17 August 2020

ÉRAINNE: A New Musical Kickstarter

Following Arts Council Northern Ireland’s recently-published guidelines for reopening the arts, Matthew Quinn and Emily Oulton are delighted to announce a socially distanced workshop of their new musical ÉRAINNE

Matthew and Emily will work with fifteen professional actors and a cross-community youth group of students at JH Academy of Theatre Arts, Belfast on the 22nd-29th August 2020. The workshop will offer them the currently somewhat miraculous opportunity of working on the script and score in person with a real-life acting company (not on Zoom!).

In order to make this project happen, the team are running a Crowdfunding page on Kickstarter. They need to raise £2500 to make the workshop possible. Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform and the team are under £500 away from reaching their target. 

Working almost one hundred years on from the musical’s setting in 1921, with a group of Northern Irish actors including Jolene O’Hara (Kiss Me, Kate at Lyric Theatre Belfast and My Mother and Other Strangers on BBC One) and Charlie McCullagh (Dr. Zhivago at Cadogan Hall and The Divide at Edinburgh International Festival) as the leading duo, the musical will be brought to life in person for the first time alongside a socially-distanced 10-piece band. Emily and Matthew will work with the actors throughout the week to develop the script and the score in this fundamental stage of the musical’s process.

ÉRAINNE follows the story of displaced twin brother and sister Sean and Érainne and their different journeys through the Irish War of Independence in a country on the brink of partition. It has the structure of a memory play, told from the perspective of a passenger on a ship in the future and the score fuses Irish folk with classical and theatrical musical influences. It charts the epic journey of Sean and Érainne, who are forced to flee their home by the political turmoil engulfing the island of Ireland during the early 20th Century and seek a better life for themselves - in Ireland and elsewhere. Based on a true family story of Matthew's and with an original score, it explores themes of love, loss, sacrifice and forgiveness in a heartwarming and tragic tale about how far one will go for family, love, and one’s country. The score fuses Irish folk music with classical and musical theatre influences, orchestrated by Manchester-based composer and conductor Charlie Perry. 

This musical is above all, a nonpartisan affirmation of the power of family, love, reconciliation, and the human spirit. Although set in a politically tumultuous and divisive time it does not seek to judge, choose sides, or sow seeds of division. It merely has a human story to tell at the centre of a period in which the island of Ireland would be irrevocably changed forever.

ÉRAINNE was longlisted for the BEAM 2020 Showcase, read by the Leicester Curve Theatre’s West Side Story cast and selected for The GradFest and Grey Area Theatre’s Zoom reading series of new musicals ‘The Zoom Where it Happens’. Throughout lockdown, the ÉRAINNE team released remotely recorded demos on social media and YouTube.

You can follow the show across Social Media:

Instagram: @erainnemusical

Twitter: @erainnemusical

Facebook: Érainne: A New Musical

Please support the Kickstarter page and this exciting new project! 

I wish Matthew and Emily every success with Érainne.

16 June 2020

News Catch-up - 16th June 2020.

Hello all.

I hope that you're all keeping well and healthy. Can you believe we're in the middle of June already? I know this year has certainly been different but it's flying by! It's been a little while since I've updated some news so below I've brought together some of the latest things you can keep up with during this continuing lockdown. Even without live theatre lots of theatre's and companies are creating magnificent online content.

The Pandora Network - The Nightlight Circus
The Pandora Network is launching a new online interactive experience called The Nightlight Circus, with tickets on sale now.

Following on from a hugely successful sold-out launch of their first experience, Burying the Hatchet, the experience is an interactive week-long mystery-solving that guests can take part in from the comfort of their own home. Guests listen to the initial brief and over the course of a week interact online with live ‘Field Agents’ who provide the evidence and clues to consider, working together to solve the case.

The Pandora Network has been written, produced and performed by Electric Goldfish a new creative
partnership between immersive theatre companies Faceless Ventures; Incognito Experiences; and
Nick Hutson Music; and as well as being designed for a remote, and international audience who are
in lockdown; it has also been entirely produced by the creators remotely whilst in lockdown.
For anyone that likes the mystery genre in theatre, television shows or film, this experience allows
them to not just watch the mystery unfold but to be a part of the action themselves.

