What you do love in life?
I absolutely love drama. I want to act, and I’m gradually coming to terms with that, even though it’s an unstable career. I love being someone else for a bit, not because I don’t want to be me, but because you get an incredible empathy from stepping into someone else’s shoes and feeling what they feel. You have to really understand the character, understand why they’re saying what they say and doing what they do, and then making your portrayal convincing. I guess I love telling stories, and making people think – theatre has an astonishing ability to do that.
A role that has really stuck with me is Elizabeth Proctor, in The Crucible. The play is set in Massachusetts in 1692 – it’s based on the Salem witch hunts, but is also an allegory for McCarthyism. She is a really powerful woman, who has been cheated on repeatedly by her husband, and though she is so cold and aloof throughout the whole play, at the very end she forgives him – although he dies, he’s finally free. I performed the role in year 11, but I feel like she’s still here, a little bit in me – I think I’m better at forgiving because of her, equally I can draw on her strength to hold my ground. For many of the characters I play, I won’t have that emotional attachment to them, and often it’s easier to play characters closer to my own traits. In all the characters I’ve played there are always some similarities with myself – the art is finding and exploiting them. I generally get cast as quite angry or melancholy characters, which is odd, because I think I’m quite cheerful, but it’s a great challenge.
What makes you feel alive?
There are so many things that make me feel alive – theatre is a big one, but also the joy I get from food, family and friends. The first time I really had to think seriously about what made me feel alive, however, was when my friend died by suicide when I was 16. I have always absolutely loved life, relished it and thrown myself into it, and that was a moment when I began to really question it – he was one of my best friends, and clearly he wasn’t able to love life in the same way. Losing someone you love like that puts all of your assumptions into question - it made me question what I really loved about life, in a concrete way.
It made me more honest – I didn’t know he was sad at all, and he didn’t talk to anyone, and I wonder, if he had spoken out, whether he’d still be alive. So it has made me tell people each day that I love them, to make sure that they know. I think it’s so damaging that we don’t say what we think of people: everyone will have someone in their life that loves them as much as I loved him, but they won’t necessarily know it and perhaps, if they did, they’d feel comfortable talking about how they feel. That’s something that I’m trying to change - currently in my own little way, but hopefully later in a bigger way. I’m doing my best to be the change I want to see in the world: letting myself be open and honest about how I feel.
I don’t think I’m ever going to be someone who is able to go along at 50% - I’m either 100% or 0%. I love to feel alive, so I need to have an aim, drive, something to do. I love people very deeply, which gives me the ability to feel an incredible amount of joy but when stuff goes wrong it affects me hugely. It’s a tradeoff that I have to accept. When my friend died, we had an assembly where the teacher said “The reason we’re hurting so much is that grief and love are two sides of the same coin” – that really stuck with me. I realised that the reason I was hurting so much was that I loved him so much - that makes the grief a lot easier to accept. Sometimes with true joy comes incredible pain, for me, the balance between the two makes me feel far more alive than if I was just vaguely content all of the time. As much as emotion can really floor you sometimes I have never felt stronger or more alive than when I just let myself feel.