So we are deep into rehearsals for A Brave Face, getting ourselves ready for opening night at Jacksons Lane in London. This is my third show with Vamos - The Best Thing and Sharing Joy being the other two.
I love helping to create any new show and A Brave Face is no exception. However, as well as being enjoyable, it can also be a bit scary. All those questions pop up in your head: Am I telling the story? Is my physicality too much or too little? Am I getting the character right? Do the other actors like me!?
With this show I am particularly concerned with one character I play. He's called Alex, he is a sergeant in the army and he is a brilliant soldier. You can rely on him and he knows his stuff. We have been working closely with several ex-soldiers, all who have served in Afghanistan at some point and some who are living with PTS. They are brilliant and great to work with. They have been advising us on all the technical elements, such as marching, training drills, weapon control and lots more. They have also been able to advise us on the more emotional aspects of our characters. For example, there are several scenes in the show that are set in Afghanistan itself. It is important for us as actors to try to create a feeling that is genuine on stage. Of course we can never completely recreate a war zone but it is hugely important for us to understand what the young men in our story would have been going through.
It's easy to feel like a fake when you're an actor trying to play a character that is so far removed in their experiences from yourself. I am a 47 year old mother of two. Of course I have felt fear in my life, but not the sort that comes from the possibility that at any moment you might be shot at, blown up or indeed have to defend yourself in the most extreme way. This has been the hardest part of the process so far. Last week we invited the ex-military guys to come and sit in and advise on a rehearsal day (including ex-sergeant major, Mark, pictured above with Angela). I was really nervous and worried about how they would react to what we put in front of them. I needn't have been. They were great and so helpful. I realised that they are as eager as we are to tell this story and they want us to get it right.
I'm feeling really hopeful, with the generosity of the ex-soldiers, the extensive research that director Rachael Savage has done on this subject and the commitment of the whole company, that come opening night, we will have a show that will tell a story that is clear, engaging and respectful. I'm looking forward to it, especially the marching!
You can see Angela marching (as well as acting!) in A Brave Face from February 1st. Click here for full tour dates...