The experience will run between 18th - 24th July and 2nd - 8th August. Limited tickets are available now https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/faceless-ventures/e-drdrxo

Emerging Midlands Writers Sought for SeaView Writers' Room
The Belgrade Theatre Coventry in partnership with Strictly Arts Theatre Company, Fix 8 Films, Run
Home Productions and Audio Bassment are seeking emerging writers based in the Midlands to be part of the writers’ room for their upcoming digital TV series, SeaView.

Set to premiere in 2021, SeaView is an original urban, science-fiction drama, drawing on the experiences of working-class communities in the West Midlands. Inspired by a true story, the series follows Steven, a young man destined for great things who finds himself trapped by the destiny of others.

The series will make its debut with an exclusive screening at the Belgrade Theatre in 2021, followed by an online release. The project is the product of a groundbreaking new collaboration that will see theatre and film production companies work together in exciting new ways.

Now the Belgrade is offering a fantastic opportunity to up to seven of the region’s most exciting up-and-coming writers to be part of its first writers’ room ahead of Coventry’s year as City of Culture in 2021. Each writer will get the chance to work on one episode, alongside playwright Sophie Ellerby and the Belgrade’s 2021 Co-Artistic Director Corey Campbell.

Successful applicants will be supported to learn and develop key screen-writing skills, and provided with the space to imagine and create their own ideas.

The writers’ room will run from 6.30pm-8.30pm every Thursday from Thursday 16 July 2020 –
Thursday 15 October 2020, with the final read-through taking place during the week commencing
Monday 19 October 2020. 

All applicants must be based in the Midlands.

To apply, please send an example of your work to Sofia Stephanou at sofia.producer@gmail.com
by 5pm on Monday 29 June.

This can be in any form you choose – a script, poetry or prose – but it should show a clear journey and give a strong sense of your writing style. Along with your writing sample, you should also include an up-to-date CV and a cover letter (one-page only) explaining how being part of the Writers Room will help you to develop you as a writer and what you hope to achieve.

Halls The Musical
Current West End stars have come together during lockdown to perform the opening number, ‘Flat
15B’, from brand new, British musical: Halls.

The launch video, which features Grace Mouat (& Juliet, SIX), Millie O’Connell (Be More Chill, SIX), Olivia Moore (Waitress, Heathers), Tarinn Callender (Hamilton, Come From Away), Cameron Burt (Mamma Mia), Sophie Isaacs (Heathers, Kinky Boots, SIX) and Alex Thomas-Smith (Bat Out of Hell, Dear Evan Hansen), also introduces new Guilford School of Acting (GSA) graduate Matteo Johnson who was involved in the workshop process of Halls in 2019.

Launching the song ‘Flat 15B’ sees the London public premiere of the musical’s opening number which presents music and lyrics by George Stroud and Jennifer Harrison.

Halls follows eight, first-year, university students from all different backgrounds and upbringings, being brought together when they are all allocated the same flat in Halls of Residence: Flat 15B. The
musical follows all eight characters as they grow and develop over the academic year, highlighting the highs and lows of going to university. Halls explores many aspects of uni life including; freshers week, exam stresses, flat arguments, the cost of student living, romance, and self-acceptance. We watch as characters find their feet in a world where their decisions are now entirely their own. The musical’s pop-rock, contemporary soundtrack provokes feel good, upbeat vibes that reawaken nostalgic, first year at uni, memories.

Halls will be making its London debut in 2021 and writers George Stroud and Jennifer Harrison have
committed to casting at least two new graduates in the production to help provide a platform for
performers at the start of their career.

Primrose Path - Mannequin Mouth
Chriss and Damon are in love. They have rules, they have roles – and they play games. Sometimes, they hurt each other. When they play. Such is love. Chriss and Damon are in love.

