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How to make a diary

January 30th, 2013 Comments 0

I promise this was mostly not a procrastination activity.  Oxfam usually sell the diaries I like:  month to view, small pages, thick card, Sundays the same size as all the other days.  This year they have STOPPED.  So I decided to make one myself.

Step one: make a document with your calendar in it, print all pages and crop.

diary 05

Fold pages carefully.  At this point I realised I had laid it out all wrong.  Half of January should have been December, every month should be split, and then I could have stapled the whole thing.  Instead I decided I would have to sew it together.

Gather pages carefully; I have now added an oscillating page aligner to my imaginary birthday list – I’m sure one exists.

diary 04


diary 01

Sew into the spine of each page and then up and over the top of it, them cross from one page to the next.  I wish I hadn’t folded the pages so sharply, it was much harder to get the needle into the right place. diary 03diary 02

Re-clamp and repeat at the other end, and again in the middle.

diary 06

Attach a ribbon onto the back page.

diary 07

Glue or tape the spines, and the first and last pages, to the cover.  I didn’t glue the spines at first and all the middle pages were moving about.diary 09

Et voila!

diary 08

(Harry Potter says “Expecto Patronus” and my diary appears.  It’s magic.)


January 23rd, 2013 Comments 1

I’ve been nominated for an award – “Best Female Performance in English” – for WiLD!

The Shortlist

In my category are the very fine and talented Helen Griffin, Sharon Morgan, Lisa Palfrey, and Mairi Phillips.  And me!

When I first found out I couldn’t sleep because I was smiling too much.

cat and bird

Happy New Year everyone!

WiLD Nights – (but what if they heckle?)

October 24th, 2012 Comments 2

What went down on and offstage in WiLD-land these past few weeks?  It was memorable, hard work, and absolutely wonderful.  (There are two more performances this week in Birmingham!
Book now!)

WiLD 02

“Hilarious, beautiful, enchanting… just incredible.” audience @ Chapter 2012

Performing WiLD for some real live audiences has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Every audience to date has been so responsive, kind, and generous with their feedback. I really, really enjoyed every single second onstage. I started looking forward to scenes that I had felt less close to up until that point. By the end of the Chapter run I had new favourites.

WiLD 09

“An astonishing solo performance” audience @ Chapter 2012

It’s strange creating something that you believe in, that you keep working on and want to share, you have a hunch that it could be good – but you don’t know if anyone else in the world will see it’s value, or enjoy it. Sharing it with an audience is the only way to find out, and based on the responses I received, I feel proud of myself and everyone who worked on it.

WiLD 04 Max

““Probably the best show I’ve ever seen. audience @ Chapter 2012

WiLD 10

“A comic explosion of acute, cringe-making social observation,
a painful onion-peeling of the soul… a joyous babbling stream of surreal connections
and wild ideas” –
audience @ Chapter 2012

There were challenges, as you might expect. I don’t usually get nervous, but doing an hour and a half long solo show is something else. The pressure is huge.  I lost my voice before the first night, which was… interesting. I didn’t speak all day Thursday to help it rest.

By opening night my voice had relaxed, and I was fine. Over the course of the week my nerves ebbed away. This was actually a positive experience for me, one of learning to trust and rely on myself.

WiLD 06

“The enviably multi-talented Emerald takes us on a winningly imaginative eighty-minute journey… A technical tour-de-force”  – British Theatre Guide

Yesterday Rob started reciting lines from the show to me, so if I ever can’t do a performance in future he can do it instead :) . One of the nicest parts of rehearsal were the times I couldn’t quite get something, or was too tired to lift a duvet over my head for the eleventeenth time in a row, so I would sit down (with biscuits) and ask him to do the scene for me. Directors aren’t really meant to show actors how to do something, but we were making up our own rules, (one of the best things about making theatre yourself). What a joy! Learning by copying is easy, I could clock a rhythm of an action by watching it, and then leap up and do it ten times better than I had before. Sometimes you can feel the rhythm of a series of actions inside yourself but it needs encouragement to come out.

WiLD 05

“The performance constantly surprised me” – Bethan Natalie James @ National Theatre Wales

Going to The Richard Whiteley Theatre in North Yorkshire was another challenge. Would the audience of mostly GSCE and A level drama students get it? Would they laugh? Would they heckle? Would they walk out when they heard some Welsh!?

