Thursday, 24 June 2010

The Birth of Venus and the Death of Peter Pan

Peter Pan is dead! Long live Venus! I think I may have finally caught up with myself.

Would you like me to expand on the topic?

They say (they who? I don't know: psychologists, people in white coats, scientists) that our self-perception trails our age by some 10 years. Never one to do things by halves, I think mine was trailing by some 25...if not 30! There were lots of clues: dressing like a pixie for starters, minimal make-up whenever I could get away with it, intense dislike of shopping for clothes, use of my higher pitch voice as default, marked preference for pop music aimed at 12 year old girls (Beyonce, Gaga, Shakira, Pussy Cat Dolls...and Britney Spears and everything in between), and a fierce resistance to anything that would label me as officially grown-up: driving the car regularly, allowing myself to be called "Tata" (no not tatas... Tata is the French word for Auntie), voting, and acknowledging an hour glass figure.

But no more! The watershed occurred last Friday.

Last Friday, I had some new headshots done for Spotlight, the casting website. They're pretty ego-bashing and vanity destroying  because in the UK the convention is that they should be unretouched, in black and white and you are expected to wear minimal make-up and look "natural" (the Americans in the Industry kindly refer to it as "the Freak show") Remember that issue of Harper's Bazaar with the supermodels wearing no make-up? Well you get the gist.

The photo shoot in itself is not that challenging. I mean, you can't see yourself! The crunch comes when you get the proofs... and are confronted with some 200 images of your face. And at first you don't recognise yourself (we forget that the right side becomes the left in the mirror...) and then comes the second shock wave: this is how other people see me?


The answer is usually "Yes!". "Yes that is how other people see you. Deal with it."

I like my pictures. They're rather nice. The photographer was lovely and very talented. His name is Vincenzo and I will be posting some of the photos as soon as they come back from the printers so you can judge for yourselves.

But that wasn't my watershed. I am used to having my photo taken. I am used to being filmed wearing no make-up and shot half naked with a wide angle lense... No, my watershed came when I realised looking at those proofs, that I was no longer 10 years old, or 15 or even 25. That I was a grown up woman. All grown up! And that if I didn't start living up to this grown up woman, dressing her like a woman, celebrating her (slender) hourglass figure with dresses and skirts and pretty tops, then I will end up looking like one of those really sad make-over cases that you see on telly. And I really don't want that to happen. I mean, would you?

So I'm making some changes. Considering using one of those personal shoppers/stylists at Selfridges. Making an effort. Wearing nail polish. Smiling at the sound of wolf-whistles. And celebrating all of my grown up birthdays to date in one go!

So it's out with the Covent Garden flower seller in My Fair Lady and in with Breakfast at Tiffany's. Or, I dare you!:  the fountain scene in La Dolce Vita...

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

This is a house of ill repute!

There's a new building that's gone up on the corner opposite. It's a sliver of a thing: one window deep. Still, that's 5 windows (one per floor) to peak at, Rear Window style, from my kitchen window. The ground floor has floor to ceiling windows, rather dodgy on a busy street corner if you ask me... and is apparently an office. I say apparently because for all intents and purposes it's done up as a posh designer flat. But they have a sign in the window advertising an opening for an office manager/receptionist...

The next floor up is empty. The top flat boasts a huge flat screen plasma TV. They watch a lot of sports and trashy stuff... The next floor down is done up in a very masculine way but apparently a single woman lives there - unless she's the cleaning lady.

The second floor was the first flat to be occupied. And has been an object of fascination (it doesn't take much, think of a cat and a piece of string) ever since. First of all, in the beginning, they put up dark plastic sheets to block out the window. But now that the weather has turned warm, they have relented and taken them down, and leave the window open. Fascinating...

There are two desks facing each other in the corner of the room by the window. Day and night girls sit in front of the computers. They've also taken to putting bath towels out to dry. Over the weekend, I became convinced that the flat was being used as brothel or phone/internet adult site. Now I'm not so sure. I think they're just students cramming for exams!

Doesn't quite have the same ring to it...

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Stop it or you'll go blind!

Another rehearsal last night for Desire (the play what I'm in July 13-31 at the White Bear Theatre, London  click here). It involved pretending to play chess on an invisible board (neither one of us actually knows how to play), crying (me), giggling (me and her - because she found a second (rude) meaning to a section of the scene we were working on), and the director giving us heartbreaking circumstances around which to improvise (hence the crying - from me mainly but I think they were getting pretty close to a tear too).

In between we had breaks involving banana and bread rolls (the director), sandwiches, and chewing gum (me - I'm still on the Dukan Diet - I had some steak when I got home. Yum!!) and a very funny anecdote about someone's bed squeaks revealing their nocturnal activities and keeping people awake.

