Archives for the month of: October, 2013

Last night I had my first night back in the theatre after a two week(ish) hiatus. Apart from when I was away doing West Side Story,* those two weeks were the longest I’ve been without theatre in a long time. I had been starved of my usual fix and, I think, because of this Wednesday’s viewing of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Royal Opera House was all the more incredible (although any trip to the ROH is always inspiring). This has led me to think, in my pensive ways, if it’s possible to overdose on theatre. Do I go too much? Has the enjoyment of each visit been reduced because it has just become ‘the norm’? Will I be better off to go less frequently? I know that my bank balance, lack of sleep and social calendar would be relieved if I did. Somehow I can’t seem to agree.

*Even then I snuck to London one evening to see ‘The Ladykillers’. I just can’t help myself.

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A recent Facebook status in which…well…you get the drift. A normal three week timetable in the life of me.

Last week I substituted a theatre trip for a visit to the cinema. Granted, it was to go and see the Digital Theatre screening of ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ – I still count that as an alternative – but it didn’t hit the T (theatre) spot. Now, I could write an essay on the pros and cons of filmed plays/musicals but no one wants to read that and it simply boils down to the conclusion that what you see on film doesn’t do justice to the live version. I’d trade 10 (if not 100 – whilst I’m being dramatic) cinema viewings of Merrily for the one experience I had when I saw it at the Menier Chocolate Factory. You may also remember that I spoke in a previous blog about the fact that I love theatre because it is transient and I just think capturing it on a camera kills that. I think transience is what makes theatre addictive. It is only a passing moment between the audience and the actor and then it is gone – if you miss it then you miss out. If you don’t go to the theatre constantly then you are constantly missing out. Am I right or am I right!?

Whoa there, crazy Ridout. With that argument you could also say that unless you see every show playing in town every night then you are missing out on each brilliant, transient, performance. We all know that that is impossible so maybe I should just give myself a break and be selective. I (and you) should be able to see something just because I want to see it, not through fear of missing something. 

Okay, so if I’m being selective (which I think I am already) should I cut down on the amount I see? The danger with seeing so much theatre is that the level that I now see as ‘good’ theatre is actually, by most people’s standards, pretty bloody impressive. I have seen some incredible pieces this year: Othello at the National, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime at the Apollo, The Color Purple at the Menier, Merrily We Roll Along at the Menier, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe, Liza Minnelli at the Royal Festival Hall, Patti LuPone at the Leicester Square Theatre…to name but a few. It’s safe to say I have been well and truly spoilt. Amongst these beacons of theatrical hope I have also seen drama school productions, fringe, regional and even home grown amateur group theatre. When the long list above becomes my normal theatrical viewing then how can I sit back and enjoy all theatre in the same way? The answer is: I can’t. I don’t know how critics do it. I find it very hard to sit back and weigh up the circumstances of what I am watching (eg. how big the budget is, how long they rehearsed, are they being paid?) and view it for what it is. I just have a huge comparison chart whereby so much fantastic theatre ends up in the ‘I enjoyed it’ pile when really it deserves so much more than that. So I shouldn’t go as often? Simple. However, if I didn’t go as often as I do I would have missed some of those ‘theatrical beacons’ and, indeed, some of the incredible pieces I have seen off the beaten theatrical track this year.

It would seem that I do have a problem. I would like to stress though that there is one specific kind of theatre addict that I am not. That is the ‘serial show see-er’. Sure, I’ve seen a few shows a couple of times but never* the same cast twice and never an amount of times that would shock you (I have some friends that have seen shows enough times that make even my jaw drop upon hearing the number). I guess my transience argument could come back and bite me here by saying that no two performances will be the same so what is the harm in going for multiple visits? I think the harm comes when you can no longer distinguish one specific performance from the next. If you saw Rachel Tucker in Wicked 6 times but couldn’t tell me which time she did what riff in Defying Gravity (hats off to you if you can) then you’ve lost a bit of the magic. Your memories of the experience become generic and that is when I think you’ve overdosed on theatre. I may have seen a lot, but if you ask me I could tell you something specific that I remember from each production – no matter how low-key.

