My timing was not great. As I left drama school the weekly reps had all but disappeared and there were few opportunities for a young actress who was not especially pretty, had no contacts, and didn’t seem to fit into any of the accepted female types.
So my first experiences were backstage with the London Traverse, the Fortune Theatre and then the RSC. All excellent learning opportunities.
But no performance work. At some auditions directors actually said they were sorry, but I was too good and would show up the rest of the cast. Grrrr…. I offered to act badly if that was what was needed, but they didn’t agree.
It was time to start creating my own work opportunities. The London Fringe was just starting to flourish, providing venues for some experimental work. Workshops and a schools tour followed – and then family commitments forced a move to Oxford.
It was there that I found a couple of kindred spirits and we created one of the first community theatre companies, T.O.O.T. (The Other Oxfordshire Theatre), touring schools and village halls, doing street theatre events, running workshops, developing our improvisation skills and having lots of fun. The company (later called Oxfordshire Touring Theatre) flourished for nigh on 40 years before being killed by the Arts Council cuts!
After a decade with T.O.O.T. I felt the need to move to Cornwall. There is something about North Cornwall – if it calls you, it is hard to resist. Most people would say it was career suicide.
But for me it was liberating. The need to survive pushed me to get creating once again – encouraging other professional performers to start working and playing together. I found new skills as a writer and storyteller. Poetry recitals, audio books, voice-overs, puppetry, directing, teaching, improvised comedy performances… hardly a conventional career.
But so much fun!