This morning, after a night of interrupted sleep, I feel slighlty light headed and out of myself - as if the character I'm developing was pushing me off my centre. It'll pass once we find a way of both settling inside like two peas in a pod. That's the plan at any rate!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Dressing up the Dolly

Last night, at the start of our rehearsal for DESIRE, the designer came to show us the set and to discuss wardrobe. His name is Mike Lees and he is extraordinarily talented as well as deliciously waspish. I didn't even mind that he turned down my request to be dressed in the white and red latex nun outfit that Lady Gaga sports in her latest video "Alejandro" - without even considering it. As I said, he is fabulously talented and besides his idea for my outfit is WAY better. I'm not saying anything else about it. You'll have to come and see the show for yourselves. But WOW. If we (I) can pull it off. Everybody elses costume ideas are lovely but... that's all I'm saying.

Then rehearsal proper got underway. It was the three hander scene at the beginning of Act 3 which we hadn't worked on before. As always at the start of a session I felt slightly like a fish out of water, out of synch, just not very good. And then the magic started to happen, we worked the scene this way and that, stretching space and time, and all of a sudden: BOOOM! The text started to take on a completely different and far more exciting meaning. It came alive and we came alive and there it was... pure magic!

Still lots of work to do and choices to make but now we know what direction to explore for that particular scene.

So onwards and upwards. And wait till you see my outfit!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Look at Me!!

This morning, I found a personal invitation to join fashion social network Lookville in my inbox. It's an American site that is quirky, quite girly, and altogether rather charming with fashion tips, opinions and feedback on your style if you ask for it! Although most of it is very constructive, some of it is deliciously biting:

Example: "What do you think of people who draw fake moles." "Desperate."

Ouch! But so true...

Anyway, the site is by invitation only, the email said VERY NICE things about my blog (both in terms of content and appearance) and I thought  that after years of being a closet Gok fan (if you don't know him, check him out, he's the coolest British stylist ever and so inspirational to women of all ages, sizes and shapes! - there, I've said it)  it would be nice to officially join the sisterhood of fashionista navel gazers.

So Lookville, here I come!

Friday, 11 June 2010

You say World Cup I say Hot Pants!

I am wearing hot pants. No, not knickers still toasty warm from the dryer. Proper short shorts aka hot pants. They are white with cute pastel mini horizontal stripes (which officially no longer make us look bigger than we are). They're from Just Jeans and I bought them in Manly (cool North Sydney surfing beach/community) two years ago (I needed a pair of undies and that's all I could find -- it's a long story.)

Ok. So I'm not wearing them on the street. I'm wearing them in the privacy of my own home which means non one can see me other than the pervy architects across the way and the mystery tennants on the top floor above them. Oh and anyone walking through the NCP car park.

I've paired it up with a "hello boys" bra under an American Apparel yellow T, (because it matches the yellow stripes EXACTLY) and some knee high socks (beigy grey textured pattern) and my pink slippers - just because.

Why? Because that Dukan Diet is working and Zumba is working, and believe it or not, cellulite can disappear. And the sun is out!

By the way,  I'll be cheering for France, Spain, the UK, the US and Brazil (and the Aussies if they're playing).

Monday, 7 June 2010

A love story

The rehearsal process - if all goes well - is a love story. A love story between you and the character. Because often, when you first look at the script your character is a complete stranger. You may empathise all you want but you still only know it or understand it from the outside.

No matter how much research I do, how I try to make every detail relevant by making substitutions in my mind (see the excellent "Respect for Acting" by Ute Hagen)... the magical transference from "her" to "me" is still out of reach. It a necessary part of the process but it's also b****y scary.

There are times when you never find the umbilical cord that links you to your character... and then you end up with something not very nice... not very real. Ever watched a film where you simply couldn't warm up to a character? Where you thought: I don't think this actor likes his character very much? Well, that's the missing umbilical cord (technically it's not missing, it simply hasn't been found).

Luckily for me, I find improvisation very useful in that hunt of the umbilical. Ever played make believe as a child? How real did it feel at the time? Couldn't you just taste the imaginary apple tart and peach cobbler and the tea served in your miniature Limoges tea set? (Or was that just me...) That's improvisation. Some people find it scary. I don't. It's the door to freedom and dreams and somehow the character takes over within a few seconds of the exercise starting and without me realising it and says things and does things, thinks things... and then after the exercise is over I come back to myself and sit down with the director and analyse the process discover so many things I didn't know! And suddenly, the character starts to make complete sense.

You suddenly understand, not with your head, but with your heart, why they are doing certain things in the course of the play, why they say certain things and how they say them. You no longer judge is as good/bad, wrong/right, funny/sad... it becomes the only way to behave, to think, to be... and that's an indescribably delicious feeling.

A feeling of freedom, a feeling of growing affection and love for this character who slowly merges into you and you into it. And if you work hard, and are very lucky, and don't peak too early, you're in for a real treat, playing a long lost twin, playing a former self from a past life, playing the person you always knew you could be.

That's what acting's really about. People will tell you that they get into it for fame and money but finding your character and celebrating it is what gets you through the rigours of drama school, through the endless castings for TV commercials, the bit parts, and the hopes of the next job.

THE SHOW: Isabelle will be playing "The Woman" in Desire/Desig by Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, 13-31 July, White Bear Theatre (London), directed by Julia Stubbs, co-starring Simon de Deney, Anabelle Cleare and Stephen Connery-Brown. For tickets: