Saturday, 12 November 2011

Juggling Balls

A work/life balance is a phrase utilised about by the media when discussing how to deal with stress in modern life or whether to take up yoga after you finish your shift on the stock market.  I have even heard a father of one of my friends talking about the seminars his well-known company send him on to try to help their employees find this elusive state of utopia.  Is it possible to do a satisfying job and still come home by 6pm with your mind cleared of work and ready to meet friends/have sex/cook a Jamie Oliver recipe?  Or are we destined to still be in the office at 9pm only to arrive home to a cold dinner, kids already asleep and a constant nagging feeling that we are letting everyone down?

People are always juggling commitments: whether it is motherhood and a full time job, family and friends or dreams with reality.  I have found that in my current career flux I am struggling with a work/work balance.   I have too many balls in the air and, as I inevitably drop one now and again, I am not keeping everyone in my working life happy.  My juggle is purely professional so in no way as demanding as being a mum and a full time employee (“sadly” cry my 30 year ovaries!) but if you take the view that everything is relative; it is stressing me out!

As I hover between actress, writer and growing teaching hours, I don’t seem to be able to give 100% to anything.  The perfectionist Virgo in me is getting increasingly uncomfortable. 

On one particular Tuesday I was teaching 9am till 7.30pm but had organised a phone interview with a musician in my lunch break as it was the only day he could make.  This was for a feature for the magazine I write for and with a looming deadline I desperately needed to fit it in.  So I sat surrounded with cuddly toys and instruments with my Dictaphone posing provoking questions to this rock n roll legend whilst silently praying that no new students would bang on the door and demand a lesson.  My teaching bosses were not impressed as they thought I shouldn’t be doing other pursuits on their time but short of phoning this celeb at 10pm (which would be tantamount to a booty call and therefore not highly professional) I had no choice.

I am also annoying my acting agent as my teaching has become so regular and inflexible that my only available day for auditions is Friday - not very useful for last minute call backs or immovable auditions.  I have therefore had to turn down a number of possible jobs and turn my allegiances to my teaching as that is providing me with a regular wage.  Without it I would be available for any opportunity but I would also be eating air and living in a cardboard box.  But my agent feels an actor should be able to survive on passion and determination alone; not this one - I like organic cereal and out of season blueberries!  So I am now relegated to the bottom of the pile in their office and on the off chance it is un-missable audition I upset my teaching bosses when I leave them in the lurch.  Aaaaaargh!

This week saw me doing a loud but necessary vocal warm up in-between teaching classes much to the bemusement of some clients before rushing off on the tube to a final audition for the musical, Avenue Q.  I barely had time to dislodge the puppet from my arm before I was back singing “I am Lucas the Lazy Lion” for my toddler class who were probably wondering why their teacher had more eyeliner on than usual?

Meanwhile, my magazine Editor is wondering why I am not on the end of my email 24/7 to chase contacts and photos and I have my first real proper job interview for a newspaper where I have a feeling my “journalists dressing up outfit” of trench coat and notepad will not cut the mustard.  I need to be devoting more time to my writing and carving out a potential career.

I am not giving 100% to anything – is it possible to have too many strings to your bow I wonder? Spreading the proverbial peanut butter too thinly on my bread?  Well, I think that crunch time may be approaching where I need to decide which camp I am in.  The results of my musical audition versus the newspaper 9-5 job will either give my heart an easy decision to make or pull me in further in two directions.  Where is a magic 8 ball when you need one?

Monday, 17 October 2011

Take Me Right Back to the Track, Jack!

This morning I was bouncing on a gentleman’s paunch for 25 minutes.  Ah hem, clear those filthy minds please. For it was in an overcrowded train carriage on the 7.43 where each bump and jostle caused this complete stranger to break every clause in Patrick Swayze’s Dirty Dancing rule “This is your dance space, this is my dance space.” 

Overcrowded rush hour trains are sadly an accepted part of commuting and I have joined this hubbub eversince leaving the luxury of off-peak travel to a theatre job.  I could previously smugly snigger at the squashed faces pressed up against the windows of the trains going in the opposite direction as I travelled into work at 5.30pm and spread out gloriously over a couple of seats on my 11pm journey home where the only annoyance was the odd whiff of post-alcohol induced Burger King munchies.  But now I am one of those squashed faces attempting to read a free newspaper and retain some ounce of personal space.

