Tag Archives: Actress

Mia’s Story: The Piano Lessons

I was only about 5. What the hell were they thinking?

What I mean by ‘they’ is my parents: mum, dad, step-mum…oh, and my Aunty. They were all in on it.

Every Saturday at 8am without fail, come rain or snow, my sister and I would be schlepped from our house in North London all the way down to the City of London. When you’re little it feels like a mission, but in reality it’s probably only about 5 miles. It wasn’t helped by the fact that none of them had a car. They could all drive, but “a car isn’t really required when living in a city like London”. Well, that’s what they told us, but it didn’t feel like that to me, when clambering on the bus at stupid o’clock.

You see, they’d got me all wrong. I was only interested in playing football, and one came with me everywhere. My dad knew this and, if he was taking us, would try and persuade me into the lesson with the promise of as much football as I wanted. He always kept his word.

I remember the bus journey really clearly. There’d be a fight to get to the bus stop. There’d be a fight when we were on the bus, particularly if someone had already taken the front upstairs seat. We’d sit there watching the same houses as we drove past, the same parks, shops and cafes. The journey was never great because there was no treat at the end of it, just the doom of the lesson. And I was terrified of the teacher. Jeez, she was scary.

We’d arrive at the building where she lived, and if my dad had brought us we would always get told off by the security guard for playing football in the drive way. My dad would apologise in the same way every week, and then he’d wait for the guard to do his rounds before saying “Come on, let’s get some kicks in before he comes back.” We’d get caught again, but by then it was time for me to go in.

My sister would have a separate violin lesson before our joint piano lesson, and she loved it. She’s always been good at things like that, and she genuinely love it. She plays the clarinet and saxophone now.

So the guard would come back, and my dad would wink at me, and then we’d get in the lift and shoot up about 10 floors to get to her apartment. We’d stand outside listening to my sister scrape at her violin strings. Dad and I would roll the football back on forth to one another trying not to let it hit any of the tenants’ doors. We’d ring the door bell at the allotted time and she, the scary teacher, would answer looking cautiously at us and at the football. She knew.

In I’d go, dreeeeeeaaaaading it. The door would close behind me, leaving mum, dad or whoever had brought us outside. It was the longest 30 minutes of my life. Problem was, I didn’t really practice during the week, and she knew. Oh yes, she knew it alright. To be honest you wouldn’t have to be a genius to work it out let’s face it. And my punishment…..well, yes, my punishment:

Every week, I’d walk in and see the most beautiful grand piano. You see I have an eye for beautiful things: a sparkly crystal, a stylish pair of Vans, the beauty that is the latest iPhone, not to mention the Nike football boots, the Mac Air, and a certain football player called Neymar. Yes, I have an eye for beautiful things. So my punishment for not practising….

my lovely sister got to sit at and play the grand piano, and I got to sit out I the hall with the keyboard.

Yep folks, no wonder I never wanted to practice.



Julie’s Story: The Hen Weekend

I didn’t want to go in the first place. I mean, really? Stags, Hens, aren’t they a thing of the past yet. Haven’t we found something more sophisticated yet? We have of course, but most people tend to go for the traditional ‘let’s get pissed up and wear stupid clothes’ idea. Personally, I like the idea of the bride having dinner with the grooms’ friends and the groom having dinner with the brides’ friends. That’s not to say this is a more civilised option, just a bit different. But I’ve only ever known of that happening once within my circle of friends and acquaintances.

So, I received my invitation email, correctly sent by the Maid of Honour, but clearly under strict instructions from my friend Ashleigh, the Bride, a control freak. We were booked into a hotel in Amsterdam, which had a Spa, and our Easyjet flights were also booked, for midday on the Friday. We were going for two nights. Great. As I read through the email it became abundantly clear that this weekend away was going to cost a truck load of money, and from the copied in names on the email, I could see that there was only one other person, apart from the Bride of course, that I’d ever met, let alone knew. Jesus. AND we were required to dress up. Happy days. I had a month to prepare for this.

So, there I was euros in purse, bright yellow tights on ready to adorn my fancy dress chicken costume that was hidden in my hand luggage – I’d gone for funny rather than the usually sexy French maid look that I was sure most people would opt for – waiting outside Boots at Stansted Airport where we’d agreed to congregate. I wasn’t sure whether to check-in before meeting them, or if we were all doing it together, so I’d opted for the latter, you know Team Spirit and all that….

‘Hiya, you must be here for the hen weekend? Ashleigh’s?’, she said, looking at my bright yellow legs. ‘Funny…’. Well at least she got the joke. She was, as predicted, in the tiniest of mini skirts with a tight white blouse that buttoned up the front, high stilettos.