Every new game, every new scenario, the question remains: how far are they willing to go together? Chriss and Damon are in love. How far is too far? Stitches won’t always be sufficient. They are going to hurt each other. They have hurt each other. Chriss and Damon are in love.

Primrose Path is a twisted exploration of love and its extremities. The story examines the combined jealousy, competition, and obsession that lurk at the heart of the relationship between lovers Chriss and Damon. Follow this deluded, devoted couple as their corrosive ambition to ‘play’ leads them down an ever-escalating, all-consuming spiral of physical and emotional harm. Together they explore the oppressive inescapability of love, and learn just how far they will go to win emotional and physical dominance over each other.

Part of Mannequin Mouth's ethos is about combating the limitations in the accessibility of theatre. Given the current COVID-19 crisis, and the theatre industry effectively being placed on pause, this is more important now than ever.

The live show of Primrose Path debuted in Exeter in May 2018 before touring to the Edinburgh Fringe in August that year. At the end of its run, we filmed the show over a number of days in its theatrical space without a live audience present. The cameras were therefore free to roam amongst the action, following the actors and thrusting the viewer directly into the middle of the performance. In this way, our filmed productions are recorded specifically to be watched at home, their own separate experience to the live show.

The film will be made available to watch online for free on our website from 7pm on Saturday 27th June.

As our debut show, Primrose Path is indicative of Mannequin Mouth’s commitment to creating raw and visceral theatre that will challenge and disturb its audience.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Props Go Under the Hammer
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, one of the most famous cars in the world, is coming up for auction.

The celebrated car, together with more than 100 props used in the 2015-2017 UK/Ireland touring musical stage production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, are set to go under the hammer at Hansons
Auctioneers on Father’s Day, June 21.

John Stalker, Music & Lyrics Executive producer of the stage show said: “There are very few Chitty
models anywhere in the world, so this is a unique opportunity to buy a bit of theatre and film

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “We’re thrilled to be selling Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I grew up watching the film and was spellbound by the magic of the flying car. It was part of my childhood, as it was for millions of people across the world. The Chitty we’re selling is a wonderful piece of theatre history, unique to the show it was used in and incredibly rare.”

Chitty’s price guide is set at £6,000 - £9,000 – which would be a steal for any successful bidder, as
the car cost £175,000 to build (including the lifting apparatus required to make her fly).

John Stalker continues: “The items, which were being stored in Bedford, are being sold as we have no plans to re-mount the tour so the car and props are surplus to requirements. We would love them to
go to a Chitty-loving home. The collection will appeal to anyone who loves theatre but particularly to
those who love Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

Other items in the auction include the Child Catcher’s Bike (estimate £400-£600) and various
inventions from leading character, Caractacus Potts. These include an automated breakfast machine,
(estimate £500-£1,000), Edison, a remote-controlled family dog (estimate £500-£1,000), and an
automatic haircutting bicycle (estimate £200-£300), Chitty, ‘after the crash’ in a state of disrepair (estimate £1,000 - £2,000); Baron Bomburst’s car (estimate £1,500 - £2,000) and a 1920’s vintage motorcycle ridden by Truly Scrumptious (estimate £3,000 - £4,000).

Other props include Grandpa’s shed (estimate £1,000) and purple velvet thrones used by the Baron
and Baroness of Vulgaria (estimate £150 - £250).

The cast of the 2015-2017 touring stage production included Jason Manford; Lee Mead (Caractacus
Potts); Martin Kemp (Childcatcher); Phill Jupitus & Shaun Williamson (Lord Scrumptious/Baron Bomburst) and Michelle Collins &; Claire Sweeney (Baroness Bomburst).

The Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Auction will be held at Bishton Hall, Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire,
ST17 0XN, on Sunday, 21 June 2020. View the catalogue and bid in advance or live at
www.hansonslive.co.uk. To find out more, email: charleshanson@hansonsauctioneers.co.uk.

1 June 2020

Amélie London Cast Recording Release

The original London cast recording of Amélie The Musical is released this Friday, 5th June 2020.

The UK production which opened last year at The Watermill Theatre in Newbury and then extensively toured the UK before transferring to London's The Other Palace where it completed a sell-out run. The show is nominated for three Olivier Awards.