It is impossible to find a seat between the hours of 7am and 10am no matter how much you sigh and look tired or how many months pregnant you are. (That is a sad fact that I have often had to glare at seated city fat cats on the tube as a heavily pregnant lady sways next to me on a tube and yes, they ignore us and continue to read.)

This man on the 07.43, who was inadvertently caressing me with his middle aged spread, was also really tall.  I know this because the back of my head nestled perfectly in between his man boobs every few seconds.  Now I am sure he didn’t mean this at all, as I said we are all crammed in like blueberry goodness in a glass of Ribena, in fact he probably didn’t even see me.  This is so often the case when you are a 5’1” member of the human race.  People rarely look down that far and so you can often cease to exist.

But despite the B.O ponging, make-up applying or noisy mobile phone beeping perils we have all got a tale about I have also had some nice experiences whilst travelling.

The most notable of which is the time an Australian hunky stranger saved my life.  Sadly this is not an episode of Home and Away or a sudden appearance of Hugh Jackman on the Reading line but a true story of Aussie gallantry none the less!

I was returning home from a day of rehearsals last year embracing the last few days of summer in a white skirt and flip flops.  I floated down the steps at Clapham Junction in time to board my train but as I stepped up into the carriage I was unaware of a perilous kiwi fruit squished on the platform.  My flip flops were not designed to withstand such obstacles as discarded snacks and so I slipped and fell in between the train and the platform and onto the tracks.  One flip flop lay on the tracks as I clung from the metal step with the train about to depart.  I was later told that if I was slightly taller ( a heightest comment, I feel) or perhaps fatter then it wouldn’t have happened but regrets at not eating enough doughnuts in my life were far from my mind as I hung amid the diesel fumes.

The doors made that familiar shriek at their imminent closing as a large pair of hands appeared from above and scooped me into the carriage just as the train set off. In a state of shock I stood (as I couldn’t sit because my coccyx was no longer where it should be,) face to face with a bloke in a suit who was asking if I was ok.  Was I? Well I had a weird kiwi smelling stain on the back of my skirt, one flip flop on, I kept trying to sit to appear normal and rebounding back up from the pain and I was trying not to cry.  I looked like a refugee from a night out in Faliraki that you often see stumbling about on late night holiday-rep programmes.

But of course I tried to appear fine.  Joking about it and answering any questions I was asked about myself just like a normal conversation aboard a train.  I hobbled off at my station assuring this charming Aussie that I was fine and would get a cab home and promptly burst into hysterical tears and phoned my mum.

Days later, when I was slowly regaining my dignity, I had a phone call from my editor at a magazine I write for.  An Australian business man had contacted him after “Googling” my name to check if I was alright.  I was a single girl at the time and so my mind raced with rom-com storylines and delight at a wonderful way to meet a literal Prince Charming.  I can’t lie – I did imagine his wedding speech starting with the story of how we met and us all laughing nostalgically at the romantic tale!

But I came back down to earth with a bump not too dissimilar to landing beneath a train.  His emails insinuated he was married but was still happy to meet me, (in other words - a dodgy McIdiot philanderer,) why do all Prince Charmings end up that way?  So I stopped emailing him and began emailing the South West Trains complaints department instead– a much better use of my time!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tonight I'm gonna party like its 1999!

Kids’ parties have always been big business and often the highlight of a child’s birthday.  Who doesn’t remember a clown coming to your local village hall or Dave’s Disco setting up his flashing light stand as you hit your teens?  I must recall a magician who came to a few of my parties who I mostly recall for writing my name in toast (magical and tasty) but mainly for every time we passed the local Estate Agents my Mum pointed to a portly man in a suit and said “Look there’s your magician!”  It took me a long time to put 2 and 2 together and I can’t help but wonder if his magic powers spread over to showing people around properties – “So now let’s head upstairs to the en-suite Whooooooosh!”

It was simple fun when I was young – a bit of entertainment and then a sugar overload as our Mums brought out tray upon tray of homemade sandwiches, walkers crisps in a bowl plus the obligatory party rings/pink wafers and choice of coke or lemonade.

As part of the teaching side of my ever changing and unsettling career I have had to touch on the children’s party for some extra pocket money (that country cottage won’t buy itself)  And 25 years down the line and a few postcodes nearer to central London, wow things are a wee bit different.

 These kids won’t get out of bed for less than the best part of £500!  Children who are barely able to stand let alone recall anything yet are having state of the art entertainment and birthday cakes.  I am talking the price of wedding cakes in the shapes of tractors, Never Never Land, jungle (a whole one) or trendy figures.  I have to relay a conversation I had with a cake maker yesterday about a slight incident because I haven’t stopped laughing about it....

