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

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“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!

Forwards and backwards

January 22nd, 2012 Comments 4


Last night would have been the closing night of WiLD at Chapter.  I’m not sad anymore, as I’ve had plenty of time to think and make new plans.  I’m actually really excited about this coming year.


When someone you love gets ill it definitely puts things into perspective.  Rob, my partner (in life, crime and theatre-making) was the team member who spent the New Year in hospital.  He is getting better, and we’re all in fine spirits.  Thanks to everyone who has offered their support during this time.  I sincerely wish you good health in 2012! 


January is a wonderful month!  I focus so strongly on re-aligning the tracks of my life, it feels like there’s an abundance of positivity and motivation to live well.  I’ve done more yoga in the past fortnight than I have in months.  The question is how long will it last?  I’ve given up writing resolutions, instead I’m making goals and then scheduling them.  Sometimes I wish we could have another January sooner than 2013, to stop the inexorable drift of good intentions.  Maybe one in May and one after August?  As it is I need to charge up a whole year’s worth of motivation right now to keep me going.  I might add a pretend January into my schedule.


Looking back, since starting working on this play in October 2010 I have gained more skills than I thought imaginable.  The habit of Getting-Things-Done is the best of them.  I wasn’t setting out to learn anything, I just wanted to make and perform a one-woman show (just!)  Nevertheless the learning kept coming.  Here is a list of what I learned last year making WiLD (since the end of the Aberystwyth performance):

How to video edit
How to use graphic design software
How to make a website (using Xara)
How to make and use my own font
How to scale down ambition when necessary
Knowing when to scale down ambition (having run out of time was the main reason)
How to set up a fundraising campaign
How to go busking for the first time despite The Fear
How to book a theatre tour (still have a lot more to learn!)
How to recruit a team and interview people
How to (successfully) apply for Arts Council funding
How to overcome my nerves about making important phone calls
How to be an employer
How to write contracts
How to draw animation storyboards and make an animatic
How to Get Things Done
and finally
How to re-make plans when they fall apart

That’s probably enough for now although there are many things in that list only half-learned and many more not on the list.  It has been an epic year, not what I expected at all and I feel good.  So onwards to those re-made plans (news of which to follow)!

Happy New Year!

two seagulls

Sad news about WiLD

January 9th, 2012 Comments 0

dove directions

I am very sorry to say that WiLD is being postponed.

A core member of the WiLD team has been ill for three weeks and is now in hospital.  There’s no way we can do the play without them.  Thankfully, they are getting better and should make a complete recovery.  The decision to postpone the show was difficult to make but was definitely the right thing to do.

The show will go on!  Please watch this space for an announcement of new dates!  WiLD will go ahead, bigger, brighter and better!  I will be using the extra time available to improve the play in every way possible, and I will keep posting about it here.

To be updated about a new performance schedule and rehearsal progress click ‘subscribe’ on the left hand menu, and follow the links.

Thanks for joining this journey so far, I feel it has only just begun…

WiLD – Introducing: Rob Fisher

December 30th, 2011 Comments 0

Interview number two is with WiLD Co-Director and Sound Designer Rob Fisher.  Rob is fairly integral to the play, in fact I couldn’t really do this without him.  He is constantly interfering with my brilliant ideas, telling me they’re not good enough, and pushing the play to be better.  Honestly.

Here he is with an impressive natural quiff:


This sound clip is the comedy fanfare we used last time.  It’s so ridiculous and over long, during the performance last February I stopped the action and eyeballed the sound booth until it was over.  It won’t make the cut this time around, but the silliness of it definitely sums Rob up.


The Interview:
What is your favourite game?
I love many games of many types – wide games, video games and particularly board and card games. I’ve even invented and published my own board game Monkey Dash (see www.MonkeyDash.co.uk for details!)

I have a particular soft spot for Carcassonne (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/822/carcassonne) because it is quick to learn, simple to play, promotes competition and collaboration, and has a huge number of variations and expansions.
Rob playing a game

Rob playing games

Where would you most like to travel?
I would like to visit somewhere truly remote once in my life, to get a sense of what the Earth would be like without the interference of humankind.

What would your perfect Sunday be like?
48 hours long, with much eating, joking, singing, dancing, walking, and playing of games.

Favourite dancing music?
Every now and again a dance tune comes along that gets everything just right… Bodyrox – Yeah Yeah, and Mason vs Princess Superstar – Perfect Exceeder are two that spring to mind.

Fancy dress costume of choice?
Pirate. Or ebola virus.

If you were a super hero, what would your power be?
I have a mischievous character, so the ability to shapeshift – to take on the appearance of any other person at will would be a lot of fun.

What is your secret dream?
I can’t tell you – it is a secret.

Why choose to work in theatre?
I like to tell stories and, moreover, to find the most effective way to tell a story: which choice of words give the biggest pay-off? Which parts are unnecessary and can be pared away? Which are the details that make the story unique or personal?

What were you like as a child?
Less hairy and considerably shorter.

What are you most excited about for WiLD?
My biggest hope is that the show will find an appreciative audience. There is so much brilliant invention in the performance; I know it will truly entertain the Chapter audience.

Thanks Rob!

Rehearsal Video Clip (from last week)

December 21st, 2011 Comments 0


Last Week’s rehearsals went well.  We went into huge amounts of detail for some scenes, spending an hour and a half on one 13 step walk into a room (that I haven’t yet perfected), then  worked with broad brush strokes (is there an equivalent theatre metaphor?) for other scenes.

This video clip shows me trying out the movement for one of the Monster characters.  I’ve been working closely with Angharad who’s doing the costume and set.  We’ve now spent many late nights, cups of tea, hummus and crackers, whilst poring over pages of sketches as we try to work out solutions for the set.  The costume for this character will be wonderful, but I’m not revealing it here…  I won’t have a wig on my face when you see it in the theatre!