The cast album is produced by Sean Patrick Flahaven of Concord Theatricals and features the same multi-Grammy Award-winning team behind such original cast albums as Hamilton, Come From Away and Once.

The musical based on the 2001 French-language movie originated in America in 2015 and opened on Broadway in 2017. It features a score by Daniel Messé and Nathan Tysen with new orchestrations for the UK production by Barnaby Race. 

The show starred Audrey Brisson in the title role alongside Chris Jared as Nino and Caolan McCarthy, Emma Jane Morton, Faoileann Cunningham, Jez Unwin, Johnson Willis, Joshua Sneesby, Kate Robson-Stuart, Oliver Grant, Rachel Dawson, Samuel Morgan-Grahame and Sophie Crawford. 

The full album will be available from Friday (5th June) and you can pre-order and pre-save the album now from this link https://found.ee/amelie-mus. Pre-order the album ahead of release and you get the song Stay instantly.

Those who know me or have followed me for any period of time will probably know already how much this production means to me. I first saw it back in July last year at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre and was blown away by it. I gave it a glowing 5-star review on this blog and loved it so much that I went back to see it again the next day. I travelled to all the exotics locations to catch it again, Birmingham, Malvern, Woking, Eastbourne (5 hours each way for me!) and Reading. I caught it a further 3 times during it's London run.

The whole production just completely wrapped me up and made me feel safe. I knew I could just escape into this magical Parisian paradise and just be swept along by the story and the music. I've had therapy and things for my mental health but nothing touched me or helped me heal more than watching this show.

The astonishing work by the remarkable cast of actor-musicians still blows my mind. They created this beautiful sound and acted perfectly. The whole company, not just the masterpiece of a performance by Audrey Brisson were outstanding.

I'm SO excited for the release. I've listened to Stay on repeat for the past few days and from Friday I'll probably listen to nothing else but the album for a considerable amount of time. I can't recommend it to you all enough.

If you don't hear from me from Friday for a while then you'll find me escaped to Paris with the album!

Amélie The Musical's original London cast recording is avaiable from Friday 5th June. Visit https://found.ee/amelie-mus to pre-order or pre-save.

19 May 2020

Mental Health

**Please note this blog post may contain references to suicidal thoughts, self-harm and may be triggering so please don't read if you feel it will set off any of your own thoughts - please visit https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/how-to-access-mental-health-services/ for services that may be able to help**

This week in the UK it's Mental Health Awareness Week hosted by the Mental Health Foundation (please visit their website to read more about the campaign) so I thought now would be a good time to open up and talk about my own mental health and some of my struggles. I know us men are a little less talkative when it comes to our problems and struggles so I hope posting this may inspire others to even just open up a little more.

I guess a little introduction about me if you don't know me is a good place to start. I'm 28, I live in Leicester where I've lived all my life. I had a pretty standard upbringing - went through college, completed my GCSE's, and then left school. I went to Leicester College and studied Computing which I got a BTEC National Diploma from. After that, I started working, I've had a few jobs in my time, Warehouse Operative, Receptionist at a Doctors Surgery and Cast Member at Disney Store.

I think my first encounter with bad mental health came when my friend Lucy and I were assaulted as we walked back to her house. This happened back in 2009 and I guess before then I felt a bit indestructible and then this major event changed everything. Naturally, it was a traumatic thing. It was around 11pm at night as we walked back from my house to hers when we were approached by 3 men who asked for the time and next thing you know we're flat on our backs from being punched. I was dazed and had a broken nose and was bleeding rather heavily.

The whole assault drained my confidence for a time and I'm still very wary about being out at night when it's dark and for a while, I struggled in crowds - especially at football matches (I've had a Leicester City Season Ticket for on and off 22 years). I don't know what happened but just one day I clicked out of the darker place I was in and buried it a bit and kept going on.