He received a text “Spiderman has lost an arm”

Very concerned he replied “How? What has happened?”

Beep! “I came down and he has lost a hand and is on his knees”

Now any of us would be worried sick by this conversation, has this poor person been attacked?  A victim of war?  Will he ever get up from his knees?  Quick call Batman to help, he’ll know what to do!

This was a cake for a 3 year old.  The stress surrounding turning up at this child’s house in a spiderman theme was ridiculous, the blame about the unknown cake injuries was bandied around, would the mother go nuts because it was less than perfect ?  or less good than 3 year old Tabitha’s party had been last week?  Because if I am honest, in my experience these parties are all about the parents.

I have been singing about the ocean  with a Nemo toy in Berkley Square to a one year old who obliviously rolled about as a gaggle of adults enjoyed champagne and birthday cakes from Patisserie Valerie.  I have never seen a party ring or indeed refined carbohydrates at one of these events– it is all hummus, cucumber sticks, nuts and organic fruit juice.  Cucumber sticks do not say let your hair down it’s your birthday - to me!

Of course I understand about healthy living and heading off child obesity from a young age but surely at a party a small chocolate finger could slip through the net?  And maybe we could save all the money and stress to later on for bowling parties or sleepovers or indeed sweet 16s at a time when they will remember and appreciate the good time?

What do I know?  I have no little ones myself and so perhaps do not appreciate the need to spoil them in the nicest possible way and I’m not trying to talk myself out of a job.  But spare a thought for next time I am dressed as a tiger and handing out Waitrose canap├ęs to toddlers, because you’ve gotta take a step back and either take a good hard look at society or p*ss yourself laughing!!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Fussy Eaters R Us!

The family Gibb and all our additions are rarely an easy family to please when dining out.  A waiter or waitress bounds up eager to please but by the coffees you can be fairly sure there are creating voodoo dolls out of bread in the kitchen and impaling us with cocktail sticks!

 I feel inspired to share this after a particularly normal meal out with the family last night.  September is a busy month for family gatherings as we have birthdays and anniversaries coming out of our ears and so I feel I should offer a warning out to the restaurants of Surrey and South West London.

For my Grandad’s birthday the family Gibb descended on a local foodie pub in a posh bit of Surrey.  After sending the poor waiter away five times before ordering as we waited for my Dad to arrive from work, caught up and opened birthday cards and gifts, we finally sat upright clutching our menus ready to dictate our order.  What followed was a little like this...

Mum- I’ll have the lamb please, but no butter on the potatoes..(he scribbles) 

Uncle – The Steak please ( so far so normal)

Grandad- The Liver please but well done (waiter – ok) I mean like shoe leather! But with no spinach, I don’t like spinach

Dad – I’ll have the Liver too as it comes with the spinach

Me –  Can I have the sea bass please, but without the Risotto?  ( confused waiter face as it is basically a risotto dish) I just don’t like it, could I maybe have it on a bed of spinach?

Waiter – Ummm we don’t have any spinach

Me – Oh ok maybe broccoli then but with no butter

Dad – Does that mean I won’t have spinach?

Waiter – No yours comes with spinach, we just don’t have enough for side dishes

Grandad – I don’t want spinach

Me –Can’t I have the spinach he doesn’t want? (waiter starts to sweat and heads off to the kitchen scribbling)

Waiter – Um we don’t have any sea bass, the kitchen is busy today

Me – (my plans of a healthy Monday tea scuppered) Ok I’ll have the lamb then but without the potato cake thing just with the broccoli please

Dad – Ooooo broccoli I’ll have a side order of that too please

Waiter – I am afraid we don’t have enough broccoli for a side dish ( Haha I point at Dad I’m getting some!!)  I am sorry but its only my third day.

Aaaaah the poor boy, he’s sweating profusely and I fear that we and a kitchen with not much food are not helping his predicament. Ooo but here he comes again

Waiter (to Mum) Are you allergic to butter?  It is just that the potatoes are prepared with it?

Mum- Oh no that’s fine

Now this makes me laugh because I, too, have this Irish logic about my taste buds.  I order everything without butter, stressing that no butter may grace my broccoli or even be within breathing distance because I will know and it makes me cry but then when asked if I am allergic as the lovely tomato sauce I also want has some in, I say “aaah thats ok!” There is no logic - I am just a fussy pain in the bum.

