Learning Lines Like A Boss

I’m learning lines again.
Autumn season is upon us and that means another splendid production by The Canterbury Players is around the corner. Which means I get to force people to pay money to pay attention to me. Yay! Having appeared in a smasher of a show at The Marlowe Studio in the summer, I was offered the role off Hannah in Tom Stoppard’s masterpiece, Arcadia, which will play at The Gulbenkian from 4th to 7thNovember and is directed by lovely Becky aka Miscriant.
Ahhhh Stoppard. Stoppard.
Oh Christ, I’ve just realised something…….he’s good, isn’t he?

I mean, like, really good. Like, Shakespeare good. Like all his words actually mean something. The kind of words that help the people in the audience on tenuous dates to have sex with each other because the script composition is so witty and so brilliant that you feel like nothing in your life that will ever be as beautiful or as beguiling so you may as well just have sex because you sort of know you’re good at that and why not just attempt to be okay at something for 15mins?

Yes, that level of good.
This is Ben’s script because I left mine in a car.
And I wrote a phone number on it when I couldn’t find a pad.
I think it’s the number for Port Lympne Reserve. Visit it, it’s nice

Arcadia is indeed a masterpiece, intertwining literature, sex, thermo-dynamics, gardening, academia with his usual biting humour and yes, blah blah blah the words the words are wonderful, well I HAVE TO LEARN THEM OKAY?!

But it’s okay, I’ve developed a fool proof system of notes. Some of you dear readers may be amateur thesps yourselves, or perhaps you harbour a secret desire to tread the boards.
Well to help you on your way, I’ve decided to share some of my private script notes – my method, if you will – so you might learn from my experience.


 Acting is about knowing when to act. It’s important to remind yourself of this.

You will need to be on stage almost every time that your character is on stage. It’s best to hover by the wings, making sure that you don’t go on without you.

 Physical acting can be challenging and confusing.

I should have learned the dates earlier because I sure as hell haven’t been saying these ones. I swear, I think at some point I said ‘1732 to 1485’ in rehearsal. 

 Yep, lots more of that.

Oh Jesus, that’s a lot of words. Ohhhhhhh I should really look these people up.

And also look inquisitive. Look and speak inquisitively when asking questions. And yell. Always yell questions. 

In all seriousness, here are some actual am dram tips. (If you’re a pro, go way you’re getting paid get back to your script and your roasted swan)
Try putting your script down sooner than you’d like, and lose the prompt (if you have one) for a couple of rehearsals close to curtain up. It feels uncomfortable, but it’s supposed to. If your lines are not in your head and others are waiting for their cues, it’s painful. But one thing that’s sure to make me learn my lines is the fear of looking unprofessional in front of others

Reread everything YES THAT INCLUDES THE BITS YOU AREN’T IN. All too often we focus solely on our own roles. You can’t let that shit fly. Every character, every scene, informs on the next, and you better know it inside out. That’s why it’s a play.

You can never know your lines enough. It’s an old acting cliche that you have to know who your character is, inside and out, but the reason it’s hammered home so often if that it’s not an easy job.
Anthony Hopkins reportedly examined his lines up to 200 times until he didn’t even have to think about ‘saying a line’ any more. He just knew his character completely.
Are you better than Anthony Hopkins? ARE YOU?
NEVER, EVER FORGET YOUR LINES. Not for one second. Every horrifying feeling you have about the world collapsing if you forget a line is true: if you drop a line you’re AWFUL and the world will burn and people will laugh at you. What kind of person can’t even learn a words without having to hold an itty bitty piece of paper to help them?!! LEARN YOUR DAMN LINES.
…….Oh I kid, I kid! You’ll be fine, tiny darlings. Acting is not that scary really.

Want to SEE me act? Come and see Arcadia in Canterbury this November – we promise it will have all the acting you could imagine. 
Book here please

Miracle Mascara and Fab Facial Oil

Today, I bring you something for the eyes, and something for the skin.

Everyone brace themselves – I think I’ve found my perfect mascaras. I know, I know – you’ve all been waiting for this day, wandering and hoping. I want to thank you all for supporting me through my struggles, it’s been emotional.

