“For this part, Ella, I want you to shout it. Like, really shout it,” I am told. “In fact, forget the lines for a moment, just shout at me right now.” Warning bells go off in my head, and I start to get anxious. Really anxious.
I am not a shouter, not in the slightest. As an only child, I have no experience of shouting matches with siblings, and on the odd occasion I get riled up, I tend to quietly seethe or aim for text-based rants. Shouting or screaming – anything that requires me to raise my voice – is not something that is natural to me. Throwing social anxiety into the mix doesn’t help matters either. But the whole reason I auditioned for this play was to step out of my comfort zone. We’re all supposed to do one thing that scares us every day; maybe this is my thing today.
So I do it, I shout my lines. And I wait, eager and expectant.
“Not good enough,” the harshness of his tone makes me wilt a bit. “I want to feel your anger. Just imagine you’re a mother telling off her two children who are screaming at each other. You need to make yourself heard.” Make myself heard, what a ridiculous thing to say! I thought to myself. I don’t happen to be very good at that either.
People don’t look at me and think actress. And I understand that, because neither do I. Most people’s response when I tell them that I dabble in acting is generally along the lines of, “Really? You? An actress?” I’m hesitant, awkward, quiet-natured. I don’t instantly command attention in a room and often have to remind people where we’ve met before. But I knew auditioning for this play was something I needed to do, so I didn’t have to spend later life thinking ‘what if?’
I didn’t see it coming, when I stood in front of the production team in that cold, drafty audition room, cracking jokes that this would be my theatre comeback after my role as Icicle #5 in my Year 4 teacher’s musical, Icicle Jack. I never expected in that moment, that I was going to end up landing the female lead.
It’s just my two directors and me in the room at this point, everyone else has been sent home, satisfied with their performances that night. I should be so lucky. We try things to encourage me to project my voice. Vocal exercises, singing, something about using my diaphragm. At one point we’re just listening to heavy metal to try and get me pumped up. I try thinking of things that stir up anger in me: slow walkers, my ex, men’s rights activists.
In the end, my two directors decide to repeat the lines before mine over and over again, as if they were arguing, voices raising slightly every time, and they wouldn’t stop until they were satisfied with my level of volume and anger. Their booming actor voices drowned out any attempts for me to interject, and I was in fact starting to get a little annoyed. So annoyed that I had no choice but to scream at the top of my lungs.
“What is the meaning of this foul argument?!”
The room goes quiet. They both turn to me, looking rather pleased with themselves, looking rather pleased with me, too. I can feel the adrenaline coursing through my body, and my hands are shaking at my sides uncontrollably. I finally did it, and I’m oddly proud of myself. This is the first step, I think to myself, I’m finally coming out of my shell. I forget what was holding me back in the first place.
I know that doing a bit of shouting in a play isn’t going to get me first billing at a West End show or win me a Golden Globe. But just coming away from this experience learning what I’ve learnt, becoming closer to the person I want to be, is enough for me.
After opening night, I stood a little taller, smiled a little wider, held my head up high. Because I, the girl too scared to take part in after-school drama club, was now performing in front of an audience – a paying audience – ten years later. I took a leap of faith and it worked out in my favour, big time.
Anything is possible, sometimes all you have to do is get angry.
Welcome to Shorts, my new creative writing series where I’ll be posting little short stories I’ve written, taken from my own life, borrowed from others, or made up all together. This little snippet is a moment in time from when I was rehearsing for my first lead role in a play, Oedipus the King. I’m currently working polishing up the next Short, from when I attended the Superlatively Rude workshop, How To Write Words People Want To Read, back in November 2016. Watch this space…