Fast forward a few years and when my worst mental health struggles began. It was whilst working at the Doctors that I spiralled. I encountered a couple of aggressive patients - both over the telephone and in-person and I lost my confidence and then I hit rock bottom. This was in late 2016 and well fast forward to now and I'm still fighting things mentally.

I had my lowest times where I self-harmed, something I don't recommend obviously, I scratched at myself with a pair of scissors - thankfully I didn't do any damage but that evening when my now ex-partner came home I was marched to the local walk-in centre where I was assessed. Whilst I've struggled mentally that was the only time I've self-harmed physically.

My darkest moments were when I was suicidal. I haven't really talked about these times - except with healthcare professionals or my therapists but on more than one occasion I planned ways that I could do it. Even from just going out for a walk and walking into the road make it look like an accident or my biggest one was to throw myself the stairs. A few times I stood there at the top of the stairs staring into the void ready for it to end but I couldn't manage to do it. Again it's been a couple of years since these thoughts but at the time I always said it was the fear that held me back. Turns out I was even too weak to do it.

I've always been quite shy and people will know when I was younger I struggled to talk and would no doubt be quite quiet around them but then send them long messages after. I didn't realise until my therapist mentioned social anxiety that it was a problem. That sometimes I struggle to make small talk and get quite anxious about social occasions especially if it's with people I don't know very well. On the other side once I'm confident around you then you'll probably not shut me up which probably doesn't add up but yeah socially I can struggle and I think that's made me quite inwards and pushed friends away. I guess it's hard to maintain friendships when I'm quite reserved and I wish I was better with people. There are people I care so much about but I'm just almost too scared to message for fear of their reaction which I know is stupid.

I've had quite a bit of treatment for my mental health. Like I've mentioned I've had a full course of CBT and a lot of support from my doctor. The one thing I struggled with was medication. I have been on various things that tried to help. Some made me completely zonked out and sleeping all the time, some just did nothing (although in hindsight I think my GP changed them too soon), and one made me a whole lot worse and put me into a constant mode of heightened anxiety and feeling like I just didn't want to live. Since those last ones I've not had any more and the GP and I decided I'm better without the meds.

The one constant through all my struggles with battling against anxiety and depression has been theatre. Theatre has been my escape and my happy place for all my life. I've been going to the theatre since I was young and more so in the last few years. Last years I decided after doing a previous review website to make it more official and then I launched Beyond the Curtain. The last year has been so enjoyable covering shows at Curve, Haymarket Theatre, De Montfort Hall, Royal and Derngate and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Theatre just gives me a place to escape the real world but it doesn't always shut out all those darker thoughts but it certainly gives me hope for a couple of hours. During my darkest period, it was Half A Sixpence that quite literally helped me get back on the right track. I remember seeing it for the first time and just feeling the biggest joy in my soul. I was utterly transfixed by the whole production and went back a further 4 times. Charlie Stemp's Arthur Kipps was just a marvel. The way he glided effortlessly. The whole company including the likes of Devon-Elise Johnson, Emma Williams and Ian Bartholomew were stunning. I even wrote the cast letters thanking them for helping me mentally with their great work.

Another show that transformed things for me was, some of you won't be surprised to hear this, Amelie. The show felt like almost going through therapy. The power of the journey of these characters which were brought to life by the most talented company of actor-musicians. The show gave me a feeling like no other show has ever given me. I'm so grateful to the friends I made through the show too and the experiences I got to have with them. I'm so excited for the UK cast recording to come next month - although I'm guessing it might be quite triggering as I do miss the show daily.

Having this time during this lockdown has challenged my mental health quite badly. My 2020 had started fairly positively after a sad end to 2019 where my Granny passed away on Christmas Eve but yeah 2020 was going quite well and I'd just typically started a new job which is now on hold (although I'm hoping it's still there for me to go back to once everything returns to normal). Now this lockdown has left put me a step backwards with things. I have a mix of good days where I feel great and then I can just wake up feeling deflated and unmotivated. Last week I started a course of online therapy (as I naturally can't see my therapist at the minute in person) and hopefully that'll help me going forwards during this uncertain time and beyond.