We waited an hour and as our tummys began to rumble we questioned poor sweaty waiter about the whereabouts of our butterless and well done food?  It is being plated up was the reply.  But another 30 minutes passed and my Dad began to gnaw the napkin so we asked again to which sweaty waiter admitted the kitchen had overlooked our order and would we like some free bread?  Free bread!  I wanted sea bass with extra spinach but free bread would have to do!

Our meals eventually arrived just as the ten o clock news was probably starting on telly but I must admit it was lovely.  Poor sweaty waiter boy had probably unintentionally dripped something extra to the lamb marinade as he raced to serve, twanged a few wine glasses on the way and tried to get my Dad and Grandad to order two portions of the sharer pudding but when you have a full belly nothing really matters!

It is always fun to watch new boyfriends experience a Gibb family food order for the first time or watch my sis’s long suffering and normal eating husband roll his eyes in embarrassment as we each rail off variations of the following “Ummmm can I have the chicken but without sauce?  Is there cheese in that? The steak- well done please, but really well done, can you make sure it’s well done? Extra Veg no butter? Yes I’ll have the same but no butter.  And no butter for me either!”

But I must stress that although we are annoying we are never nasty.  We championed sweaty waiter boy to his manager for trying and on other occasions we are always keen to banter.  Indeed, my Grandad loves to ask about the heritage of an obviously non native waitress and then tell them about a hotel he has stayed at in their country!

Watch out – it is my Dad’s birthday on Sunday and we may be coming to an eatery near you! 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The one where I become a Yogi and rant a bit!

A busy few weeks have preceeded this edition from me my blogging friends so sorry for the gap in news (as an old drama teacher would say " You could have driven 2 buses through that pause!)

I have managed to secure a freelancing writing job where I get paid, yes paid!  Someone is going to part with cash for my thoughts and words and I couldn't have been happier if I was fronting the national news - it is a small and minimally paid step but a step in the right direction.  So I have been researching articles and interviewing potential targets (sorry subjects - I hereby swear to not become one of those hiding in bushes, celeb chasing, phone hacking journalists who misplace their morals on the journey towards getting in print.)  I spoke with a Red Arrow pilot which was very exciting and gave me an excuse to hum the Top Gun theme tune for about a week.  I have also been inspired to get off my bum and hunt for other stories and leads and so have managed to create a long to-do list of articles and pitches - I feel very motivated!

One of my future articles is about Hot Yoga and so I have been partaking in some classes.  This is another reason why these blogs have been few and far between because as any Bikram or Hot Yoga fanatics know your first few classes back leave you utterly exhausted and unable to do anything except sleep!  A Hot Yoga class consists of 90 minutes of yoga in a room at over 40 degrees with 40-60% humidity, its like bending and stretching and trying to put your legs in unnatural positions in a sauna.  You sweat in places you never imagined could sweat, your eyes are constantly stinging as sweat pours into them and at times you feel close to passing out!  I am really selling this aren't I?!!

 A week in and I am finally feeling the benefits -  stretchier legs, more energy and a complete lack of desire to eat or drink anything bad!  Which is more than can be said for my boyfriend who I convinced to come with me since yesterday and is currently comatosed through heat exhaustion as I type hahaha!

A benefit of yoga is an awareness, focus and mindfulness in your everyday life so perhaps this has helped drive me recently.  It also promotes a sense of peace and an awareness of your place in the world something I think could be spread around the country at the moment.  I know I try to make this blog as amusing as possible but I feel the need to comment on the riots this week.  I have friends performing in shows around the country and in London who are facing fear and danger on their journeys home because of some mindless yobs who feel it is their right to obliterate family businesses, homes and buildings to get trainers, phones and just cause chaos.  They say they are trying to get back at the rich people who have things and disrespect them when they have nothing - well all I can say is that these people have things because they have got off their backsides and worked hard, it is a simple equation: you get a job and work to be able to achieve and afford things, you shouldn't expect to be handed anything on a plate or smash up shop windows to steal them.  It is a horrendous and terrifying glimpse of society.

A good example of my musings as I meander away from my topic - sorry! 

So I have also been auditioning for Oliver! where I scared the audition panel as I practically lay on the piano with cockney aplomb and for a new musical called The Fifth Beatle where my Liverpudlian accent went via Yorkshire and Dublin a few times as I attempted to become John Lennon's famous Aunt Mimi - so don't hold your breath for a positive outcome on them!  But you have to love a tryer!


