘shutting down’ or configuring something…not sure what, which just about encapsulates alot of the flavour of this year. It also reminded me not to get too pretentious as I was just about to say something, which I thought was profound, when it probably wasn’t and thankfully, technology strikes me again with it’s cruel unsentimental whip!
Anyway, attempt number two…
Well, the last time I wrote a blog, I was training for the marathon and found it a great way of updating myself with where I was at with certain things as much as everyone else and as I’ve now got this new website which I’m very grateful for the help with ( Thanks you so much again. My other one couldn’t open on I pads or phones…not great in these times), I thought I could update my creative pursuits.
This has certainly been the year for ploughing the fields as the title above suggests. I feel I’ve been getting my hands dirty and really digging in to try and prepare something great for a later date. I feel Like I’ve been ready for the moment, I hope that I’ll reap some sort of harvest of recognition for the effort I’ve been putting in to both my acting career and my writing.
On the one hand all I can see are returned plays, rejections, getting close to jobs, and utter disappointments in everything I am trying to achieve in my professional life. However, on the other hand, I see three plays that have been written, progression in my work, that I have still continued to contribute financially to my family life maintaining myself as an actress, whether that be commercials, t.v, film or corporate and that actually success is something hard to stick a badge on and that whatever seeds I’ve scattered, nothing is wasted in time and effort.

Well these are the new seeds I’m sowing. On Thursday, I’m gathering a group of friends together who have very kindly agreed to read through my comedy drama. I need to hear whether it is…erm…actually erm..funny and then, if it is, then I’m keen to film it or record it for radio. Other news is that I have a new writing partner (I say new…I’ve never actually had one before, the very funny Ruth D’Silva) We will be messing around and creating havoc soon, watch this space. It’s very exciting. Playwriting class is about to end this term and once again has been inspiring and enjoyable and all who sail in the ship on a wednesday morning continue to provide anchor, buoyancy and udder when the stormy seas prevail.
I cannot imagine where my creativity would have landed without it and especially in the early days when I was recovering from vocal surgery and could not express myself.
Last but certainly not least, I’m actually re visiting that time and working on a new piece with the writer Jo Harper about losing my voice and how I overcame the adversity, found another muscle to work and ran the marathon. We’re collating material and Jo is working out how it can all piece together. Our first port of call is the Bush Theatre’s submission window for Theatre makers, so we need to get our proposal in about two weeks. Either way, we want to get the show moving and both have a good feeling about it.
So, I’ve just had a look at info on the Van Gogh painting, ‘The Sower’ above and found this quote from the man himself when talking about how he held laborers up to a high standard of how dedicatedly he should approach painting.

One must undertake with confidence, with a certain assurance that one is doing a reasonable thing, like the farmer who drives his plow… (one who) drags the harrow behind himself. If one hasn’t a horse, one is one’s own horse.” Well said Vincent! I’ll keep sowing then. I guess I’m the horse pulling my stuff along, but I’m feeling strong so can cope…..back to work and keep moving and onwards! Oh and on another lighter note, I’m pencilled for an ad. crossing fingers for it before christmas. Wonder if Vincent would say it’s a HB pencil or 4B…I never know how heavy they really press on them these days!!