Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Kate Steel

Last Wednesday my friend Kate Steel and I spent the early afternoon at Hampstead Heath - There was tree climbing, prom dresses, and oodles of colourful flowers and balloons. Please see below for photographs and interview.

Kate is a versatile professional actress who trained at East 15 Acting School, gaining a distinction on the Masters course. She has played a variety of roles in theatre, films and commercials and has worked with directors such as Andrew Davies. She has trained in Los Angeles, where she also performed in theatre and television.

What inspired you to start acting?
I was a primary school teacher for five years before daring to ‘dream the dream'. I started treading the boards up in my hometown of Hull, whilst still teaching, which was pretty full-on!...

...As I got bigger roles, the smell of the greasepaint lured me towards entertaining the idea of auditioning for drama school. I didn’t think I’d get in to be honest, as it’s so competitive, so when I was offered one of twelve places at East 15 and some funding, I was wheel-spinning out of the staff car park down to The Big Smoke!

First time on stage?
I danced from the age of three and did shows in big theatres and a few dance festivals, but I had little confidence (and a rather mean teacher for years) and I was one of those gangly kids who was always shoved at the back. I did pretty well in all my exams though – which really annoyed my teacher!...

..My first proper big role on stage was playing Tzeitel in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ up north, and my sisters were cast as my sisters, so it was a real family affair! I loved that musical and as the eldest of four, I am a ‘Tzietel’ through and through. I even got to star in my own wedding every night!

Current acting projects?
I am just doing the rounds of auditions for a mixture of things and I've got a few ‘irons in the fire’, so watch this space!

Current influences?
Just life really. I love meeting people and am blessed with an eclectic mix of friends upon whom some of my characters have been loosely based – no names will be given! And I am an incorrigible people watcher...

... From a young age I visited the theatre and even aged four I would listen as intently as all the adults in the auditorium. I particularly love Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, but more modern composers such as Maury Heston (Titanic - The Musical) are also fantastic...

...I am drawn to "family affair" films too - perhaps because of my own experience - one of my favourites is "In America", starring two sisters, telling the semi-autobiographical story of the Sheridan family as they move from Ireland to New York.

What inspires your acting?
I am definitely an eight-year-old (or maybe a ten-year-old on a good day) at heart, and kids spend their whole lives engaging in the world of make believe, dressing up, doing role play etc. Acting is just that really – there’s a reason why a play is called a play! In my spare time I tutor children and this continues to fan the flames of youth within me...

... It is a real privilege to be given the chance to play a character who perhaps lives in another place, or is from a different era, and I love the process of researching the role, finding the voice, movement and rhythm of someone who might be quite dissimilar to yourself. My last theatre role was playing an Eastern European murderess, so that was quite a leap!

Future acting plans?
Erm, world domination?! Well, one can dream...

Other creative pursuits?
I still dance and have added street dance, Palestinian dabke and Irish to my repertoire since moving to London!...

... I also play the French horn, though I am so busy it seems to be mainly at Christmas when brass playing actresses prove quite popular at carol services! I play the piano - not especially well, but would love to play the harp ... Just a little one that I can transport around to folk evenings in country pubs...

...I love doing voiceovers and would like to do more cartoon characters – A trip to Disney to record at the studios in Hollywood would be nice. I used to run past them when I was in LA but never plucked up the courage to call in... 

... I was one of three finalists for World Book Day Storytelling Superstar this year, and I was pleased to be commended by the royal attendee, Camilla Parker Bowles, for my ability to captivate hundreds of primary school children. It was easy really, I just played myself in a past life – ‘Miss Steel’ on that day.

Please take a look at Kate’s website:

Thanks for visiting my blog
Samantha x

Beside the See Side

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Rachel Elliott

On Sunday 19th May, I joined my talented friend Rachel Elliott for a stroll through Highgate Woods. We both share a love for music and photography, so whilst there we discussed music, Rachel played guitar, and I took photographs (please see below). Rachel is a multi-instrumentalist. she studied classical music at Reading University but is currently branching out and finding her own style as a singer/songwriter.

What inspired you to start playing music?
I don't think it ever occurred to me not to, because I grew up in a music-filled household, for which I'm really grateful. My dad has always been in bands, and there were always instruments and gear in my house...

...Our front room did have a dining table in it somewhere but it was mostly used as a recording studio, and the downstairs toilet next to it had an XLR socket under the carpet as it had good acoustics. To me that was just normal! We had a piano, I think there was a guitar around, and my dad had a drum kit at one point, so I suppose it was natural to just have a go on them... 

...I think I used to sing a lot and am told I sang the tunes before I could say the words, like lots of little kids do. My mum taught me some tunes on the piano- perhaps that was the first thing I learned?...

...And I remember writing a song about the New Year, which I happen to remember was 1983 (because that was the only lyric in the song), and I still cringe that I did a solo performance to my gramps once in his kitchen.

First time on stage?
I'm not sure, I was in a kid’s choir at church, so maybe it was then. Or playing the recorder in school concerts? I used to cry my eyes out all the way through them when I could see my mum in the audience. Very emotional child! 

What instruments do you play?
Piano, guitar, a bit of bass and singing. I used to play the oboe, but it has been under my bed for years. I really want to be a drummer - my dream is to sing lead vocals while drumming - one day I'll get there.

Current involvement with music
I do a lot of music at my church. And in the last five years I've been exploring songwriting. I love it! I'm learning it needs discipline, like any art, which doesn't come easily...

...I find writing words difficult, as I am a girl of many words and thoughts, and can't express them succinctly. I'm trying to be more disciplined though, and occasionally a whole song pops out quite quickly. 

Current musical influences?
SOOOOOOOO many....don't know where to start. It's different every day. Today: Luke Sital-Singh, Martin Smith and Iain Archer.

What inspires your songwriting?
I'm not really sure yet, as I still feel quite new to it. I'm always trying to find new music to listen to, and try and get to as many gigs as I can, and of course that's really inspiring. The key is to not then think 'that's so amazing, I could never write anything like that' and give up – which is easy to do...

...The process of creating something (music or otherwise) feels so good, and so I try and make that my motivation. I seem to always be wanting to express what I consider to be mysteries of the universe (or at least for me) as those strangely seem to be on my mind quite a lot (!) but it either then sounds like I take myself far too seriously, which isn't really the case, so then I find myself wanting to inject humour into it... 

...I need to learn to just keep it simple. Words never seem to be enough though, they can never express the deep parts of us, in my experience - or perhaps I'm not very articulate. I find it very frustrating!

Future singer/songwriting plans?
Just having a go and trying to get better and learning from other people - I know so many great musicians and writers, and they're all so gifted! I love performing though, so I'd like to do more of that. I was such a shy kid, but nowadays it turns out that perhaps I like the stage after all!

Follow Rachel on twitter:

Thanks for visiting this blog :-)

Samantha x

Beside the See Side