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There are very few projects you can look back on and think, from start to finish, that was an utter joy. But Hidden Spire is one of the best things I've ever done. The play was resonant in so many different ways. The climate crisis. The aftereffects of the pandemic. The importance of community. Stories of homelessness, isolation, and the greed of big business. The joy of being able to be in a space with people and sing!

I came in at the performance stage. I’ve done a lot of drama before. And I'd seen Hidden Spire’s Sawdust, as well as The Tempest, so I knew roughly what Hidden Spire was. I was lucky enough to have some flexibility with my work at the time, and I thought, do you know what, this is the time to do something really different. So I auditioned. And I had one audition with Lizzy and I got this wonderful part, Ma Piright! Ma Piright was brilliant. I miss her! She was a punk Eco-warrior and she was very determined and driven, all about the cause, really resolute. She had a song, and I sing, so that really appealed to me too. Then as I got into it, I really felt her love and her protection for her child, Wild. She also had a heartbreak with the preacher - that was part of my audition piece, the tension between those two.

When we started, it was quite intense. I suddenly realised I had to learn my lines in a week when I had all sorts of other stuff going on. I rapidly had to cancel things and rearrange my life. But being Ma Piright, I got a chance to be someone different. I mean, I am quite driven. But at that point in my life, I was feeling pulled in lots of different directions. I’d just literally dropped my eldest son at university in Durham on the day before rehearsals began. It was such a long way to go, and then I came back, having had to miss the first morning, and go straight into rehearsals. I had lots of other things going on in my life, too, as everyone does. I'm a children's book writer. And then to pay the bills I also work for the Royal Literary Fund doing a reading group. I also do bits of editing and other things, so my life is usually a real juggle of stuff. So it was just really nice to play somebody who was so clear and focused.

Everyone involved was always so lovely. That was the hardest thing to let go of when it all ended. There was a real genuine feeling of care all the way through from everybody towards everybody. I remember talking to Paul about the importance of lunch: that we were all fed. Obviously it was lovely to be fed in practical terms: you didn’t have to go out, or make a packed lunch. But he was saying, it makes such a difference because we all ate together, there were no cliques, no people going off for lunch without others. We were all there. And so you would sit with different people in different combinations and have a chat. And little, tiny snippets of people's lives would come out. I wouldn't say you got to know everybody really well, but you got to know people enough, which was lovely. We were all very close. Very supportive of each other – like a family.

I did this protest scene where I was up on the balcony, geeing up this massive crowd, and you won't see the full effect on the video, because you don’t have all the audience, but it was an amazing thing. The noise of the crowd, all shouting in support! And then there was a sort of panicky, horrible scene immediately afterwards, where I got shot and the police were involved. And also, a very intense scene with Mark where people were right there, physically close to us.

I see myself differently now. I got used to doing my hair without looking in the mirror - without caring what I looked like, the way Ma Piright would have done it. And now I'm quite happy about it. There were a few people afterwards who thought I was a professional actor, which was amazing and made me feel more confident about my singing and acting abilities. And I surprised myself by how big and loud and powerful I could be. Being a part of this company of really different people but all of us being on the same level, whether that's professionals, or Crisis or the community; I think I hadn't expected to feel that level of togetherness. I worried a little bit that I might feel inadequate, but I didn't at all.

It was Guy’s teaching that really gave me the confidence to sing. I mean, I can sing and I've always sang, but it was like, blimey, I can reach those notes with that volume on my own! Opening my mouth and singing like that in front of the whole theatre full of people – that was quite powerful. For the last few years, the only things I’ve really done have been pantomimes – great fun but very silly characters. So it was nice to play a serious, badass, goodass character instead. You know? I'm hoping to have singing lessons with Guy. And it’s made me think maybe I could do something singing-wise. I don't know how that would be. But it’s given me the confidence to think that might be possible. And it's also opened doors into the Old Fire Station and Crisis which make me think maybe I could do some reading work with the members of Crisis. I feel like my eyes have been opened. I look at people sleeping rough with different eyes. And I would love to be more involved. It's opened me up creatively, but also socially.

I came to see a show here at the Old Fire Station a week ago and it does feel really weird, like, woah! where has everything gone? But I guess there's always that feeling of disconnect when you finish a show. Because I was so transformed, and the place was so transformed, and it was all so immersive, it's even harder to think, wow, that really happened. But equally, I'm going to the Old Fire Station workshop tonight. I’m really encouraged that there might be things to do with the show in the future. I love the way that again, the Old Fire Station is still looking after us and making sure we’re alright and getting opportunities to explore things in the future. That’s made the comedown after the show not quite so intense.

The closing night a lot of us were sad. We could feel it coming. I remember crying just before we went on. We were doing games where we'd have to go to someone and say: ‘It’s terrible. It's really terrible.’ And I did it with Jenny Jones, who just made me cry. But I can laugh at that now. And I remember the end song, it’s the only show I've ever been in where the cast asked for an encore. It was amazing. Guy and Josef were there, singing there with us. And it was too much to just stop it. So, we asked for an encore. I think everyone was quite happy when the cast asked for more. All the tech team were up on the balcony dressed up. And my mum, who’s 84, she was there. I danced with my mum, I danced with my kids, I danced with my husband. It was just a wonderful, wonderful thing.


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