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A Thousand-Piece Jigsaw

I got roped into Atlantis, just two or three days before the rehearsals actually started. I didn't even know what a Hidden Spire project was. Abi, who helped to write the play, called me up because she used to teach me drama for A levels. She rang me up, and said, ‘They need someone who's a bit wild to play a character called Wild - can you do it?’ And I was like, ‘Well, sounds a little bit up my alley.’

Obviously, I went in thinking this was just going to be another play. And then I got there, and we were all sitting in a circle of chairs, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, everyone's really nice.’ I’d never been in a show like this before. Because from the get-go, everyone was really lovely. And from all walks of life, but everyone accepted everyone. And if someone was feeling down or feeling really upbeat, people would support each other.

As soon as I started learning exactly what Atlantis was, how it had come about, the fact that it had been a year and a half in the making because of Covid and all of that, I was like ‘Okay, I've really got to put my all into this because this is something so much more than a play. This is people's feelings. This is people's stories. For real.’ Obviously Atlantis is a fictional thing – but it's coming from a really deep and personal place.

When you go into a production, there's always the pressure for people to like you. The cast have got to get on, otherwise it's not going to be a very good play. But we didn't even need to do that here, everyone connected really well. I was the youngest, by quite a long way. But I didn't feel thaDI ED – everyone still included me in everything. We just got on like a house on fire. And it was always laughter, everyone was always honest on how they were feeling – it was none of the small talk crap.

If people hadn't done things before, or they were nervous, or uncomfortable, we’d talk about it, and then we’d go through it step by step. It was just safe. And that was definitely down to Lizzy and Emma. When you see the assistant and director getting on well and being really friendly towards their cast, treating you as an equal rather than they're up here and you’re down there, you feel automatically comfortable, to do whatever you want, experiment, get things wrong, make mistakes.

I really enjoy talking to people from all different walks of life. That's how you grow as a person. And it's so important to not stick with the same people, to learn from all different ways, whether you agree with them or not. I am only 18, but I enjoy people who are older than me. They’ve been living longer. I enjoy listening to them. So I took away something from every single one of those people. I could listen to them for hours. I used to just sit there and be like, ‘Right, give me my lecture.’

I hopefully come across as quite a kind, happy and bubbly person – I've always wanted to be that – and I see myself as a caring person, but I came away being more those things. Now, even if someone's rude, you know, barges past you, or just says something, instead of being pissed off at them, I'll just think ‘Why are they're doing that? What's happened in their day to make them feel like this?’ I'll think that rather than get angry. It really made me think about people, and people in my life, way more. It made me be more patient. I think maybe being in a rehearsal process, it makes you patient, because you want to learn your lines, get them out the way, you want to put the show on, you want to be there already. But you can't, you have to trust the process.

Earlier on in the year I went through something that made me really closed off, and made it really hard to let the barriers go. I basically had no friends. And I had no trust. And then I walked into this place where everyone just had their arms open to say ‘We'll listen.’ And these people somehow managed to melt me. It was like a little savior that I didn't know I needed. I knew I needed something. But everyone says, ‘Oh, go to therapy,’ whereas this was ten times better. Or a million times better, actually.

I think it just overall made me a happier person. They made me incredibly grateful – really made me realise my privilege even more. Everyone goes through hard times, but I'm really lucky, you know. I talk to my parents all the time about what their lives were like. We’re lucky enough now to be financially stable. But when they were younger, they were both from below poverty line families. And as soon as my dad left home, he was homeless for quite a while. He went hitchhiking, lived in a cave for a while, he did everything. So it was really interesting to learn about my parents, and then go into this thinking how homelessness can affect anyone at any time.

Obviously, it also taught me a lot, acting-wise. As someone who's constantly learning to act, and to dance, and learning new ways to go about those things, it was really helpful. Especially because there were professional actors in the room as well, who have been to drama school, you know. And musically. Because we used to sing every day, my voice got really strong. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I can hit the high notes.’ I was yelling my lungs out at home, because I was just enjoying it so much.

It was important for me to carry on doing what I love and not lose hope in it. And to be told that I am good at what I do. That I have a shot. I want a career in acting, performing, dancing, movement – in the arts, really. When you're at school, people will tell you're good, but that's at school, so you never really know if that's true or not. And then I did a show for the National Youth Dance Company of Great Britain. That was also amazing. But you don't get any words of affirmation. Depending on who the director is, they can be quite harsh. So, you never really know if you're any good or not. But when we came here, it was just really good constructive feedback. You know, positivity makes you work better.

I remember the first night, everyone was very, very nervous. There were mostly Hidden Spire people there, but in a way, that was big pressure because they’re letting us put the show on, you know, we've got to prove that it's good. But as soon as you do your first scene, you're away. You're in it, you're enjoying it, you don't care anymore. Your mind is just in the zone. And then each performance we did got better and better. Everyone got more and more into their characters, because when you're on stage, you naturally just find more things to do. And then I remember the last night came, and I was really enjoying the day, but I was also dreading for it to end. Because I knew this would be it. I'm not going to see these people for a while.

But it went really well. And we sang the last song over and over again, the audience was dancing with us, and it was just so…it was a really happy moment. I’d do it again and again, and again and again and again. It was possibly the best thing I've ever done. It was kinda like the dream. I really wanted to put something I'm really passionate about, and then something I really enjoy together. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this exists.’

You know how sometimes everything just clicks together, just randomly, coincidentally? It was like one of those things. I really needed it. These people really needed it, whether they were ex members, members, people who were volunteers, professionals, everyone needed it. Because this was the first show that we'd all done after Covid. And I think the people who came to watch, they needed it. They need a show. People need something that's gonna make them feel something, whether it’s laughter or sadness. All the tiny things clicked into place. It was like a thousand-piece jigsaw. I'm one of the pieces, all the cast are one of the pieces, all the artistic team, all the people who had written things in the workshops. The lighting people. They were all little pieces. Everyone was just a piece in this huge jigsaw to put it all together. And then it worked spectacularly.


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