On the positives during this time I've maybe been a little more connected with people, making phone calls (although less so recently - and I'm still waiting for someone to ring me rather than the other way around!), I've done Bingo and quizzes with my wonderful pal Emmie (you should check out her site Carpie Diem Emmie because she's magnificent) and even hosted three weeks of quizzing myself on a Monday evening.

I've struggled a little to keep on top of the theatre content that's been pumped out there. I've watched a few of the online productions (One Man, Two Guvnors, Treasure Island, Wise Children, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet to name a few) and I've really enjoyed those and I'm going to try to keep up a little more where I can. Naturally, without live theatre, there's a bit of a void for my blog too but I hopefully filled that a little with my Isolation Interview series of which there's currently 33 on the site. I hope people have enjoyed reading those - I may have some more coming soon.

But yeah, I hope that's given you a little insight into my mind and my struggles and battles. I hope it maybe can inspire others to open up too. It's important to talk. My door is always open, you can always message me on either my Beyond the Curtain accounts or my own personal ones. There are also brilliant services available that can help, from the Samaritans to charities like Mind (Please see the link at the top of the page).

Please look after yourselves and each other. Sending you all my best wishes and thank you for reading.

15 May 2020

Isolation Interviews: Charlotte Arrowsmith

Coming up next on my Isolation Interview series I have brilliant actress Charlotte Arrowsmith. Charlotte was recently past of the 2019 Royal Shakespeare Company productions of As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew which played in Stratford-Upon-Avon, in London and on tour. Her previous credits include Troilus and Cressida (Royal Shakespeare Company), Moonbird (Handprint Theatre), Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labour's Lost (Shakespeare Globe/Deafinitely Theatre) and Great Odds (Mac Arcadian). Charlotte is also an emerging theatre director who is keen to make theatre accessible to all. Personally having seen Charlotte in roles at the RSC, I must say she's a tremendous actress and an inspiration.

Q - What was the first piece of theatre that you remember seeing?
A - Ooh! I can't remember the FIRST but I remember the first time I saw street performances in Covent garden when I was about 5/6 years old (as I was in a show at the unicorn theatre for a children's festival) and idolised what I was observing around me. It was a world of performing heaven for little me!

Q -  What inspired you to get into theatre?
A - It was when I was on stage/watching others at the Unicorn theatre when I first got the taste for it, and the performing bug stayed with me forever long. Also watching Deaf presenters performing sign songs on the telly, encouraged me to do the same and more!

- Who during your career has had the biggest impact on you?
A - I have to say more recently Ricky Gervais has taught me a lot about performances when I observe his craft and his writing – it has encouraged me to look inside myself and see how I can make my craft more genuine, more real to the world outside of the industry. Watching and observing people around me, and how it's about the little things, the characteristics, the beauty of individuality that I can bring to a character. Also the one and only Brian Duffy, an actor who has spectacular VV/BSL/Sign skills and the ability to bring a character right to the core for us all to see inside out. He really is a movie star in the making, and I am frustrated as he is yet to star in a Hollywood movie. Everyone needs to see his work and see the beauty he brings to his craft. He inspires me always and I just love his work, his humbleness and kindness are glorious.

- What are your favourite plays/musicals (you can pick up to 5)
A - Lion King, STOMP, Gyspy, 4.48 Psychosis (Deafinitely Theatre’s version), Frankenstein (with Benedict Cumberbatch as Monster).

- What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
A - Stay true to yourself and always be nice/helpful/kind to others on your way up, for you may need them on your way down.

- If you could tell your younger self something, what would you tell them?
A - ‘Never give up. You’re a hard worker, you will thrive, you will achieve. Believe and prosper – it will happen because hard work pays off. Believe me, look at me, I am you.’

- If you could have dinner with 3 theatre-related guests (doesn't have to just be performers). Who would you invite and why?
A - Shakespeare – to show him how BSL/VV is the visual side of poetry and how similar his mind works in this language.
Morgan Lloyd Malcolm – To discuss ‘Emilia’ and get into a conversation with Shakespeare himself and how we could make more plays to combine equality, the languages of BSL and the spoken word of the hearing people.
Brian Duffy – to help me combine their ideas, thoughts, discussions into making NEW modern-day writing for the future of theatre and translate it into the art of BSL and vision of Deaf culture. All over a nice 3-course meal, and drinks galore!

