The First Meeting – Staying true to yourself as a performer

On Saturday 24th November I had the privilege of meeting up with my mentor Tamsin Grieg at Enzo’s Kitchen on Panton Street, directly opposite the Harold Pinter Theatre where Tamsin was due on stage only a couple of hours later! We ordered a coffee each as well as a rather eccentric desert which Tamsin encouraged me to eat with my hands. This certainly gave the meeting a relaxed and informal feel!

We began by talking about my music degree and the specific modules I was taking this year. This was a lovely way to start the conversation as it allowed her to get a feel for my character without jumping straight in to the whole deal of: ‘what do you want to do with your life?’, ‘what motivates you?’ straightaway. The conversation then moved towards her, where she talked about what she did when she was my age. She told me about how she got on with her degree at UoB, what she got up to in the years after that, and how, interestingly, she underwent a period in which she felt the performing industry was not for her. On reflection, it was so valuable to gain that insight into the steps she took after she graduated, as it taught me that there is only so much you can plan for in terms of your career path. You must always expect the unexpected and be ready to take opportunities, which is especially crucial in this performing industry.

Following this, she began to offer some really helpful advice regarding the industry itself. She stressed the importance of staying true to yourself as a performer. Specifically, she advised me to hold on to my native Cheshire accent as she says it offers casting directors something different from the flurry of actors who naturally speak with received pronunciation. She also advised me to keep my cards close to my chest, as the industry is quick to label you which automatically limits your ability to find work; hence, it is always good to have something up your sleeve that you perhaps have not revealed before. This was all so refreshing to hear, as in my experience, you always perform better when you are not constantly looking to recreate a performance that you have seen from someone else, and relate it to yourself instead. The fact that Tamsin felt so strongly about this inspires me to always stay true to myself, and to not feel like I have to change for the industry.

Before Tamsin had to rush off to get in costume, she was able to offer further advice regarding performing through song, saying how it is vital that you let the character’s emotions drive the words you are singing, as opposed to just singing the words. Hearing an actor as successful as Tamsin stress the importance of carrying out this character work encourages me to put in these extra hours which will no doubt contribute to a better performance overall.

After the meeting I watched her in action at the Pinter Theatre – it is more than fair to say that I have a mentor who is greatly inspiring both off and on the stage!

Leonard Turner

Music

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