All in all a typical few weeks for me, I am off to eat veg for tea as all good Yogis do (a do-er of Yoga not a fan of Yogi Bear) and batten down the hatches for another night of who knows what.  Keep safe please x

Monday, 4 July 2011

Instant Karma's Gonna Get you!

John Lennon was noted for his thought provoking and moralistic lyrics..."Imagine there's no heaven...", "All you need is love....", "I am a walrus goo goo g'choo" (well most of the time!)  But I rarely saw him as a Prophet of Truth until I was struck down myself with Instant Karma last week.

There I was happily blogging away making witty remarks about needing a flu jab after being crawled, puked and sneezed over by the babies I teach on Monday when God/Buddha (delete as personally appropriate) decided I was getting too big for my size 4's and to smite me with a lightning bolt of karma.  For I awoke on Tuesday with an evil looking rash on my left elbow.
As a veteran eczema victim I sighed "poor me" at my seemingly latest physical reaction to stress and slathered on my steroid cream before heading off to work.  By lunch time I was boiling and bubbling - I wish I could say I was making something delicious over a hot stove but instead it was elbow growing another head.  Never one to trust my own judgement, I asked two pharmacists their opinion and they confirmed it was eczema.  Hmmmmmm...

But when 12 angry yellow blisters had taken residence on my elbow by Thursday I realised it was more serious.  Surprise, surprise my doctor's surgery had no available appointments (take note David Cameron) and so the elephant woman dragged her mouldy arm to my local walk-in centre.  A 2 hour wait with various broken arms and funny tummies saw me leaving with a presciption for antibiotics and a diagnosis of Impetigo.  Urrrgh Impetigo!  I had caught it once from a camel years ago (that's another tale) but it is mainly prevalent and highly contagious among the under 5's - so those little tykes literally did infect me!

The antibiotics made me sick and I felt like a leper.  A second opinion from my own doctor said it was actually cold sores.  Cold sores???? Hardly a nicer diagnosis, herpes on my arm!  No one had been snogging my elbow and I don't think either my radius or ulna bones were feeling run down so I was at a loss as to where I had contracted this from! 

So as I rub Zovirax into my elbow I mull over this lesson.  I have been smiling at grannys and not spitting out any chewing gum in case it should ruin somebody's carpet or designer pump but will this induce good karma if I am doing this with the intent of protecting myself?  But I am afraid I cannot promise to be gracious about the little angels I teach though - one of them did fill a nappy today as I sang about a badger - so bring it on God! I have still got those antibiotics......!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Busy doing nothing.....

My name is Daniella and I am a failed bloggaholic.  Phew, now it is out in the open!  I wanted to be writing on here regularly but I seem to have stumbled at the first post by being busy and suddenly two weeks have gone past.

I have been busy doing nothing really, teaching, writing new articles with the odd pantomime audition thrown into the mix.  I didn't think my boring everyday-ness would interest anybody - but isn't that the whole point of a blog.....to tell people all the inane details of your life?

I'm going to get the auditions out of the way first; if I have to sing one more sweet yet strong with a hint of Disney song in a floral frock I may cry.  I am not belittling pantomime at all, it is a fabulous job to do.  You work your socks off with generally lovely people knowing that you are delighting children and maybe giving them their first experience of live theatre.  This is great at Christmas time but it is June!  Actors cannot plan for next week let alone six months away.  What if Trevor Nunn calls and offers me Ophelia in his next production of Hamlet?  I'd have to say "Sorry Trev but I am committed to playing Princess Fiesty McPretty in Rhyl so not this time but please keep my CV on file!"

I suppose I am just stroppy because it reminds me how quickly this year is going and how these are the only auditions coming my way at the moment but hey I won't moan I shall dwell on that little chestnut in my own darkened room of angst!

I have come to believe that a major part of maintaining an acting career is to be good at being OUT of work.  Keeping yourself busy, positive and in the healthy half of your bank account.  I nearly always still fail at this but I can still believe it!  After trying numerous bar, waitressing and temp jobs I, like many of the acting sort, have fallen into teaching.  Teaching music and acting to all ages from babies to teens.  I get to use some of the skills I trained in but it is hard trying to drag myself out of bed some  mornings.  Without wanting to be controversial - I can why some children's TV presenters have needed a stimulant or two, it is jolly hard maintaining that bouncy energy and beaming smile for 8 hours a day, it makes the Mamma Mia megamix seem like a walk in the park!