‘Ha, yes, I can see you’ve gone for the saucy maid look. I’m Julie, nice to meet you.’

She stared blankly at me, then half smiled.

‘Actually, I haven’t changed yet. I didn’t realise we were meant to come dressed up already.’

Fuck. Foot in it, right from the off. I really had no idea how to get myself out of this so gave a weak smile and sort of apologised. Fortunately, Ashleigh arrived as I was doing it and gave both myself and my newly peeved companion a hug. Ashleigh was good at jabbering, so the focus was deflected away from my mahoosive faux pas and onto some nonsense about fake tan. Eventually everyone arrived, and before long we were jetting off for our weekend of forced fun.

We arrived at our Amsterdam hotel after much fussing about with bags and taxis, some headed straight for the Spa, some relaxed in their rooms phoning babies and boyfriends, but I headed straight for the bar. There was no way that I was getting through this without a suitable amount of Dutch courage, and as we were in the right country for that, I figured that I was justified in finding plenty of it. My boyfriend could wait, we weren’t that reliant on one another, and as he was in Benidorm on the stag weekend, I figured he’d prefer to be left alone focussing on trying not to be the one to get drunkaroo’d or shaved inappropriately. Ha, it made me laugh just thinking about it. Poor bastards. The stag weekend always seem so much more filthy than its female counterpart.

I wasn’t sure how long I’d been in the bar before a few of the others joined me. Each one in turn found my chicken costume hilarious, and the fact that I was sat at the bar alone with it on seemed to garner even more hilarity. We were undecided about whether to start a tab, or have a pot. Both had their problems apparently, as someone was going to have to look after the pot or a tab would mean that all that divvying up nonsense would have to occur.

‘Why can’t we just split the tab evenly between all fifteen of us?’, I suggested, ‘Easy. Sorted.’

‘Oh no, we can’t do that’, some skinflint said, ‘I’m not planning on drinking too much, and I don’t think it’s fair for those of us who don’t drink much to pay the same as those who do.’

Here we go I thought. The temptation to say ‘why did you come then? It’s a fucking hen weekend!’ was enormous, but of course I didn’t, I just crossed my yellow legs, ruffled my chicken feathers and took another sip. In fact, this seemed to be my stance for most of the weekend, as more and more nonsense seemed to expose itself.

Before long I’d latched on to one of Ashleigh’s bridesmaids, Tina. I could see her rolling her eyes at pretty much the same things as me and decided that if I was going to stand any chance of making a buddy then she seemed the obvious choice. I have to say, it was a good choice. We laughed raucously at the same things, and spent absolutely no time at all discussing boyfriends, husband or babies. Marvellous.

We all entered out into the city, stopping off at various bars along the way. The usual chat-ups occurred, as well as the usual dodgy dancing, someone brought out a vibrator and dropped it into Ashleigh’s beer which caused a right hoo-ha. Much later I bumped into her in the loo at a bar near the Rossebuurt, and she seemed ecstatically happy.

‘Juuuuuuu, Ju Ju Ju…..I’m having the best time. Everyone is. Watch Tina though. Ha ha. Ju Ju Ju, watch that Tina.’ And she was gone: L plates on, tutu tucked in her knickers, arms raised above her head like Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, gone out into the bar grabbing at whatever glass seemed full and available. What did she mean: ‘watch that Tina’? Some drunken bollocks which I, of course, ignored.

Ever had a blackout? I’m sure you’ve heard about them. I had. And now I’ve had one.

My boyfriend was as smug as smug could be. All he did was laugh, laugh raucously as I stood in front of our bathroom mirror trying to pencil on my right eyebrow. The remnants of the temporary tattoo moustache was still slightly visible, below the redness of my scrubbing, and the memories – not to mention the photographs – of me riding high that bucking bronco before rolling around in the mud wrestling circle, will be forever imbedded in my psyche.

Never again will I go on a hen weekend. Never. I’d rather go with the boys.

Oh, and the humiliation of appearing at the wedding, and encountering its guests……well, that was yet to come.


Joey’s Story: The Life of an Actress #1

I put the phone down ecstatically happy. I couldn’t believe it. Did that just happen…seriously, did that just happen. Who could I call, who could I tell, I needed to shout it from the roof tops. I’d made it.

‘Hiya’, I said excitedly. I could hardly contain myself. I was bubbling over like a bottle of pop.

‘Yeah, good thanks. Oh my god, you’re never gonna believe it….’