WiLD 03

“A bit funny, a bit sexy, a bit quirky, a bit imaginative, a bit weird, and very amazing” audiences @ Chapter 2012

As it happens they were a bloody brilliant audience. They showed me moments that were funny in a new way. They laughed at some references the older audiences didn’t see (while missing other Radio 4 based references). They even enjoyed the scene in Welsh! At the end of the night a few students stayed behind to chat. They were so happy! In that moment when I walked up to meet them my fears disappeared; something had worked here.

WiLD 08

“Touching and deeply moving” - audience @ Chapter 2012

So what next?  I now feel more confident and more ambitious, with plans brewing both large and small.  I’m looking for a producer, and I want to book a shiny new tour for next year.  Watch out, here I come!WiLD 07

“I was tempted to go twice – there were many magic perceptive moments
I wanted to hold onto” –
audience @ Chapter 2012

Book tickets to see WiLD at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham
Friday 26th and Saturday 27th October 2012 @ 7.30pm
Book here!

Thanks to everyone who sent their feedback, in whatever form,
Plus check out other really lovely words about the show on Twitter @actsofbeauty

WiLD 01

Photography by Ashleigh Haddad

Here’s some I made earlier

September 13th, 2012 Comments 0

Earlier this summer Rob and I took some photos to use for publicity for WiLD related things, workshops and more.  We had a fun day, here is what we made:

These two are just for fun:

White Roll SquareDandylion Eye

The following photos I was aiming for something slightly blurry with movement and colour like a carnival.  I put on every fringed item of clothing I own, and spent a long time leaping around.  It was hard to get the effect:

Emerald Leap 01

Emerald Leap 04

Emerald Leap 07

Here I am as a fringed monolith:

The Monolith

Here’s the one that works – Teifi as flying Kraken:

Flying Kraken

Then we went into the woods which created a lighting style directly transported from the 1970s:

Grove 01

Grove 04

The one I like:

Magic Fingers untweaked

Finally we took some pictures with Max:

Max and me 04

Max and me 01

A fun day with useful results!

How to make a mask (a WiLD mask!)

September 9th, 2012 Comments 0

How do I show pictures of masks without freaking you out?  They’re sinister just by being masks.  With all the facial recognition portions of our brains I think they have an enormous power, not supernatural, but… stirring.  I definitely had a ‘moment’ whilst making this one.  Here was the process:

Step 1:
Make a base layer mask on your face, using gummed paper.  Theatre designer Steve Denton taught me this process, it’s an easy, cheap and environmentally friendly way to make a mask that fits your face perfectly. 

Start by taping first around your crown and then under your chin and over the top of your head.  Then you gradually fill in the gaps.  For the first layer put the tape gummy side out.

mask 01

It looks slimy and wet, and it actually… is, but it’s also fun!  Like a facial with absolutely no beautifying properties.  Actually the inside is mostly dry, so it’s not too bad.  I switched from blue to brown tape because the blue tape was too thick.  This turns out to be a useful way to see what I did first and second.

To begin with you have to manipulate the tape every once in a while to make sure you get a good nose shape rather than a big domed nose face.  Maybe there’s a better way to do this, but I haven’t figured it out yet.  I think lying on your back and having someone make a mask on you would solve this problem.

mask 02

Making it on myself with the help of a mirror made it easy to get in really close to my eyes without inadvertently gluing my eyelashes together.

mask 05

Here’s the base mask with several layers of tape over the whole face.  You can see there’s a better fit over the eyebrows, nose and forehead than there is around the mouth, but I tweak that later.  I’m actually smiling in this photo so I don’t look too scary.

mask 03

Taking it off – the stocking-hat protected my hair from getting glued into the mask.  Before taking it off I gave it a blast with a hair dryer.  Then I let it dry overnight.

mask 07

Step 2:
Once it’s dry you can sculpt it with the mask sitting on a table.  Here I’ve added eyebrows, mouth creases and cheeks.  I also cut out the mouth, remade it and then cut out the shape I wanted.  It’s winking – I just haven’t done the second eye yet.  Even with the very first eyebrow it started to come to life, enough to make me want to put it on and show everyone.

mask 09

I still use the mirror at this point, trying on the mask every few minutes so that I can see what needs to change.  It looks surprisingly different on a face compared to just sitting on a table.  Somehow I can see asymmetry more easily with it on my face.