Mascara is my absolute make-up staple. As a natural blonde with grey/blue eyes, my lashes are practically invisible so I need help to make my peepers pop. Many brands have served well, but few manage to achieve the pretty, fluttering effect I’m looking for, and all too many have furnished me with the dreaded clumped spider look.
Back in August, I asked my sister for some mascara for my birthday and Em presented me with Mascara Terrybly in Moka Brown, ‘a growth booster mascara’ from By Terry. The packaging claims it is a ‘lash-Lengthening intensive serum’ that will transform lashes day after day. It also uses ‘Lumicoat® Care Technology’………which is probably a thing.

I’ll admit, I was dubious; I haven’t used brown mascara since borrowing a cheap one from my mother and ended up looking like I’d put mud in my eyes. This new box promised the gloop would condition and boost growth while it decorated, but it wasn’t the big ‘volumising! Lengthening! Separating! Orgasming!’ advertising extravaganza I was used to.

I didn’t use it for a couple of weeks until one day, when I was in a hurry and was in the mood for minimalism, I gave it a go. A couple of coats and a feline flick of eyeliner, and I was out the door. The masarca slid on very nicely, with no clumping, and the colour was a luscious natural brown. In the seconds I spent applying it, I was impressed but too rushed to pay proper attention.
Cut to me in the bathroom at work. While washing my hands, I glanced in the mirror and literally did a double take. I mean, obviously I am constantly gorgeous, but I couldn’t believe my actual eyes. My lashes were bright, delicate and pretty. I don’t know how, but the mascara had given me the sort of fluttery, girlish eyes I’d been looking for. Perhaps it was the colour or the boosting wonder tonic, but FINALLY I could pretend this is how I look first thing in the morning.
The more I use the mascara, the better my lashes look. I don’t normally believe fancy packaging and claims of revolutionary technology, but this stuff clearly works. Such a fantastic find does not come cheap – it’scurrently £32 online from Space NK. But the results are remarkable.

But a woman can’t live on day mascara alone! And that’s why, when I was recently in duty-free territory en route back from Vegas, I bagged me a tube of Lancome’s Hypnose Doll Eyes mascara in black.

The key to  a good mascara is often the brush; the Doll’s Eyes wand is a thick cone with a traditional, hearty bristles (I’m not a fan of rubber brushes these days). It coats every lash and gives a full fan effect, without clumping or overloading. It is lovely on its own, but is particularly good for enhancing a smokey, feline eye.
Lancome is a touch more reasonable on the wallet, at £22.50online, though Lancome frequently has excellent special offers in department stores. Bag a tester whenever you can.

And now, for my final thought. Or product. Whatever.

It is….facial oil.
I have previously told you ALL to moisturise every day and night, no matter your skin condition. You need to look after your skin as early as you can, or you will be sobbing about your wrinkles long before the rest of us.
One of my secret weapons has been the occasional use of facial oil at night. Massage a few drops into your face and neck before bed, and wake up crease-free.
Last month, I was invited to a Neal’s Yard Party by the lovely Miscriant and discovered the sensation that is the Rose Facial Oil. I am big fan of Neal’s Yard products (read Miscriant’s round-up of their work here), as they are organic and very good quality. Their thicker than usual lotions and creams do take a little while to get used to if you have sensitive skin, but I don’t know anyone who has not been converted after a couple of weeks of use.
The Rose Facial Oil was an obvious choice for me, as I knew my current stash of facial oil was running low. This concoction is outstanding (it also has a handy tincture dropper in the lid), and I’ve been treating my skin to it at the end of busy days and even longer nights. Every time I wake up with incredibly dewy, softer than silk skin. Use it, ladies, and thank me later.
Currently £18.50 online, but I strongly recommend you host a NY party for your friends as you will get a lot of great testers and can sample their many products.
Don’t feel like shelling out for the fancy stuff? For an even cheaper option, pierce a capsule of evening primrose oil with a pin, squeeze onto your fingertips and massage into your face. This version is a bit rich, so don’t use more than one capsule. 
Here endeth the lesson.

Grim Visages – Face Painting for Grown-Ups

Some people let their inner child out at Christmas. I let mine out at Halloween.

