Blog: Rose Wardlaw

The newly graduated actress writes about her shock at being selected for the graduate scheme at West Yorkshire Playhouse and unlearning her Shakespeare voice

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I was offered a place on the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s graduate actor scheme two days after graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). It was with a rush of both pure excitement and boggled fear that I failed to respond coherently to Kay Magson, the theatre’s casting director, when she called to tell me the news. This was a combined feeling of total readiness after two years of training (plus 20 years of over-dramatic pining) and a sense that surely this “professional” thing had all come a bit too soon and maybe another year in some kind of training wouldn’t hurt; mime, maybe? Acrobatics? Accountancy? I quickly slapped myself around the face both literally and metaphorically. Besides, my student loan is already giving me a twitch in my left eye. Acting is a sweet job and I’m lucky to discover that doing it for a living is actually feasible and to be starting in such a wonderful regional theatre. The most important thing LAMDA taught me was to be brave: stop over-thinking, trust your instincts, breathe deep into your diaphragm, get grounded and get on with it. So that is the plan.

The West Yorkshire Playhouse began the graduate actor scheme last year, supported by the Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation, and looks to provide a platform for two young actors making their first steps between education and an industry that is notoriously tricky to tap into. Around 100 new graduates from drama schools across the country audition for the scheme and one girl and one boy are offered an 8-12 month contract at the theatre to undertake a variety of roles during the 2015/16 season. After getting the news from Kay I sent a text to one of my classmates at LAMDA who I’d been at the recall day with – “Mate, I’m moving to Leeds :O xox” – only to get a call seconds later -– “MATE, SEE YOU THERE”. And so it became clear that James Barrett (pictured above with Wardlaw) and I would have to put up with each other for another year. Getting my first job is a feeling I’ll never forget, but knowing the same job has also gone to a guy who I think is both a brilliant person and actor has made it much more important.

The first production we join is Richard III in the Quarry Theatre, directed by Mark Rosenblatt. If someone had told me two years ago that my first professional acting job out of drama school was going to be a Shakespeare, I would have stared blankly past them whilst assuming they had got the wrong Rose Wardlaw. I love Shakespeare, but with the respect we are taught to pay him at secondary school comes a level of reverence and it’s so unhelpful. I used to get told off for doing my “Shakespeare voice” when we first looked at it at drama school. It’s a default from listening to howling cassette tapes of The Tempest from 1963 for GSCE English and thinking that that’s how it’s meant to be done. Shakespeare might write about monsters, kings and Machiavels but if you boil it down it’s just people trying to make sense of themselves and the world around them – and that’s the bit I find most exciting. He finds a way to voice the fire behind a person’s eyes. We’re four weeks into rehearsal now, I’m playing Lady Anne, the young wife to Reece Dinsdale’s Richard, and I’m finding that one of the most thrilling parts of the process has been finding my own voice in Anne’s.

I find it hard to contemplate James and I playing grumpy Carol and Elf 30046 in The Night Before Christmas without being overcome with slightly hysterical laughter. I’m hoping that’s symptomatic of a great pairing for a heart-warming, silly and festive two-hander for ages two-six. This is our second show, which will take place in the Courtyard Theatre from 20 November until 2 January, and is directed by Amy Leach, the brains behind last year’s Little Sure Shot. It’s so exciting to be given the opportunity to go from one extreme to the other in our first two projects and it’s this part of the scheme that echoes parts of the old theatre repertory system, which sadly is now such a rarity.

I hear it’s normal for people at this early to mid-twenties point of life to think they know everything when really they know nothing. I love that I know nothing. It terrifies me and certainly contributes to massive anxiety, but I still hope it never goes away. It’s at the points where you embrace a blank space between your ears that you’re probably most likely to fill it with something completely unexpected. So, West Yorkshire, fill my brain.
Richard III is at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until 17 Oct

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