I was lucky to join my current theatre company last September/October time. They were closer to where I lived than the last theatre company I’d previously been a apart of, and I’d watched CYT’s work for a while. I’ve been given some incredible opportunities over the last year, all of which I’ve happily taken; I’ve learned and grown as an actor each time I’ve been pushed out of my comfort; I’ve had the privilege of working under great directors and alongside fellow cast members. I’ve felt, for the first time in a while, that I was collaborating on something exciting. Every show has been incredibly professional, and unforgettable.
Right at the end of June, I performed at Northycote Farm in an adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd. We’d been working on the show since autumn last year, and it was so rewarding to have everyone’s hard work pay off. I’d not performed in a site-specific, outdoors project before; every project with CYT has added a little bit more experience to my resume, and I’ve gained more in a year than I’ve gained anywhere else in four years since leaving school. From performing a preview of the show in Wolverhampton’s literary festival, to delivering the full show to an audience of 80, crammed onto that the tiny farm — it was a great experience for my first show with CYT.
I got thrown in at the deep end with another type of performance I’d not yet experienced — a murder mystery. Comedy is not my strong suit, but I know that to grow and hone my skillset, conquering comedy is pretty important. If you can do comedy, you can do anything. I’m still getting there, but the murder mystery was a hell of a funny night. We performed in a local working men’s club for an unabashed drunken audience, who had a great time (if all the singing and drunken roars of applause were anything to go by). It’s something different entirely to a serious, period piece — there’s a lot of audience interaction, a lot of over the top gasping, and flicking your feather boa (or that might have just been me). I thought this kind of show wasn’t going to be for me, and I struggled at first with the exaggerated, caricature acting. I was proven wrong, however; I left the show wishing we could have done another two nights of it. The audience was fantastic, and even more rewarding was performing a show that we — the cast — had written and developed ourselves.
And then finally, last Saturday 5th August. The National Arboretum — stunning, impressive, and solemn — hosted an event to mark the 100 years since the Battle of Passchendaele. CYT had been asked to perform as part of the Home Front Proms; a huge event, with performances from The King’s Division, soprano Iona Fisher, and little old us. The audience was in the thousands, and even the weather stopped being a tempestuous little shit and provided us sunshine for the performance. I’ve never performed in something that big. Like, the BBC were there, can we just take a moment. It was such an honour to be a part of the occasion, and I think we held our own. We’re taking the piece to Wales next month, and honestly I’m so excited to perform it again — in a completely different space, this time in a tiny little black box studio for a much smaller audience. That’ll be another experience altogether. There was nothing like the thrill this weekend; the size of the audience, the importance of the occasion, and the work put in by an incredible cast.
What I’ve learnt is there’s so much more to the industry than auditioning and hoping your talent will carry you through. I had a similar conversation with a brilliant director of mine just a few days ago. It’s more than turning up to the audition and expecting the role, because damn it, you’re good enough and you deserve it — right? We all deserve it. We all know we’re good enough. But it’s so much more than that now – if you’re an actor, you are self employed; you’re selling your own talent and face as a small independent business. You have to be manager, CEO, and receptionist all in one. You have to have people skills, know your casting, and have the integrity and personality people want to employ. And it’s so much harder for us, up here in the Midlands, if you can’t afford to get down to London where all the work apparently is.
I’ve managed to do so much in the last few months and then it’s straight on to uni. The last two months have been an education, but if they’re an indication of what the next three years hold, then roll on September.
To keep up to date with Jess’s time at uni follow her blog here https://paperthinworlds.blogspot.co.uk