I do enjoy it although I have yet to become an accomplished inspirer of children.  I must admit to the odd occasion of staring blankly out of the window whilst shaking my tambourine to Suzy Snowflake for the 8th time or to yelling in desperation to a group of hyper 2 year olds "I refuse to shout because I have to sing tonight!"  Which resulted in a delightful email to my boss from a disgruntled parent "...I don't care what she does in her spare time.." Um spare time?  I was in Les Mis at the time. yes I know I probably shouldn't have expected toddlers to care about nodules but I'd like her to tell Sir Cameron that his biggest hit is a mere hobby!

The worst problem with teaching is trying to remember everyone's name.  I sing a hello song to every baby and toddler in my music class and there has been many a time when I look at another cute blonde girl and my mind goes............sorry indignant Mummy from Marylebone but I teach 50 other little darlings who look just like your Kara, sorry Karla, no, Kylie AAAAARGH!  And as for the twin boys I teach, well I am hopeless.  Although yesterday, lets call him M had sick down his t-shirt and T (aren't I diplomatic?!) had a cold so it made my margins for error slightly smaller.  As I knelt holding an animatronic Wolf with T listening intently by my shoulder I suddenly heard Atchooooooo!  and splat, I was soaked in snot.  Oh god I didn't dare inhale, doesn't he know I have a We Will Rock You audition in 7 days???  Fighting every urge of my being not to throw him against the nearest wall and quickly anti-bacterial wipe my arm I had to turn to his soggy, crusty face and smile "Aaaaw whoopsie! Bless you!" as his Mummy smiled on.  I am getting a flu jab ASAP!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

The One where Daniella was a Spy! *

I can't enthuse enough about my last few days working at the newspaper, I have a spring in my step and I don't think its purely down to the relief of getting up after 8 hours in front of a computer. 

Yesterday I must have written over 8 articles of varying lengths for various papers and even though my fingers barely stopped typing, I loved it!  This company owns so many titles that the to do lists are endless.  I covered music gigs, theatre, summer opera and concerts and today I wrote about nuclear weapons and interviewed the most chatty musician EVER!

Now I love passion in a person, in fact I think life isn't worth living without it.  Whether its for world causes, your art or even my wonderful brother-in-law and his boilers but I feel passion is vital.  However, this belief was slightly shaken 20 minutes in to my phone interview with this musician (who shall of course remain nameless) when all I had asked was one question and then proceeded to go "mmmmmmm" at regular intervals.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that I was only assigned 150 words for his story so on and on he went!

But the best part of today was my afternoon task of becoming a " spy".  I wish I could say I was uncovering some great scam or busting a drugs ring but I would of course have to kill you and in all honesty it's slightly less highbrow.  On the websites for these papers there is a  highly successful section called the pub spy, where journalists visit local pubs and deliver their verdicts in an honest yet witty way.  So it was my job to hit Surbiton today armed with a £5 budget and notepad and a surprising desire for a glass of wine at 4pm.

Unfortunately before I was given this mission, I had made the healthy and sunny decision this morning of cycling to the office so I sauntered into my unsuspecting public house adorned in lycra complete with helmet and wicker basket.  I kid you not.....I couldn't have stood out more if I wore dark glasses, black moustache and watched behind two peep holes in a newspaper!  But hey I've heard you can carry anything off with confidence so in I strode!

I sat writing notes on atmosphere, decor, clientele, music and booze whilst nonchalantly sipping my drink and had a great chat with Frank the friendly barman who was unaware of my undercover status!  What a brilliant way to end your working day.

I am literally buzzing from these days at the newspaper (not from the glass of wine I grant you!)  If you remember a couple of posts ago I said as soon as I stepped on stage all thoughts of writing left my head and heart but now as I write every day and feel myself getting more confident all thoughts of characters and jazz hands have vanished.  I am fickle soul!

So I'm off to apply for more full time journalism jobs in the hope that this could become my reality in the future and if not I shall I have to settle for being a lycra clad spy, watch out 007!

* apologies if I have offended any copyright rules regarding stealing titles from Friends episodes!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

From Drury Lane to The Daily Planet!