And also when I’m drinking gin and eating chicken at 1am and I find out Psycho is on TV.
My delightful friend Al (follow her on Twitter @algriffs) took a jaunt to the British Library at the end of October for a special evening party celebrating their sensational exhibition Terror & Wonder: The Gothic Imagination.
Terror & Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, by British Library
Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination (Pic from The British Library)

The invitation was to The Sorting, and promised a funeral-inspired experience with actors, music, DJs, bar and a late night opening of the exhibition.
And there was more: “We invite you to be the guest of honour at an extraordinary funeral: your own! Do you dare to go on?
“An appointment at the funeral parlour with the local undertaker awaits before you discover your final fate. Will you be a saint or sinner? Angel or Devil? Join other travelling souls as they negotiate their way through the macabre afterlife in this fun and exciting experience created by award-wining theatre company, Les Enfants Terribles.
“Humility is key as we invite you to atone for your sins and purify your soul through the seven levels of purgatory.”
And one of my favourite bands – Tankus The Henge – were playing, and I was damned if I would miss out.
Before we could attend, we needed suitable attire. Al and I agreed to go with doll-like & dark fairy macabre outfits: black puff-ball skirts, boots and heels, big hair and Nanny Ogg style-tights. But clothes would not do alone. So we sought out a local expert – my sister Emily, face painter extraordinaire.
Em is an English teacher by day but also does traditional story-telling at kids’ parties and festivals in her spare time (as she is a very talented orator). To branch out, she started learning face painting and has become extremely good at it. This angers me, as I cannot draw for shit.
Here are some of her designs.

See? She also sings too, in a band called Curious Hour. It ain’t fair.

When Al and I arrived, Em was in the middle of her own Halloween party for her son Leo and his friends at her London home but she still made time for us.

Her son Leo is four in January so it’s sort of the first Halloween he can really appreciate. I’ll be honest, being at at the ones’ party…was fantastic. I love Halloween as it was our family’s favourite holiday when I was a youngster. We loved dressing up, we loved the darkness, we loved the games, the cackling, the scary music, the grim costumes. Above all, we were macabre – Em and I didn’t do cutesy stuff. We did ghost stories and horror films. To see Leo taking part in this family tradition filled my heart with joy.

Also Em and husband Andy instantly handed us a glass of wine when we entered, saying ‘trust us, you’ll need this’.
Time was not with us, so Em gave us a crash course in grim make up. She gave us both primer so the base would stay up for longer. I then applied my own base foundation (Bare Minerals) and very dark smokey eye make-up, before Em added a pale, ghostly base. 
So far so basic, but then came the blending. Using dark brown, she hollowed out my eyes, my cheek bones, my nose, and my clavical (a crucial addition I would not have thought of myself). She also shaded my forehead and hairline.

The Demon Gin, face painting, British Library gothic, halloween
The Demon Gin, face painting, British Library gothic, halloween
The Demon Gin, face painting, British Library gothic, halloweenThe Demon Gin, face painting, British Library gothic, halloweenThe Demon Gin, face painting, British Library gothic, halloween

This was the effect. Deathly, no?

The Demon Gin, face painting, British Library gothic, halloween

Then came the time for the stitches. Em had found a design for a Bride of Frankenstein look, which she whipped up in a lightening speed for the two of us. 
A red, angry line for the gash and silver white marks to represent the painful ‘pinch’ marks of the staples. 
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween

Masterful work.
During this time, Leo had found the candy stash. Em and Andy strictly limit his sugar on most days, so you can imagine the effect of having ten mini-chocolates in one go had on him. Imagine the sound of a downed helicopter with its blades still spinning while it occasionally puts on a Darth Maul mask and yells ‘together we can rule the galaxy!!!!!’

Still, we were ready for the horror ball.

The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween

We then journeyed to the exhibition, where photography was limited but I managed to grab some sneaky snaps. The set up was that we were all at a funeral, but had been plunged into purgatory. As we explored the exhibition, we would have to face and conquer the seven deadly sins to be in with a chance of getting into heaven…and avoiding falling to hell.

