Episode One

 

It’s here. International Women’s day is HERE and to celebrate I’m launching the Strut and Bellow podcast. Each episode will be a conversation with a woman who makes something be it theatre, film, fiction, art, food, crafty things and for whom the making is a big part of her life.

I’m honoured and delighted that Episode One is with my dear friend Noni Stapleton, an actress and writer whose award winning play Charolais is currently touring Ireland. I couldn’t be more excited that my launch conversation is with her; we had more than a little fun chatting together. (Note to self: ease off on the cackling for the next one!)

Noni Headshot Black Top.jpeg

Perfectly marbled and bashed about ‘til tender: Charolais is a surreal comedy of love, longing and one woman’s intense rivalry with a Charolais heifer. This is a muddy place of simmering desire minced with a loneliness that cuts to the bone.

“A fast-paced, witty, and intensely emotional tale filled with laughter, loss and despair” ★★★★ Irish Times

“Stapleton is a joy to watch and she knows her audience. Love, family and loss all combine at the finish to create a charming piece of theatre. Well worth the venture. A truly enjoyable show” ★★★★ The Public Reviews

She’s just back from London where she was at the Susan Smith Blackburn awards ceremony Charolais having been nominated as one of 16 finalists.

You might also recognise Noni from Showtime USA’s Penny Dreadful where she thrilled and terrified audiences as Gladys Murray the wife of Sir Malcolm Murray played by Timothy Dalton.photo 4.jpeg

In Episode One, we talk about what the nomination meant to her as well as discussing bravery, vulnerability, creativity and the importance of community to see you through the highs and lows of the making life.

Charolais can be seen at the following venues

Mar 16 – St. John’s Theatre, Listowel
Mar 18 – Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray
Mar 31 – The Dock, Carrick on Shannon
Apr 1 – Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda
Apr 2 – The Mill Theatre, Dundrum
Apr 8 – Áras Inis Gluaire, Belmullet

It was also adapted as a radio play and can be heard here.

To find out more about this lovely woman check out her website.

 

 

 

Top tips for a bad work day

The artist Róisín O’Farrell did a great post today on how she handles bad days in the studio. She’s a prolific artist and her paintings are snapped up. It’s one of my secret ambitions to own one of her paintings some day ( and have the requisite lovely home to put it in!)

I especially appreciated her comment that sometimes you need to have a bit of compassion for yourself, don’t bully yourself when it’s just not happening.

Today I’m taking her advice. The past two weeks have been tough dealing with my 4 year old’s storms and I’m very, very tired. When the baby went for his nap, I made some coffee and sat and did my morning pages, a writing/spiritual practise that is becoming indispensible once again. Then I called my sister and then I just sat in the silence for a bit. Sometimes, the body just needs that.

And there’s the baby calling so off I go again….

Scribbling in nooks and crannies

A small practise I have developed thanks to Donald Miller and his Creating Your Own Lifeplan project, is to write, at the start of every day ‘If I had this day over I’d…’ It orients the day beautifully, helps you see where your heart is for the day, what your soul needs to. It’s like setting an intention for the day and I’ve found it really helpful as we slog on into the maelstrom of the autumn term.

This morning, I wrote,

If I had today over, I’d write in every nook and cranny

So that’s what I’m doing. The baby is playing on the floor and the two big kids are trashing the living room building a fort. The floors need hoovered, the kitchen needs cleaned, I could probably do with putting a wash on but I’m discovering that when it comes to combating the stress I feel being at home, writing helps.

This morning the baby slept for an hour and a half and I chipped away at Chapter 5. I’m into new territory with my story having decided to make a major change and so I feel like I’m back in Shitty First Draft land when I should be confidently striding forth. Last night I called in to a Writer Friend’s house – we meet once a week to write in the same room together, a way of keeping accountable and keeping up the word count. The lap top didn’t get opened but I sat with my first three chapters, my notes and graphs and figured out the structure of the next section of the story.

At times it feels like the most daunting, impossible thing to be attempting but actually, I am so committed now that every attempt to put my arse in the chair is a small victory. Even writing a blog post like this feels like a healthy dose of self care if nothing else.

So grab those nooks and crannies, scribble, paint, dance, sing. It all adds up to strengthen your gift and loosen the tension at the base of the skull.

 

 

Brave

A friend of mine is soon presenting her own work for public consumption. She’s one of the bravest people I know. It’s not easy being an actor in a small town, when there isn’t a lot of work but she has persevered. I’ve watched her, in awe, it has to be said, as she has spoken her dreams out loud, made plans and gone for them. I’ve watched her trust the Universe for its co-operation, expected good things and gone after what her heart’s desires. It’s not been a pain free ride, but I’ve seen her smile and laugh and sigh with happiness on many occasions.

People will come and watch her work and applaud her no doubt. They’ll say she did a great job, they’ll admire her gifts in writing and performance. But they won’t have seen the sheer tenacity, the courage it takes to get up every morning and write about things dear to the heart. They won’t have watched her grow in beauty and wisdom.

I have seen her. I have watched her go where angels fear to tread, her heart pumping her life force all over her sleeve.

Here’s to you my dear brave friend. May your work be a blessing to all who see it. You are amazing.

Presence

A key thing I am learning is the power of presence. You would think, as an actor, I’d be an expert but it’s never been something that has come naturally.

The moments of being completely ‘in the now’ in the rehearsal room, on set or on stage can be fleeting and illusive but I know the power I have when I succeed. It’s an amazing feeling to know you have the attention of each person in the room.There is nothing like watching an accomplished performer hold you in their eyes.

It’s difficult to sustain. I often think that actors must find it the most difficult to stay present when being on show like that often comes with such high stakes. There’s anxiety, fear of rejection, terror of the immense vulnerability it takes to be emotionally available in such a public space.

It’s integral to a great performance. And I’m learning that’s it is integral to life! To parenting especially. Small children have limited attention spans and you aren’t completely ‘there’, they won’t hear a word you say. That’s when I usually resort to bellowing, which never achieves the desired result.

So I am practising presence little by little in the every day. Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The Power of Now, gives a very simple exercise to bring one into the present moment. He suggests simply becoming aware of the palms of your hands.

Try it now. Become aware of the palms of your hands. Here you are. Hello there. There is no past, no future. There is just this moment. It’s rich with possibility. Stay here for a while.

Strut and bellow?

It comes from Hamlet’s speech to the players:

Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you,

trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it as many of your players

do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the

air too much with your hand thus, but use all gently; for in the

very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion,

you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it

smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious

periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split

the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of

nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I would have such

a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant — it out-Herods Herod.

Pray you avoid it.

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your

tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this

special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For

anything so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end both

at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere, the mirror up

to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image,

and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now

this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful

laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the

which one must in your allowance o’erweigh a whole theatre of

others. Oh, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others

praise and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that neither having

the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man,

have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature’s

journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated

humanity so abominably.

… And let those that play your clowns

speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that

will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators

to laugh too, though in the meantime some necessary question of

the play be then to be considered. That’s villainous, and shows

a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go make you ready.