I had a few stressful hours this morning trying to decide what to wear.  Now I know this may seem a trivial and slightly self obsessed female drama especially when compared to the Libyan conflict or Man United losing to Barcelona at the weekend but as they say......it's all relative.
You see I needed to wear an outfit that would encompass the 2 persona's I had to inhabit today - the actress had an early morning singing audition for Oliver! and the journalist had her first day doing work experience at The Richmond and Twickenham Times which meant I needed to look part Dickensian wench and part Lois Lane.  So....long skirt with bustle combined with a tailored jacket and dark rimmed glasses or trench coat with a wenchy corset underneath????  Not an easy combo, so I decided to put on what I wore yesterday and spent the time more wisely eating breakfast.

The audition was a quick "in, out shake it all about" 3 minute songfest which left me plenty of time to feel nervous before entering the NewsQuest offices in Sutton where The Richmond and Twickenham Times, The Surrey Comet and other local Guardian papers are compiled.

I had that first day of school feeling as I clutched my electronic entry guest pass and got introduced to all the editorial writers in the large open plan office who were working hard to get to the 5pm deadline for all of the weekly tomes.  But I quickly got settled at a computer and started to work my way through a to do list.
We are on the tenth floor with a birds eye view of South London and Surrey and in the afternoon sun even Croydon looked quite lovely!  If I squinted I could pretend I was Carrie Bradshaw in her Vogue office looking out onto New York's skyline!
But enough daydreaming (I am ridiculously girly today, sorry) I also had deadlines, interviews and copy to do.

I researched some preview articles for upcoming music and theatre gigs in the area, it's fun to have all the information and try to fit it into the word limit.  I mean could you surmise all the wonder of Roary the red race car and his live show coming to Wimbledon in 50 words?  I also did a telephone interview with a classical guitarist called Richard Durrant who is bringing his new solo show to The Rose Theatre Kingston, whose passion for his craft was infectious and made it easy to create 400 words of copy about his new album and tour.

I did enjoy focusing on writing today although I received an email half way through the afternoon about a panto audition next week which awoke my actress brain for a few seconds.  But I must say I found it pretty hard sitting in front of a computer screen all day, my head feels all scrunchy and tired and had to resist the urge to stretch my leg above the computer desk a few times as I'm not used to being cooped up!  I am sure I will get used to it and if not the beautiful evening cycle ride I have just taken around Bushey Park with the deers seems the right antidote to a day of sitting.

So tomorrow I'm back on the commuter trains to get to my desk by 9am and chase up some more interviews and press releases dressed purely as "Lois Lane" Daniella, hmmmmm where can I find a trench coat by then.........

Thursday, 26 May 2011

But a fringe is soooo this season!

Theatre always has and always will take many different forms; this is what makes it so exciting and constantly relevant.  I have really only worked in a small area, musical theatre, but during the past 12 months I have been branching out into The Fringe.  Not the fringe as in an adornment to my forehead (although I tried one 2 winters ago and discovered a new way to make my face look fat!) but The Fringe as in the off west end theatre that is found all over London outside of the WC1 postcode.  New York's version (or bangs....OK enough poor hair metaphors) is Off Broadway.
It has been thought of as a training ground for actors and a place to launch a career as repertory theatre once was .  The Fringe is a place for new and experimental pieces of theatre that wouldn't necessarily fill a 1,000 seat theatre.
The Fringe is exciting and has definitely become more commercially acknowledged in recent years where we have seen a number of established actors rushing to be involved.  More fringe productions are being transferred to larger venues such as the wonderful string of all male productions and those from The Menier Chocolate Factory.  You see bonafide West End actors in fringe venues such as The Finborough, The King's Head and The Landor all working for nothing as a way of satisfying their creativity and artistic natures.  Indeed, Gemma Arterton was at The Almeida a few months ago.  It is a chance to challenge yourself as an actor and have a degree of creative input instead of being a cog in the wheel of the 12th cast change of such and such a musical.  It is also an opportunity to play a role that realistically, in today's climate, we would be the understudy to the celeb or bottoms on seat bait reality TV winner.  But I won't go on a rant about that because we've all heard it before and I genuinely want to praise this new and exciting fringe world that I have been discovering.
I have found that fringe productions have brought the passion back out in me for theatre.  You have really got to want to do it as you are not being paid and therefore working not to support yourself but to support your habit!
I did a production of Me and Juliet last year at The Finborough Theatre, in fact it was the European premiere as no one had dared to stage this Rogers and Hammerstein flop since it closed on Broadway in the 1950s.  But director, Thom Sutherland did.  He has an unbridled love and passion for musical theatre and displays this in his revivals of classics such as State Fair, Carousel and recently a revue we did called Hello Jerry! which was a salute to the music of Jerry Herman.  He directs them simply but with the care and attention that is fuelled by passion and that is why these productions never fail to strike a chord among fringe audiences.  His knowledge of musical theatre is astounding ( believe me you would want him on your quiz team) and his efforts have been recognised by the Off West End awards where he was named Best Director. The fact that there are award ceremonies for The Fringe shows how important it is becoming.
It is the people I have met in fringe productions that have made it such a wonderful adventure for me.  In venues where dressing rooms are converted cupboards, toilet paper is scarce and rehearsal time varies between limited and non existent to fit in with actor's day jobs it is a wonder that tempers do not get frayed.  In fact I have rarely worked with such lovely and above all supremely talented people that make all those things so tolerable.  Maybe it is the passion required and the desire to rediscover the roots of our love for theatre that attracts like minded people, I don't know but it sure is a good laugh especially when you get to pop downstairs for a pint afterwards, yet another benefit to the theatre pub fringe venue!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Auditioning.......