As you explored the library, there were various ‘stations’ were actors carried out games based around the seven deadly sins – there was gambling, drinking contests, fake confessions, burlesque and old-timey photo booths, all led by very creepy actors. Anyone who completed a task at each station got a stamp on their special name tag.

The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The Sorting
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The Sorting
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The Sorting

The Gothic exhibition itself was a joy – books, cuttings, images, footage and models celebrating all that is dark and unsettling in the world. Al is more of an authority on early Gothic literature, where as I am more familiar with the romantics and Gothic cinema, so we served as good mutual guides.
My cousin Jack and his wife Amy were also attending and in the middle of our exhibition browsing, Jack got dragged off by a freaky priest to confess his sins. Poor priest got more than he bargained for with Jack; so, so much porn to confess.

The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The Sorting

By the end of the night, the master of ceremonies called on the crowd to reveal if anyone had achieved seven stamps.
Just one man had succeeded, but even his great work was not enough to save us all. And we were left to the fate of Beelzebub…or Tankus The Henge. Cue the music!
A splendid night, with some expert assistance. And, of course, there was plenty of room for more photos…

The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The SortingThe Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The Sorting
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The Sorting
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The Sorting
The Demon Gin, adult face painting, British Library gothic, halloween, The Sorting
Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Exhibition is showing at the British Library until 20th January 2015.

I Once Was a Vegas Virgin But I’m Not Now

I have returned, tiny darlings.

Forgive my absence, do. I love this blog more than I love a hot gin on a cold Christmas morning, or the pleasure I get from hurling said gin at my staff while screaming ‘gin is supposed to be cold, you horror stories!!!” Being away from you has been difficult.

The reason for my absence has been that I had been blessed with a new job in tourism PR, a delightful one closer to home and resplendent with lovely people and lots of rewarding hard work. Hence I’ve been focused on my various new tasks and ensuring no one discovers my penchant for almonds. Imagine the shame…

There was also a sandwich I needed to eat, and some minor psychotic episodes where I considered not drinking in the evenings. It was a dark time.

But what have I been up to? That’s what you’re all asking, isn’t it? Well, it’s been fairly manic. Faiiiiiirly manic. So I have plenty of blog fodder to bring you, and will bombard you with my tales to make up for my shocking absence.

One thing that happened was this.

Yes, for some reason, in my second week of my new job I was sent to Las Vegas.

A colleague could not go, I have no children (and hence no immovable plans) so was asked to step in for a major trade networking event. I swear, I did spend a long time saying “but…but are you SURE you want to send me? Someone else should get to go, surely? I’m…I…what?”

My six day trip was for work, and I spent half of that working but was lucky to have the sum of a couple of days to explore and take a gander at Sin City. My experience was not typical as I was on business and was not staying in or eating at the sort of budget places I’d normally frequent.

So rather than detailing the ins and outs of my trip, I shall give you my overview and my pitiful Vegas virgin’s guide to surviving the strip:

  • It’s INSANE

All the stories are true – Vegas is one giant mass of excess. It’s huge, a giant sprawling mass of lights and luxury in the middle of the Nevada desert. Caeser’s Palace is the size of a small town, and I am not exaggerating. When I explored The Strip, it took my three hours to cover about 1/4 of a mile as the crow flies; the innards of the big hotels are mazes of shops, sculptures, gambling tables and bars. It doesn’t make sense and you feel exhausted after only a couple of hours. But it’s fun. Oh man, is it FUN.

  • Just do what the jet lag tells you to do

I have never suffered in the past, but Vegas hit me hard. Everything messes with your senses – it’s sweltering outside, and freezing inside. There is no natural light anywhere inside the hotels or casino (even your bedrooms have the world’s greatest blackout curtains), lights dazzle constantly, noise surrounds you day and night, and oxygen is pumped into every casino & some hotel rooms to keep you up and gambling. I had to get up early most days for work, but otherwise I would have just gone with my body clock and slept when it told me and gone out when I couldn’t close my eyes. Either allow a day or two either side of your trip designed entirely for sleep, or just go with it. Vegas does not close, you will find fun, food and drink 24hrs a day.

