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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 and support her future ventures. She's an extremely talented and inspiring person.

1 comment

  1. Fascinating read. Keep up the great work that all you creative people do/doing.💖🎭



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