I am just back from my first round audition this morning for Legally Blonde in the West End.  It seems to be getting harder and harder to even get auditions for projects these days so I am lucky to be seen although I had to remind myself of this fact as I sat surrounded by the other energetic auditionees in the waiting room. All wearing varying degrees of pink, still at drama school and ten years my junior , I felt decidedly old and wrong for the job in their presence.  Although compared to last week when I auditioned for the role of an 18 year old in Bill Kenwright's Dreamboats and Petticoats with real 18 year olds, I felt positively sprightly......always got to look for the silver lining!


Auditions are an essential part of being an actor. But my God......they aren’t half terrifying! It’s all consuming from the moment you get phoned until it is over. You eat, sleep and breathe “11.30 next Wednesday, take your tap shoes” and normal life goes out of the window. I yearn for the day that I get used to it or just receive a call offering me work without having to going through the rigmarole.

But until that day comes (I predict it’ll be about the same time as hell freezing over,) I, and fellow actors, will continue to put ourselves through them in the hope of securing our next job.

In my experience, Musical Theatre casting process usually goes something like this: -

Preliminary rounds with singing slots with your own material or a dance call en masse. If you’re successful, a “recall” follows. This includes more dance or script from the show and then numerous recalls ensue before a “final” audition or workshop. Sometimes you’re seen 9 times, sometimes only twice. And this process will differ as you have varied castings for television, plays or adverts.


Now, in the case of Legally Blonde I know that the dance audition consists of a hideous skipping call.  Yes...skipping, with a rope! Not in the fun and relaxed playground way but in an aerobic boxing training type way which last time had me near cardiac arrest by bar 8 of the music!  So as much as I hope today went well I am slightly dreading the potential next stage.


My approach to auditions has drastically changed . The nerves will never go; they fill you with adrenalin but you can’t let them take over. My nerves can make my body shake so much that I generate more vibrato in my voice than is natural but I take deep breaths, knowing that in 5 minutes I’ll be in Starbucks buying my “well done me for going” cookie!  Which is exactly what I was doing about an hour ago, getting my chocolate chunk shortbread at Waterloo station....phew all done for the day!

For more anecdotes about my auditioning past check out my article from The Drama Student Magazine on one of my pages.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Actress, Writer and now Blogger!!!

The idea of turning 30 later this year has turned me into that cliched woman who begins to question things!  Having spent 10 funfilled and crazy years acting I am beginning to crave that elusive "secure" life that I have occasionally witnessed in my friends who managed to become doctors and lawyers during the years in which I was dancing to ABBA and dying on a barricade nightly.  So instead of retraining as someone who can do things with computers which might bring me this security I became a freelance feature writer which I now understand is as uncertain and unsure as acting!  It seems I am destined to follow what I love and never get a step on the property ladder.
But now my loyalties are torn.  Whilst applying daily for writing jobs and dreaming of sitting at a news desk I am still getting called in for auditions for jobs which if I am honest dont't really appeal to me in the same way as they used to. For example,  I am meant to be finding two uptempo pop songs right now for an audition tomorrow but the fact that I am blogging away instead says it all.  But get me up on the stage, as I am currently doing nightly in Hello Jerry! at The Landor Theatre, London and I come alive and all thoughts of headlines and newsflashes are overtaken by tap shoes and jazz hands!
So am I clearly having that 30 year old woman meltdown I read about in magazines, or developing two personalities or have I learnt to love two careers and maybe just maybe I can work out a way of working them alongside one another?