"Try to think of the Audition & Preparation as a creative act in itself".
Annie taught me much of what I know as an Actor. She was my head of year whilst I was at Drama Centre London and I will always remember the phone call from her personally, offering me a place on the BA Acting - a moment I won't forget. It was one of the best decisions I ever made to train at Drama Centre. Not only does Annie now direct & teach at RADA amongst other ventures, she is out there as a working Actor herself. She has a passion for championing young talent and what Annie taught me more than anything else was getting out there and 'just doing it'. No matter how, no matter where, just get out there and do what you love doing. I carry this through my work today. On top of all the work Annie does, and she is constantly working, she has never ever failed to come and see me on stage. Wherever the theatre may be, above whatever pub, in the West End, whatever the ticket price, Annie has always showed up to support me and I know this to be true of most of her past students. I've never met someone who gets so much sheer joy from seeing her students succeed. She's a real force within this industry and we were lucky enough to catch up with Annie to see what she's up to and get some of her expert advice.
"I hope the industry will be more inclusive and open to new stories"
Annie started her creative career reading Drama and Theatre Arts at Birmingham University - the first single honours drama degree in the UK, and then trained at the Drama Centre. She spent the first few years of her professional life in rep on long contracts that included everything from Shakespeare to musicals and pantomime. She has worked in tv and radio and after the birth of her son she continued to work as an actor but began exploring directing and teaching - the latter becoming a passion. She eventually became Course Director for the BA Acting Course at Drama Centre and after 10 years she retired from that post to freelance and keep acting, teaching and directing plates spinning at the same time. She continued to teach at Drama Centre and joined the acting team at RADA where her public productions have included Love For Love, Strange Orchestra and just before lockdown Macbeth. Recent acting work has included An Honourable Man at the White Bear, Arthur Miller’sThe Last Yankee at the Bolton Library and the political satire Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough at the Park Theatre. She is a Patron of the MonoBox and a mentoring tutor for Open Door.
"Choose audition material that speaks to you and that you can connect to"
Hey Annie! How are you?
I’m pretty good at the moment - on my way to see family including my adorable grandson Leo. This is the first train I’ve ventured on for 6 months.
What are you up to at the moment?
I’m back to RADA working in person but socially distanced with a small group of Year 2 students on Shakespeare's Hamlet. We’ve just read through the whole play and now we’ll start exploring key scenes. It’s exciting and a really interesting talented group of actors. I’m also involved in a small way with a reading online of an unperformed play by Githa Sowerby who wrote “Rutherford and Son”.
How have you as an artist kept creative and positive during these difficult months?
Gardening and cooking ( too many carbs) - both pretty creative though - our little garden has looked gorgeous! Artistically I’ve been in an online theatre group and been in half a dozen playreadings on Zoom - some interesting new writing but also some great classic comedies - so I got to play Mrs Malaprop in The Rivals and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest - and also Margaret Thatcher! I think there’s a theme here! I have been teaching online on Zoom for RADA and have run some audition prep workshops and classic comedy workshops on Zoom for the MonoBox. Also I’ve been thinking and making notes for a book on auditions - I have actually at last started to write it and working on a proposal for another. Admittedly I’ve had some moments - quite long moments - of Covidinertia where I’ve slobbed about and watched undemanding tv and read thrillers but I refuse to give myself a hard time about it!
It has been a very tough time for our industry but what positives do you hope to see come from it?
I hope the landscape will change - more open to experiment and flexibility - I think people have been incredibly creative and inventive and I hope that this can continue - it can’t go back to the same old same old, but I am afraid that it just might. I hope the industry will be more inclusive and open to new stories and voices - this will be such an opportunity. The recent crass remarks made by Rishi Sunak are indefensible.
What advice would you give to people auditioning for drama school for 2021?
Know why you want to train and what you want from a training - think carefully about this and do your research - the schools have very different characters. Choose audition material that speaks to you and that you can connect to. Find out as much as you can about the schools and the kind of training they offer and what they believe in. And prepare as thoroughly as you can. Try to think of the audition - the prep and the thing itself as a creative act.
What positives would you say there are to self taped auditions for drama school?
I think self taping is with us now as a given, so remember that you can take the time to get the tape as you want it! You can play it back to yourself and see where you can find more detail, more ease and relaxation and connection. My experience of seeing first round tapes is that it is surprisingly easy to get a good sense of potential for training and those moments of imagination and connection.
As an Actor, Director & Teacher, What final words of wisdom would you give to any Actor at the moment who might be finding it harder right now?
Try not to feel that you are a lesser human being because you are not acting at the moment. Clearly it’s essential to try and keep afloat financially but regarding one’s creativity just keep curious, read stuff, keep healthy, take pleasure in small things, keep tuned up somehow and if opportunities to connect with your fellow actors arise in different ways then siege them.
What’s your favourite theatre, if you have one, and why?
Liverpool Playhouse - my mum used to take me to matinees there in my early teens. It was a magical jewel box of a theatre. It had a make over in the 70s and the interior was painted over but it still retained such an atmosphere. I worked there in the late 80s and it’s a lovely theatre to play. There’s a hot spot on stage where you can really “get” the whole house from the stalls to the gallery.
What’s the last series you binge watched?
Late to the party but “Succession” - utterly brilliant and addictive. I leapt off the sofa and punched the air at the last moment of Series 2. Can’t wait for no 3. Superb acting.
If there was one play you wish to see in a Theatre right now, what would it be?
Well, any Shakespeare done brilliantly, not necessarily a big bells and whistles production but it has to be thrilling; Anything with Simon Russell Beale in it; but I’d really like to see Pass Over again. We saw it at the Kiln just before lockdown and then it had to close. Fantastic provocative evening. Acting amazing and wonderful writing.