  • Bring money

You can stay very cheaply off the strip, and find budget bars and cheap eats in the ‘old town’. If you want to stay on the Strip, either bring your gambling A-game or bring twice as much money as you’d expect to spend. It’s screamingly pricey on the main drag – between $10 and $15 a drink and meals approach $18 for a main. We went to a buffet dinner at Paris, which cost $35 without booze or $45 with. BUT! Whatever you get, will be worth it. The buffet was the biggest I’d ever seen, with every kind of starter, main and dessert. I didn’t drink that night (too tired) but those that did could order all the champagne and gin they wanted. Cocktails are loaded with booze, a G&T has more gin than tonic, and we all know American portions of food are fit for giants.

Though I do recommend the crazy cocktail stall outside of Paris – it’s a guy who will sell you giant plastic Eiffel Tower bottles with frozen cocktails containing a mountain of calypso for $10. It’s…it’s just tops.

  • Everyone is drunk and wants to have sex with you

The old saying “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is chanted like a prayer. Seemingly everyone believes it. Everytime I got in a lift, whether it was 7am or 9pm, there was a drunk person in it, clasping beers and cocktails, swaying in killer heels or heaving into their baseball hats. And this was a supposedly swanky hotel. On one occasion, a drunk girl with her boyfriend insisted on showing me her breasts. In the evenings, when we hit the cocktail bar, men on business or just there to gamble would offer my both a drink and possible intercourse. When I explained I had a partner, they ALL responded “that’s okay! I’m married too! My wife is at home!” Booze on tap and there are always freebies to be had.

  • Don’t bring kids

See point four – this is no place for children. I mean…some parts are just delightful and would dazzle a child but….come on, it’s Vegas.

It looks child friendly. It’s not.
  • Go with friends

I had excellent company and made some great new friends on the trip, but Vegas is an experience best shared with a bunch of you. Not only will you want to share the insanity with your nearest and dearest, but you’ll also need them for physical and mental support. When jet  lag is killing you, or when you can’t face another free cocktail and need someone to say ‘it’s okay to sleep’, OR when you’ve had your eighth gin and are insisting that RED IS LUCKY, you will want a trusted friend by your side. I did miss my beau and my darling friends. I never imagined I’d want to go to Vegas, but now…I sort of want to go back, en masse.

  • Remember it’s in a desert – pack wisely

The hotels are all air-conditioned so bring a wrap, but otherwise think beach wear for the day. It is sweltering outside, and as much as you craze fresh air and sunshine, you won’t be able to stand it for long during the day. I went out exploring at 8am, when it wasn’t as hot and it was fairly peaceful on the streets. But I should have brought more shorts and more light day dresses. Also, you may want to glam up in the evening – but unless you are spending big bucks in The Bellagio and will be dining in only the finest restaurants, you will be rather out of place with the rest of the Vegas crowd. Most people don’t even bother, sticking to slutty tops, jeans, tacky heels and shorts. Dress nicely, but save that formal dress or expensive suit for another holiday.

  • Gamble, but know how to win

Come on, you have to! I only gambled in my hotel, as I did not have the opportunity to go to any others or the cheap gambling halls. The bigger hotels have a catch that the buy in for the tables is higher, and this will go up on Friday and Saturday nights.

I gambled on a Tuesday, and the balckjack buy in was $15 a hand. I wanted to play Texas Hold ‘Em but it was $45 a go, and it’s a much riskier game (but with bigger winnings). I stuck to blackjack, having read up on tactics on the flight over – don’t laugh, it’s very wise to do so. I also walked around a few tables, watching the dealers and the other players before I chose my seat, so I knew what I was up against. If playing Blackjack, pick a table with a few other players, and try to gauge how nice the dealer is. People might not know this, but the dealer’s job is to help you. They will give you advice, they will tell you when to hit or when to stay, based on the averages. A nice dealer will make the experience even better. I went to the table with $100 and walked away with $170 – not much, but a good profit. Simply sticking to $15 at a time. I also walked away earlier than I wanted to. 

It’s all pretty simple – never bring anything to the table that you can’t afford to lose, and talk to friends and pros for advice.

SO! That was my Vegas experience. Any other questions about my trip? Anything else I can tell you about Sin City? Ask me here or on Twitter.