It was at this point that I tried it on for Rob.  He hadn’t seen the new eyes yet.  He liked it but said it could still be a bit evil or ghoulish (which isn’t what I want for this character).  I agreed.  It was happy with a dark side… (maybe it was the way I wore it?)

mask 12

In the image below you can see I have added much bigger rosy cheeks.  This solved the ‘evil’ problem.  I think it must be something to do with baby faces – we all love fat babies!  It was at this point that every time I put it on I instinctively started to jiggle and breathe differently, and then suddenly I couldn’t stop giggling.  The mask had come to life.  I went and danced around the garden for a bit.  The way I had imagined the character would move had evolved into something much clearer and more rounded.

You can also see that I’ve changed the shape of the nose, tidied up the mouth and nostrils and a few other bits and pieces.         

mask 13

Step 3, 4, 5:
When it’s bone dry I’ll give it a light sanding with a very fine sandpaper.  Then I’ll paint it and finally decorate it with…

Ooh, but I’m not going to show you any of that.  For that you’ll have to come and see the show! 
Book your tickets now!

mask 14

WiLD tour!!!

August 27th, 2012 Comments 0

After a long time hibernating in a big pile of theatrical straw, WiLD has awoken, yawned and stretched, to find not one, but three theatres opening their doors for performances this coming October:

The tour:
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
Thurs – Sat, 4th, 5th, 6th October, 8pm

Richard Whiteley Theatre, Giggleswick
Friday 12th October, 7.30pm

Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham
Friday 27th, 7.30pm
Saturday 28th, 2pm Matinee & 7.30pm
Workshop: “Be Wild” on Thursday 26th at 6pm

Book your tickets now!

There will be more venues added to the list for March 2013, so watch this space.
I thought you might like to see how I enticed these venues to book the show:

I personalised each video, so every venue programmer (hello if you’re reading!) got addressed by name in their video. Editing it was… interesting! There are nearly 100 versions. This one here is the generic one.

And here are some behind the scenes shots:

puppet filming 01

I had a laptop at my feet  so I could watch takes.   After hours of filming I really got to know how to bring Max to life – I learnt the right hand positions, how to make him smile in different ways, how to make him look directly in the camera (which took a bit of getting used to).

puppet filming 02

I started off filming with an ordinary digital stills camera, but the frame rate is much too low for a puppet that moves so quickly, so it has to be a proper camera or nothing, otherwise Max looked really jerky – there aren’t enough frames per second to capture his fast movements. I’m still learning about film, so I find these things really interesting.

puppet filming 03

The good thing about filming with Max is I don’t have to do my hair, or even get out of my pajamas!

A Letter

July 27th, 2012 Comments 2

Dear Muse,

Please visit.  The door’s open, the kettle’s on and there’s a packet of your favourite biscuits in a tin on the table (the ones with the extra chocolate).

Yours in humble gratitude,


Summertime and the livin’ is easy

June 12th, 2012 Comments 0

Buttercups 03Buttercups 01

Buttercups 02

When we walked in fields of gold…

Thoughts of summer, and a little magic

February 13th, 2012 Comments 0

This post is somewhat out of seasonal step – I made this last August.  The weather here yesterday was so beautiful, the cats were lazing in sun patches, and it reminded me that before we know it the heat of summer will have arrived.  Until then though, I am enjoying the February stillness.  It doesn’t yet feel like the year has quite started, instead the seeds are germinating under the surface of my self – all the work is happening underground, like duck’s feet underwater.

To remind you about summer then…

One green meadow,

pink grass spiral 03

some Red Valerian heading for compost,

pink grass spiral 00

take a line for a walk,pink grass spiral 02

follow the trail further and further with the Catstails bobbing in the wind,

pink grass spiral 04

sit and breathe for a grass spiral 05

After this, I lay down in the grass and reaching up above my head I absent-mindedly picked a clover leaf.   I brought it to my face and discovered it was a four leaf clover.  Yes.  The very first one I picked.  I sat up and straight away spotted another one -  and then another.  I had laid down in a whole patch of them -  some had six or seven leaves.  Magic!