- You were part of the recent Royal Shakespeare Company 2019-20 season, in Stratford-Upon-Avon and on Tour, having roles in As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew. How was the experience of working on those productions?
A - It was epic! Working with the RSC has been an eye-opener, a highlight of my career by far and long may it continue. Working on Troilus and Cressida with Greg Doran was a learning curve as I learnt so much during line read-throughs, rehearsals and his directions. It was like an educational journey into the world of Shakespeare. Being selected for the 19/20 season was another highlight as it proved to me how I had learnt, how I had evolved and became a stronger actor for the journey was about breaking barriers in bringing 2 cultures and languages together. Plentiful of challenges and many difficulties in finding a middle ground when often the 2 cultures clash. It showed me that I had elements of being a strong communicator of both, as I am deaf (from a hearing family), I can speak and use BSL but I live in the world where I try to adhere to the way the hearing society are and face daily barriers for the majority show their ignorance. However working with the RSC, they have been open to my ideas, my suggestions, and taken my advice in how to combine the cultures into the plays, into the characters and their relationships as we best we could. Its a continued learning curve and may there be more collaborated work in future!

- During the run of Shrew, you became the first deaf actor to understudy for a speaking part when you played the role of Vincentia. How much of a challenge was that for you and the company at short notice?
A - It was exciting albeit scary too! As you know, we don’t often have much time to rehearse understudy roles, and definitely not with the main cast either. So it had its own set of challenges because the rest of them needed the time to adjust and understand what I would bring to the role as a signer and for them to communicate back to me in the way the character would understand but more importantly for me the actor to understand lines/visual cues and so forth so that I’m just as confident as the others on stage. I think, if I remember correctly, we had half a day to go over the scenes with the main characters and made sure everyone felt safe enough to perform it as best we could. We pulled it off, and the cast were superb in making it all work with me. Such a team! Goes to show, anything is possible – more of the same methinks! We did it again several times in Nottingham, and I loved it!

Charlotte as Vincentia in the RSC's The Taming of the Shrew. Photo by Ikin Yum Photography

- How important do you think it is for theatres to continue to strengthen what they offer in terms of accessibility?
A - I think its extremely paramount that theatres must provide all kinds of accessibility. The unfortunate truth is, it is not a law to make this happen which is why it slips through the net so readily. It is pushed aside as ‘non-important’ because of such ignorance or lack of awareness. It's not only just the ‘abled’ in this world, there are others that are just as passionate, if not more, about theatre and so its about inclusion for all. It's about human right and we all deserve this. This goes for the industry too, there’s plenty of actors that differ from the norm and it's about accepting more real-life characters into the fantasy of so called ‘perfection’ that perhaps one may imagine in order to escape. It should be about believability and diversity and realism of all to make true theatre.

- Away from the theatre what are your favourite hobbies?
A - Walking in the countryside and the beach with my dog Oscar! Watching the sunset, being calm. Listening to music, reading and watching films to relax and kickback. Travelling and going on holidays, exploring cultures and way of life in different countries. Meeting friends for coffee and cake in cafe hot spots! Going to see my family in Yorkshire…. All of this and more, but during this lockdown sadly it's all on hold. (Apart from walkies with Oscar, phew!)

- Can you tell us something we wouldn't know about you?
A - I was a re-bounder in Basketball for the Deaf Great Britain team and we went to the Deaflympics in Rome back in 2000. I still enjoy basketball, I’m just not as good as I used to be! I enjoy watching it and playing it for fun! The new Netflix series ‘The Last Dance’ is what I’m watching these days! Bulls rock!

I'd like to thank Charlotte for her time and for taking part in this interview. Please follow Charlotte over on Twitter https://twitter.com/Charlottetigger and support her future ventures. She's an extremely talented and inspiring person.
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