ACTRESS Carrie-Anne Wilde may have appeared on the Edinburgh Fringe — and be hailed as "an engaging new talent" by The Scotsman — but appearing in front of her home audience in Newtonmore is definitely more nerve-wracking.
Her home village will have a chance to see Carrie-Wilde in her one-woman show Here’s Connie at the Balavil Hotel, but first she answered some questions about the show.
You've already presented Here's Connie successfully at the Edinburgh Fringe, but is it potentially more nerve-wracking performing in front of a "home" audience?
This performance is definitely more nerve-wracking. The set up is quite different to what I am used to, there will be no fancy stage lights to hide behind and I will be able to see the paying audience. The advantage to this is that I hope it will feel like an intimate performance for the audience, as if they are really getting to know the characters. Newtonmore and surrounding villages are very supportive so really I shouldn't be nervous, I guess I just want everyone that makes it along to really enjoy their night and take something from the play.
What prompted you to create the play and how much of you is in Connie - and the other way round?
The play came around in my final year on the Musical Theatre Honours Degree at the University of the West of Scotland in 2012. We had to pitch an idea to get the opportunity to use a theatre space for one evening to showcase ourselves as creative practitioners. Originally I searched for an already published one woman play. When I couldn't find anything that grabbed my attention I decided to bite the bullet and try my hand at writing my own play. It has been a massive learning curve and took around 16 months of development including an 80 minute production in East Kilbride, until I was happy with the play and the characters.
The majority of the play has come from personal experience, my own family relationships as well as taking inspiration from friends relationships and life events. It was a therapeutic experience in all honesty, it is terrifying in ways because people who know me that come to see the production know that some of the emotions and experiences Connie is facing are my own. For this play I felt it was important to push myself to be honest in the writing as my main objective was for each audience member, old or young, male or female to connect with at least one of the characters or moments
. Every single person goes through ups and downs in life and it can be difficult to talk and as an audience member theatre can give you the chance to quietly reflect on your own issues and/or chat about them to whoever you are with after the show.
You are based in the Highlands. How important is that to you and how do you find the theatre scene in the Highlands? - I gather Play Pieces had an influence on the way you are presenting Here's Connie at the Balavil Hotel.
I have been back in the Highlands since January last year and it has been great to see there is actually lots going on theatre wise. Of course there is always room for more. I think it's important to sustain a strong theatrical and creative presence in the Highlands, just because communities are smaller doesn't mean they don't want or enjoy theatre.
Play Pieces influenced me with regards to providing a social experience while attending new theatre, providing audience members with a place to get something to eat and chat before and after the show. Eden Court Theatre has played an integral part as I remember performance opportunities with Out of Eden where we were encouraged to think theatre can be performed anywhere, you can't always have a theatre or a large budget. So Newtonmore doesn't have a fancy theatre but it does have a community who enjoy the theatrical experience and a social night out, I have a play that people seem to enjoy and I want to act so it makes sense to do it. Thankfully the Balavil Hotel were happy to support my idea with offering me their dining room.
What were the influences that led you towards an acting career?
I've just always enjoyed it, I've always liked the challenge of wondering if you can really pull something off and one way or another getting yourself together and just doing it. The fact that an acting career can entail so many things such as working with different communities to give opportunities has also been an influence.
I have had a lot of support from different teachers through Eden Court, TFX Performing Arts Academy, Kingussie High School, Inverness College tutors, Stow College and the University lecturers. I was always impressed by drama teachers and directors, you have to think a lot about things, multitask and speak openly, there is an air of confidence which could well be an act but it's there. My family have been a huge influence, I have hard working parents that have always told me to do or work towards what you enjoy.
What were the highs and lows of throwing yourself into the madness of the Edinburgh Fringe?
On reflection there were more highs than I realised, the first one being that I got to act for 12 out of 14 days while surrounded by theatre enthusiasts. I got to see some brilliant productions, learn from some not so great shows and attended some great seminars and workshops.
When I asked how they heard about Here's Connie and was told someone they got chatting to in another cue had recommended it I was delighted as word of mouth is crucial. Seeing ex teachers and locals from the Badenoch and Strathspey who praised the production while thinking to myself, 'did they really just witness me talking about some of those risqué moments?' and having to remind myself I was acting was always funny. I remember one day in particular I was feeling pretty grim, I didn't want to speak to anyone thinking I didn't have an audience, sifting through twitter I realised I had a cracking review from Three Weeks so I straight away phoned my parents to share the moment.
I was lucky enough to have James Stirling, who also attended Kingussie High School and is now working at the Arches in Glasgow, on board as my technical and emotional support crew. He helped make the low days into highs reminding me not to take it all too seriously and that's important. Put on a good performance, flier and do as much as possible to get an audience but don't take it personally if you have a small audience, people don't hate you they're just busy deciding what to see or your show doesn't seem like their cup of tea.
Are one-woman shows an area you want to pursue in the future and what do the coming months hold? A return to the Fringe perhaps?
I actually get married at the end of the month and move to London so I am currently job hunting and wondering what is next. There is no return to the Fringe planned at the moment although I am keen to return, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for companies looking for actors.
I am working on an exciting new piece of writing involving a larger cast which I hope to start collaborating with other practitioners from Scotland for in the next year. I love the interaction with other actors during productions but I wouldn't say no to another one woman show.• Carrie-Anne Wilde appears in her own play, Here’s Connie, at the Balavil Hotel, Newtonmore, at 7.30pm on Wednesday 12th March.
Tickets, priced £10 including a light supper, are available from the Newtonmore and Kingussie Post Offices.