*well, seriously, very few.

So do I overdose on theatre? It is true that I am harder to please because I see so much but that just goes to show that I am seeing a lot of high quality productions. That is surely a great big “Yay!” for the industry. Keep going Rids, keep going! Oh well, if I must. It would appear that there is no solution to this vicious circle whereby I spend all my time in red velvet seats. I guess I’ll have to try and make my theatre trips feel more special by treating myself to the odd ice cream or G&T. On that note, I’m off to the Arts Educational School to see their production of Stiles and Drewe’s ‘Soho Cinders’ – maybe I’ll get myself a gin!

Happy frequent theatre visits!

“Come on guys enough hesitating, can’t you see your carriage is waiting…” – a bit of Soho Cinders there. “You shall go to the ball Cinderella” has been substituted in my mind for “You shall sit in the stalls please Rebecca”…I like it.

– Rebecca Ridout

Yet again, please don’t be misled by the title of this week’s blog post. It is not going to be a gushing post about how much I love dancing (or ‘Wicked’), it was merely inspired by it. I do hope that by the end of the post you’ll agree with me that it was an inspired choice of lyric (thank you Schwartz). Just a short one this week…

On Monday I went to a class at The Place as it was being taught by Drew McOnie. 

ASIDE: I have to do a bit more than the usual ‘*’ here because it has been an exciting week for Mr McOnie and I think you should all know about it. He has launched ‘The McOnie Company’ and you should definitely keep an eye on it/them (aka FOLLOW or LIKE). As ‘The Stage’ reported, they are exploring “just how far musical theatre choreography can go” and Mambo McOnie is definitely one to watch. I’ll be at the Bridewell in February. See you there. 

Back to class…

This week’s post is not to profess about how important it is to go to class or how much I love dancing – both of which are very true. It is about an idea that Drew put into my head on Monday evening. It struck me then as brilliant and has since struck me as rather profound (whilst staring out of a train window at the pouring rain – I swear my life is one big cliché at the moment). Drew, in all his wisdom, spoke about how dancing these days is just seen as photographs – the images you see on the front of the ‘Dancing Times’ or on advertisements. When you think of dance you conjure images of incredible still moments (eg. the classic ’tilt’ that makes your hamstrings want to cry) and that, quite simply, isn’t dance. Dance is the beautiful way in which you get between one image and the next – that is dance. You don’t have to be the penché pro you imagine, you just have to give it some on the ‘in between’, to dance beautifully. Snap back to class and I then tried to ooze every last ounce of passion out of a pas de bourrée. Man, did it feel good. 

Two days later it struck me that Drew’s idea could be applied to my life (or, indeed, anyone’s). Your life can be measured in a series of still images and in this profession, more specifically, production stills! Your career to the outside world is seen and can be measured through a picture of you in a production and the next one that follows, and the next etc etc… (“Etcetera. Etcetera. That’s a very pretty name…Etcetera” Sorry. I couldn’t resist.) Getting a job is all that is focused upon and it’s all we feel we have to show for ourselves. No one gets to see the beautiful way that you got (or are still trying to get) between the two. Ultimately, the ‘in between’ stage in this industry is how you will spend the majority of your working life and you have nothing to show for the hard work that goes on. Sometimes, like a pas de bourrée or a combination of dance steps, the ‘in between’ can be messy but if you give it everything you have then it should be incredible to watch. Passion is what separates good dancing from great dancing – so why not apply it to every aspect of our day-to-day lives? 

Blimey, she’s gone a bit deep this week. What can I say? I think it’s the change in the weather. All I want to do is sit inside, wrap up in a blanket and pensively watch the rain. It’s just a little food for thought. Even if you’ve got a load of auditions, no auditions, drama school applications, classes on top of coursework or juggled commitments, and consequently straying priorities, do not worry. Just use your plié and get everything possible out of what you’re currently focusing on – that is dance and that is life. The still images, which are just captured highlights, will be breathtaking as a direct result of what goes on ‘in between’ (much like the shots of The McOnie Company). 

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Dancer: Jaslyn Reader
Photo: Pawel Piotr Niemczyk
Styling: Imogen Loveday-Brown

 

I think Jaslyn (pictured above) wouldn’t mind me saying* that in her downtime she likes to wear tracksuit bottoms with one leg pulled up to the top of her thigh and one down as normal – she also teaches an incredible dance class and makes a mean coffee. What I’m trying to say (at Jaslyn’s expense via the internet) is that she is human and doesn’t fly through the air looking fierce 24/7. Jaslyn gives passion to her ‘in between’ and she was beautiful in whatever she was doing before that photograph was taken and will be beautiful in whatever she does before the next. Give the ‘in between’ your everything and make it something to behold – even if it’s for your eyes only. 

*I hereby give Jaslyn Reader permission to humiliate me on the internet if this is not okay. 

Happy chewing over that!

“And the strange thing: your life could end up changing while you’re dancing through”

– Rebecca Ridout

Okay so maybe there isn’t a silver frame involved but I was struggling to think of a lyric that would lead into a post about headshots. Anybody? No? ‘A My Name is Alice’ will have to do then. I was lost on what to do a post about this week and then headshot day reared its ugly head and somehow the inspiration came. If you are yet to experience headshots please don’t let my fear of them put you off. I imagine that you’re all beautifully photogenic and your personality will jump through the lens. I, however, freeze up between the moments laughing before the shot and the serial-killer-eyed shot itself. I am hoping I am not alone in this inhibiting habit.

I had my first ever headshots taken earlier this year by the incredibly talented photographer Christopher Mann. Prior to the day, and on the day itself, I was terrified at the prospect of having my face being captured in a photograph that will ultimately aid/hinder my career. I took on my teacher’s advice (selection of tops, second day hair, not too much flesh on show, take a pot of Vaseline, beware of too much make up) and took on some so much that I got scared of make up and consequently wore NO MAKE UP. In Musical Theatre, I think this is fairly unheard of and at the time I didn’t know if it was a stroke of genius or a set up to fall. Still, off I went make up free and terrified. The concepts of leaning far forward, chin down, looking up, just a millimetre more to the left etc were so alien to me and I can only imagine that I was a nightmare to work with. Kudos and snaps to Chris for being so generous with me and helping me through it. He was fantastic at making me feel at ease (have a look at the ‘Testimonials’ page on his website – genius). That was the first step done. Then comes the choosing of the photos.

Looking through hundreds of photos of your face will always be a very surreal experience and my biggest advice is to be objective. You’re looking at yourself as a product, not for a nice picture of yourself – if I had gone for vanity I would have picked something very different to my final headshot. I would also advise that you don’t put them all on Facebook for a free for all of all your friends – especially  to avoid people not in the industry. As much as your aunty would love to look at pictures of you and offer her opinion, she will choose the picture that is the ‘prettiest’ or ‘handsomest’ (I had to Google to see if I had made that up) rather than something that resembles an actor’s headshot. If you’re going to put them on Facebook because you want some help I’d advise a private album shared with a few people who you think will know what to look for. Too many opinions are just confusing and at the end of the day it is down to personal choice – one casting director will love your shot and the next may not. If you can make the decision on your own (or with your agent) then do it. If you can picture yourself holding it up in front of your face, donning a leotard, a la Chorus Line then you’re done.

As a hater of photographs of my face, I was very pleased with what Chris had managed to get out of me. In an unexpected, make up free, way I think some of them are beautiful.* They were, however, all very serious. As much as I like to think of myself as a serious person –  albeit, a serious actor – I did need some photos of me smiling (ugh) and showing some personality (HA). So yesterday I had a new headshot session with the, again, very talented Simon Mayhew.

