So, it's 2020 already.
I know, I know, everyone feels a sense of disbelief that time passes so fast, aspiring to rise to the challenge of a new year, blah blah blah. As an actor, however, this challenge is all the greater. When the festive shows have taken their final bow and the new year holds no projects as yet...how do we even begin to dive in?
The last months of 2019 passed in a wonderful blur of work, fun and travel - and even more surprisingly, for once, they were all linked! I had the absolute joy and privilege of travelling to Rome in October to play Juliet (dream role!) at the stunningly beautiful Silvano Toti Globe Theatre. The twilight was magical, the audiences were rowdy and the company (the completely wonderful Bedouin Shakespeare Company) were a total delight from start to finish. The rehearsals in London were challenging, embracing and always joyous, making it a job that I will cherish in my memory for years to come.
The final show of the run was back in London, in the West-End no less, to a packed house who couldn't have been more supportive. However, there was no time to reflect on what had happened, as the next day I was straight back to Amsterdam to present some training films for the University. It was the second time I had collaborated with the UvA, and this time was no less warm and friendly than the first. I have felt so lucky to have made some connections as a performer in the Netherlands - when I first arrived here I thought that my lack of Dutch would make any performing here impossible. Still, I'm glad to say that thanks to brilliant companies such as International Native Casting, I've been able to integrate a little into the hugely welcoming acting community here.
A brief couple of days to switch my bags and see my (incredibly understanding) husband, and I was off again, this time to Swansea in Wales, to work with the brilliant Lighthouse Theatre Company. I had no idea what to expect from this contract, throwing myself at the mercy of my Swansea based cousin who, along with her husband-to-be, generously agreed to let me stay with them for the duration of the tour. This was surely family commitment to the max!
We performed 'It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play', which is a stage adaptation of the famous black and white Jimmy Stewart movie. The concept of a 'live radio play' was entirely new to me, but it proved to be totally brilliant. The theatre audience became the studio audience for a live radio broadcast, and we played the American actors who were broadcasting that evening. Live foley sound-effects and piano accompaniment created true theatrical magic, and my favourite thing was seeing the audience's delight at the sound of a steam train being created by nothing more than a scrubbing brush and a baking tin.
If you know 'It's a Wonderful Life,' then you know it's a story that can't fail to deliver all the emotional punches and pay-offs that anyone could want, especially at Christmas. The audiences were on their feet weeping most of the time, which can't help but make us on stage feel a tad emotional too. We found out afterwards that we were listed as one of the top 5 productions in Wales in 2019 - well deserved by the fantastic production team at Lighthouse Theatre.
HOWEVER...with all this excitement comes the striking emptiness that follows. I was lucky, what with Christmas and family time taking up every moment, post-show blues and future uncertainty were delayed...
Until now. Back in beautiful Amsterdam, enjoying being back in my home again. But...also back to the old anxieties that always crop up when a job ends. Where will my next contract come from? How do I make a living in the mean time?
I had a chat with an actress friend who is in a similar position. We came to no magic conclusion, of course it isn't that easy, but it was great to talk it out with her. There is the constant balance as a performer, between finding 'in-between' work that earns you enough to live on and that you can enjoy, but also the need for huge amounts of flexibility. We have to drop our 'side job' at a moment's notice if we get an audition or contract. The luckiest of us will find a job that understands and let's you go and come back. In the UK I found just such a job and they were like family to me, but here in the Netherlands, it is still a puzzle to be solved.
It does mean I have time, however, for my other passion - teaching. I have been fortunate enough to work with clients here in the Netherlands as an acting coach. I feel like there are less opportunities here for young aspiring performers to get a professional level of support in English, so I've really enjoyed sharing what knowledge I have, and learning in turn about what inspires them.
So there we are. 2020. On to new adventures, new plays, with new jobs and scripts to be found. But if, like me, you find this new year to be more daunting than it is exciting...never fear. As Scarlett O'Hara once said, 'Tomorrow, is another day!'