‘What?’ said my friend, ‘What Joey, what?’

‘I can hardly spit it out…oh god I can’t believe it…

‘What, what for Christ’s sake?’

‘I’ve got the job in Romeo and Juliet, mate, I got it.’

‘Darlin’ that’s amazing. Woo wooooo. Amazing. Who you playing?’

‘Well, exactly……Juliet! Bloody hell. Bloody Juliet. Can you believe it. I mean, I’m hardly a Juliet am I, hardly your traditional Juliet casting, am I. I’m over the frigging moon mate.’

I wasn’t being down on myself. It’s just that after years of endless auditions that have seen me cocking my leg up against an imaginary fence whilst crawling around on the floor barking like a dirty dog; where I have searched deeply for my inner tree certain that those on the panel have savoured in a sneaky chuckle at my expense; and where I have eagerly sight read from a script seemingly thrown together but ten minutes before. Oh yes, I have been to castings where my agent has pitched me alongside five foot eight willowy models (I barely touch five foot three and am rather fond of my sometimes slight but sometimes slightly zaftig stature) with flawless skin and legs that remind me of an adult giraffe. Reality checks are part and parcel of the game when you’re a jobbing actor. The performance world is a crazy one.

But this time was my time, and I’d finally earned my reward. I was delighted. Little ole me was about to take on the role of the gorgeously iconic heroine in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. 

My pal and I made a quick arrangement to meet for coffee the next day, and I flitted off into the sunshine, floating on cloud nine. I spent the day lying in the park making lists and starting to work through them; the usual things you need to do when you’re about to head off on a job:

1. Digs for the duration of the job. Did I know anyone near by that I could cadge a bed from for a few months, or do I need to contact the theatre about local land ladies?

2. Check bank account to see what I could afford.

3. Advertise my room in our flat to see if someone needs a London base for the duration I’m away. This will mean that I’ll only have to fork out for rent while I’m away. That’d be handy!

4. Give notice on yet another waitressing job that I won’t be able to go back to!

5. Dig out a copy of the play from my garage full of boxes, or simply buy a new copy.

6. Go through the play with a highlighter pen (my absolute favourite bit of the job) and mark up my lines.

7. Anything else that I might have forgotten.

The time between securing the job and starting it always flies by, as I end up with tonnes of things to do. There are always friends to see, cases to pack, bills to pay, work prep to do, and bits and bobs to do for pals that I’d committed to, never quite believing that a job would be around the corner! I love my friends and would do anything for them, so always manage to fulfil my promises no matter how much I compromise myself.

Anyway, as usual, I got it all done and finally collapsed into my airline seat on the train heading north to my perfect new job. Journey times were always an opportunity for me to catch up on the bits that I hadn’t quite got round to before leaving, but this time I had made sure that the single and only thing I was going to be doing was familiarising myself with my new character: Little Miss Capulet. My plan was to nail her, as best I could, before rehearsals began – but what would come out in the rehearsal room could never be predicted – and arrive at my destination with only a bath to have and a good nights’ sleep. For once, I managed it. I was relaxed and prepared for my first day of rehearsals.

As always seems the way, we sat in a circle, actors mixed with techies, techies mixed with production staff, ASMs, DSMs, lighting designers, costume people etc etc. The director starts by introducing himself and around we go introducing ourselves to everyone and informing one another of the role we are going to be playing. For me, this was going to be a joy, a real departure from ‘Hi, I’m Joey, playing second moomin from the left. No, this time I could proudly announce, in my newly-rehearsed, deep, actressy voice: ‘Hi, Joanna, playing Juliet’. Proud proud proud. Woo.

By the time all the pleasantries were done and coffee had been had, the DSM announced that our first read-through would begin immediately after lunch. Couldn’t wait. I’d practised my lines a little bit, and had made sure that my understanding of iambic pentameter was up to scratch, as it had been a while!

All went well in the read-through. We all went for a drink after. Tomorrow was to be our first ‘on our feet day’.

Tomorrow came. What can I say.

I phoned my friend, yes the very same friend from earlier.

‘You are not gonna fucking believe this mate.’

‘How’s it going darlin’? What d’you mean? Everything ok?’

‘Bloody hell mate, get this: I’ve spent all morning in the rehearsal room running around with my duffle coat on back to front and a paper bag on my head. They’ve only gone and set it in a mental asylum. My bloody Juliet is in a mental asylum.’

The acting world is never quite as it seems. But the Juliet that I produced, mad or not, received rave reviews, and my telephone friend cried when she saw her. I was indeed proud proud proud, and will never ever forget her.