*May I just stress that I am not vain – I am the least vain person I know. I’ve just been reading some feminist books recently (‘Be Awesome’ by Hadley Freeman and ‘How to be a Woman’ by Caitlin Moran) so I’m trying to embrace what I’ve got. Thank you for understanding.

As happened earlier in the year, I felt slightly nauseous heading to the session. I can’t help it, it seems I am terrified of my own face. This became apparent throughout the shoot and Simon did his best to get me to “embrace” and give a “committed smile”. Like Chris, he used things to think of whilst having the photo taken and, like Chris, he was getting the same useless face off me – so much so that he asked if I actually enjoyed acting. I tried to explain that I do, of course, love acting and that normally I’d be fine pretending to be a naughty housewife in a supermarket who’s hiding a cheeky secret. I love the theatre because it is transient so in that moment I can be a Disney Princess if needs be, or my “go to” Mary Poppins, but knowing that a photograph will last forever puts a barrier on that. Anyone with me? Anyway we soldiered on and Simon seemed to think he had got some good shots.*

*I have now seen my contact sheet after writing this blog post and I can safely say that Simon is fantastic and that he did get some great** shots of me at, arguably, my most vulnerable (smiling).

** See previous explanation that I am not vain!

I think I can pinpoint the moment where I softened up yesterday happening when I started singing a song in my head as the photographs were taken. I also (think) I gave my best “committed smile” when I thought of a patronus moment and felt some butterflies (of the positive kind) in my tummy. So if, in my terrified of photos state, I had any advice to offer on how to get through the session those would be my gems (if you can call them gems). I wonder if those moments will be spottable in the final collection of photographs – I look forward to seeing them. I’m sure if you follow me on twitter you will also see them at some point.

I hope that some people who read this share my fear of headshots or at least understand my pain! If you haven’t had your headshots taken yet then I hope there are some things you can take from my experiences or at least some ‘how not to’ advice. If you’re one of the many who are actually secret pros at having your photo taken and are confident with your headshot then please please let me in on your secret ways! I do not want to live out my days practicing my “I really need this job” eyes so that they’re welcoming rather than threatening. Just think of the poor photographers that have to deal with my terrifying eyes until I learn that lesson! Help the photographers, headshot pros, help them. Also, next time you see me I want you to strike your best ‘hire me’ headshot face as a greeting. This would please me greatly. Happy headshot practicing!

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This clearly isn’t the look I, or any of you, should go for.

“Look at that face – Just look at it. Look at that funny old face of yours.”

– Rebecca Ridout

This week’s blog has a soundtrack to go with it. Listen to THIS whilst reading.

When your alarm goes off at 6 in the morning all you want to do is ignore the world and return to your dream of Olivier (or Tony if you’re one of my few American readers – I know, cool right) nominated performances. This is heightened to its extreme on a Sunday morning and on Sunday 29th that was my alarm – it seems there is no rest or mourning for the wicked. I had to get up at 6am because I had a singing audition at 9am. Needs must though so I rolled out of bed and started sirening. Outside of the house the ‘It’s Sunday morning!’ confusion continued as I walked through Peckham in a red dress and hair primed at the slightly less ungodly (ungodly even, if not especially, on a Sunday) hour of 7am. It took some self restraint to not sing ‘Mysterious Ways’ from the Color Purple to everyone who gave me a funny look but with the joyful lyrics swimming round my head my lethargic body got a Sunday spring in its step. 

Obviously, I overestimated the time it would take to get to the audition venue via public transport (but you never can trust tfl) so I went to kill some time in the safe haven of Starbucks. As I sat down with my coffee I noticed the song that was playing had the repetitive lyrics “Ain’t nobody that can sing like me”. This seemed all too coincidental in perfect timing to hear just before a singing audition so I’ve since found the song and I think it may become my new pre-audition ‘go get em’ anthem. It certainly made me laugh, overdressed, in a Starbucks at 8am, on a Sunday.