I also did the first run for the team last Friday which was nerve-racking for me, but worked out really well.  I was glad to be able to finally show the things I had been talking about.  Working with other people on your vision and making it a shared project, means careful and frequent communication.  Many of the scenes only make sense when you see them, so a showing it was.

I also worked with Marilyn Le Conte last week.  She is acting as a dramaturg for the show.  Working with Marilyn is like having a ray of positivity in the room.  She gave me so many excellent detailed pointers on voice and physicality for several characters, it was the highlight of my week.  Thank you Marilyn!  It was particularly amusing watching her do an impression of her son to help me get into character as a man.  Apparently it’s easier for men to transform into women than it is the other way around.

We’re already halfway through this week, so another update will be along soon, also something about, what was it, oh yes – Christmas!!!  Decorating the tree tonight, right after we’ve finished recording some sound, and having a meeting about lights.  On Christmas day I’ll be napping.

Later this week I’ll be introducing some more members of the WiLD team…

Until then, keep scoffing those mince pies,



Introducing: Sarah Jane!

December 13th, 2011 Comments 0

Here’s the first in a series of introductions of members of the WiLD team.

Sarah Jane is doing the marketing for the show, and I am so pleased to have her on board.  She’s the perfect mixture of getting things done, gently nagging me to get things done, and infectious enthusiasm for the project.

I fashioned a questionnaire for her, which will help us learn more about the important things.
But first, Sarah as warrior knight: Sarah Jane Child r

What is your favourite game?
My favourite game is snap because it is really easy to play so everyone can get involved, but it’s really exciting and loud! There is a lot of tension built up over the game and it can get quite heated.

Where would you most like to travel?
To Australia to see one of my best friends Lucie, as she now lives over there and I miss her.
What would your perfect Sunday be like?
I lie in until lunch time in my cosy bed with a cup of tea, then go out to a pub for a huge Sunday roast with friends and stay there all afternoon and probably into the evening . . . and then wander home and watch a film on TV and then head to bed.
Favourite dancing music?
This is quite embarrassing but I’m a bit of a pop princess when I feel like dancing. When I was younger I loved the Spice Girls, Steps and other 90s pop bands. Now I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga, Madonna, Katy Perry, Rihanna and so on . . . 
(no need to be embarrassed, Beyoncé is my dancing hero, but also Britney when I need extra cheese.)
Fancy dress costume of choice?
This question is really difficult as I love dressing up, I actually still have a dressing up box full of costumes! Hmmm I think its probably a pussy cat, although dressing up as Johnny Cash for Halloween was very entertaining.
If you could invent a new ice cream flavour what would it be?
Dark chocolate and Turkish delight . . . yummmm. 
(Oooh! Yes please!)

What are you afraid of?
Spiders and I hate being afraid of them because I know there really isn’t any logical reason for me to be and I keep trying to conquer my fear but with no luck as yet. I am also afraid of driving because I don’t want to hurt anyone and it scares me a little bit.
What makes you happy?
My friends and family. Creativity, I love going to art galleries, the cinema, the theatre and museums but also being creative myself. Being silly and messing about!
What are you most excited about for WiLD?
I’m really excited about actually getting to watch the show, I’ve heard so much about it from Teifi and I just really want to see the finished product.
If you were a super hero, what would your power be?
To be able to pause time, I’d get so much more done!!!!

Thanks Sarah, and here she is today:

Sarah Jane Adult r
You can visit her website www.sarahjaneleigh.co.uk and Twitter @defythestars87

Speaking of which, WiLD has a new Twitter account @ActsofBeauty, Facebook page, plus a National Theatre of Wales group.  Sarah and I will both be writing there and signing off with our initials (SJL and TE).  Come and be a WiLD cheerleader!

First Days of Rehearsal!

December 11th, 2011 Comments 0

Welcome to production update No.1!  I’m so excited and happy to be working on the creative parts of this project and not just on the admin.

So far I’ve been working on the narrative, the script and the AV.  There have been some interesting decisions to make.  The more I work on the story, the more I feel like I really understand what makes a story work.  I’ve noticed that sometimes I don’t know what the answer to a narrative problem is yet, but I am very clear about which potential solutions DON’T fit.  The process of examining what doesn’t work often brings you closer to a solution that really does.meeting 1 1

The second thing I’ve noticed is what happens when you immerse yourself in a creative world.  My mind is inside the story now (sometimes when I’m tired I wish it wasn’t).  This state of thinking is the only way to arrive at exciting breakthroughs.  I’ve been working on the character design for one of the creatures in the play, and just kept drawing the same slightly boring version again and again, until all of a sudden a slightly different idea leaped off the page – ‘The One’.  As my mind was ticking over the consequences of this new design for the other elements in the play, a HUGE solution for the ending became clear.  I can’t tell you what it is because it will spoil it for you when you come to see the show.  I was so excited I wanted to run around the room and phone people to tell them.  It was midnight so I held back on that.

This ending solution has actually renewed my excitement for the second half of the play and removed many obstacles I was feeling were in the way.  This couldn’t have happened a few weeks ago.

meeting 1 5

The other new and exciting thing that happened this week was starting work with the rest of the team.  The first production meeting went really well, we dived into the costume boxes, tried everything on, and made new plans.

meeting 1 2

I will introduce you to individual members of the team over the next few weeks.  They’re all wonderful.

The video above was an example of trying something only to discover it is not going to work.  We fiddled around with the video effects and I thought I’d keep it to show you.  It doesn’t tell you a lot about what we were trying to achieve, but you can see we’ve been busy!

And with that, I am having an actual day off today, the first in a while, so off I go!

meeting 1 6

Photos by Sarah Jane Leigh.

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