LISTEN HERE (after Sunday, obviously. Don’t cut off Sondheim) 

Audition done, Sunday was also my last day of staying at friends’ houses and I couldn’t really go back to the house before 6pm. By now it was 10am, which is debatable as a decent time on a Sunday, so I called my friend Adam to plan a catch up. As we know there is no rest (or mourning) for the wicked so I agreed with Adam (the stagey soul that he is) that we could go to the National Theatre so he could be productive with his school work. Brushing my student envy aside, I agreed that I could waste a day in the National, reading a book or browsing the book shop, completely contented. As we walked into the Nash (can I call it that now I’ve established its full title?) alarm bells went off as we spotted that there were tickets available for the matinee of Edward II. Lo and behold, they had £5 entry pass* tickets available. How could we refuse? We still had a few hours to be productive in and going to the theatre is educational (right?!) so if Adam didn’t have an excuse, I didn’t have an excuse. Sold. It soon transpired that my friend Rupert was on his way to the National because he had received an email from entry pass** for the £5 tickets so he too thought “why not?”. To put the cherry on top of the cake, his seat was next to mine – the universe was on my side this Sunday. 

*I hope if you’re 16-25 you signed up to the entry pass system as talked about in my tickets blog so you don’t miss out on things like this! 

** Seriously, sign up to entry pass

Near us in the audience was Hattie Morahan who is currently giving away her heart and soul every night at the Duke of York’s in ‘A Doll’s House’. Our first thought when spotting her was that even following her exhausting show schedule she still comes to the theatre on her day off – snaps for Hattie! This little fan girling moment, however, does lead me nicely into the additional information I wanted to share with you in this blog post. 

After years of being rejected at box offices, failing to persuade them that my £20 was better than letting their seat go unsold, I have finally found success. It started one day when I was trying to get standing seats for Les Miserables (when the house is sold out you can pay to stand at the back of the Dress, if you’re in comfy shoes it’s worth it) when my friends jumped in front of me on Shaftesbury Avenue and told me not to bother as they were all gone. It was 7.17pm and we didn’t want to waste our trip into town so decided to bash our heads together and think what theatres could accomodate us at this time. Long story short, we ended up at Mamma Mia paying £20 for great seats. As it was a popular show I had never seen before I considered that a bargain. The following week I walked past Matilda with a group of friends at 2.25pm and thought we might as well just pop in and ask. We managed to get best available (which were incredible) for £30 – again, an absolute bargain based on the popularity of the show. Then last week I popped into ‘A Doll’s House’ (aaaahhh, there’s the link) and got a great seat for £10* and finally, the example of £5 with Edward II. 

*This one I really recommend you do. Morahan’s performance is not to be missed. Many people study ‘A Doll’s House’ in their time so if you are studying or have studied the play this version is a must see. If its the only production you ever see of this classic, go see hers. 

So there’s another cheap(er) method of getting tickets to add to your list. Tomorrow I’m going to queue for ‘Chimerica’ as that is the latest on my list of must sees. Let me know if you have any success getting into any shows last minute. There’s no harm in asking a box office if you’re just walking past. Why not go on a Sunday? You’ll get to see a great piece of theatre and be home in time for Downton Abbey – what could be better? It was the perfect send off to my three weeks of homelessness and it’s a way I wish I could spend every Sunday. Happy Last-Minute-Ticket-Hunting and Happy (premature) Sunday!

As an aside: I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to know that I’m all settled in my new house and that my theatrical paraphernalia is out in force. Here’s a small section of my new room, feel free to play spot the stagey item. 

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Amongst my belongings is a picture of the composer Charles Miller. It was my ‘Teachers Pet of the Year’ award from LSMT. It sits with pride on my shelf.

 

“It’s Sunday morning, so make a joyful noise. (Joyful noise) unto the lord! Today’s the day god hath made. It’s Sunday! Sunday! It’s Sunday! It’s Sunday morning, so make a joyful noise unto the lord!”

– Rebecca Ridout