By Aislinn De'Ath

By Aislinn De'Ath
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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

In which I go back to class...

Reader, I have started going to a weekly acting class.

Ok, so you'll probably read that and go 'so what?' but here's the thing: I haven't been back in training officially for almost 5 years. I'd been through a bit of a patch of feeling unexcited and frankly a bit crap about the whole acting thing-too many bad scripts, auditions with rude directors and less than fun experiences. I needed something that would make me feel the passion again, and having watched my guy do these weekly classes and come home brimming with enthusiasm and excitement, I decided to take the plunge, hoping to refresh my skills and re-awaken the joy a bit.

What I hadn't expected were the nerves.

Nor that the nerves would be about meeting my classmates.

Reader, I think I've mentioned in the past, I got quite badly bullied as a kid. I didn't know how to interact with other children, because I spoke like a 30 year old and had spent a while before school travelling the world with my parents. Groups of kids and the way in which you're supposed to behave around them baffled me. Making friends was hard, and bullies picked up on the fact that I was different to them, leading to years of just not wanting to go to school. I didn't speak the language, or understand the conventions. I thought perhaps I was past that nervousness around large groups of strangers now, what with the fact that I have lots of amazing friends and constantly have to meet new people as part of my career, but as it turns out, I am just as awkward as ever.

The first day I was so nervous I could barely speak. I sat in a cafe opposite the theatre beforehand, trying and failing to read the same page of my book for half an hour before (thank god) my wonderful teacher bumped into me and walked with me to class. She dropped me off in the hallway with a small group of my classmates, who were ridiculously welcoming. A friend who had done the earlier class walked by and I got into a chat with her about how she'd been doing-by the time I turned around the small group had turned into what seemed to me to be a teeming mass of humans. Oh god. And they all looked really young, confident and absurdly cool. And they all knew what to wear to a weekly acting class (lycra and funky tops, which, as I am swiftly approaching 30 I find harder and harder to pull off). The nerves returned. They all knew each other and were excitedly chatting away. Heading up to the class, I was roughly 3 minutes away from a panic attack. Thank god I sat next to two lovely people who confided in me that they were crapping themselves at their first session too, and that I had nothing to worry about. And quite suddenly we'd begun. The thing is, it's hard to feel anxious when you're really enjoying what you're doing, and what I had forgotten is that I actually LIKE acting. In fact, I LOVE it. Being handed a script I've never seen before and being asked to perform it is pretty much my idea of heaven. But somehow I'd forgotten that, because how often do you actually get to perform without risking your career as an actor? Practically never. And the longer I spent with the other actors, the more relieved I was. These people don't judge. They are genuinely lovely, talented, warm and open folk who want you to succeed. The relief, dear Reader, was fairly overwhelming. I came home from class and one of the first things I said to my expectant boyfriend was 'I want to be everyone's friend in that class. They're all so...brilliant'. I don't know if you get friend crushes Reader, that feeling when you meet someone and you internally cross everything that they'll like you because they are so ridiculously wonderful that you want to hang out with them lots, but my class is full of people like that.

I have my 4th lesson this week. I'm really looking forward to it, not just because I'm learning so much (which I am) but also because I get to see this amazing group of people and play with them.

And just like that, I love being an actor again.

P.S. If you're an actor who needs to refresh their skills, their passion or just wants to learn some awesome new stuff, you'd be hard pushed to find a better class than The Actor's Class. Here's the link if you fancy having a wee gander

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Fanciful about Food...

Reader, when it's breakfast, I am deciding what to have for lunch. When it's lunch, I am deciding what to have for dinner. When it's dinner, I'm working out a way for us to have snacks later without me being the one to overtly suggest it. I am obsessed.

The first thing I ever baked in my current flat

The thing is, food really does shape my life-most of my memories as a kid are tied around food-the worlds best banana pancakes in Bali when I was 3 that spoiled me for all other banana pancakes forever, ranbutans [sic?] eaten from paper bags in muggy hotel rooms with my parents whilst in Asia then being horribly disappointed by them back in the UK, my dad's ice cream floats (drunk on our front doorstep with all the neighbourhood kids), my Irish nan's roast potatoes that I will never be able to fully replicate and my English nan's date slice (for which I have the recipe, kept safe in a book, written down by 11 year old me and with everything spelt grossly, luxuriously wrong).

I knew I was head over heels for my boyfriend when I didn't even think about food on our first date, then on our second insisted on taking him to an Irish pub so that he could try red lemonade. I wanted him to be able to taste the drink that was the memory of so many childhood trips to Kerry because I knew he was important, even then. I was so delighted when he liked it that I threw my arms around him and kissed him.

For me, food means more than just nutrition-it's logged with emotion, nostalgia and memories. I've never been great at dieting for that very reason (which is a shame given that staying trim is part and parcel of being a screen actor). I grieved when my favourite Chinese take away closed down (I've never really recovered that particular betrayal).

In recent years more layers have been added-I know that at some point I want to have kids, so I know I have to keep my body fit and well, which means not only avoiding the wrong foods, but making sure I eat the right ones too. The past few years have had be eating meat and fish, discovering that my severe anaemia (despite my 17 year old protests) was linked to my vegetarianism and that steak is delicious. I don't just eat veggies because I have to now, I eat them because I love them and feel pretty rough if I don't. I make sure protien happens in every meal and that it's not always cheese. The older I get, the less food I can get away with eating without drastically changing size and shape. Which isn't to say that I don't still have huge pizzas and burgers-of course I do-but they had better be worth the damn calories. Frozen pizza doesn't cut it these days, it has to be the real deal or I feel cheated.

I can't tell you any dates from history but I can tell you what I ate the day we went to my first ever football match (smiley faces with soy sauce and ketchup-we were out of salt), or what me and my housemates talked about the first night we got drunk together and ate free buttery toast from the Christian tent ('Sorry man, we don't want to talk about god, we're mostly here for your food'). I can tell you the first meal Rob and I ever went out for (Thai food, which we barely ate because we were too busy laughing and doing Eddie Izzard impressions), what was served my first day on a proper TV set (veggie chilli and rice and loads of treacle sponge to ward off the cold), what I ate after my first proper break up (quorn hot dogs, one a day for 2 weeks. I lost almost a stone and looked DREADFUL), what I ate my first night in New York (TGI friday popcorn shrimp), what I ate when I found out my great uncle died (a really bad pizza from Pizza Hut), the drink my dad made me when I got mugged (very sugary tea, even though I hated tea, he said it was good for shock), what I ate the first time I was hungover (beans and chips, which I then threw up).

I feed people when they're sad-mashed potatoes, as Nora Ephron once said, are the best thing to treat melancholia. I also feed people when they're happy, celebration recipes stolen from Delia or Ottolenghi. I feed people to express my love for them, making Rob poached eggs on spinach and avocado is often my way of saying 'thank you for being incredible', cooking for my mum when I visit is my way of saying 'thank you for giving me a day job and being great at advice' and my dad's favourite carrot cake spells out how grateful I am for him putting up with all of my madness as a child (the man cut toast into pirate ships for me for god's sake)

So what's the moral of this blog post?
God, I don't know. I must be hungry. I think it's probably that food is a beautiful and special thing and we're lucky we have so much of it or something. Ask me again after lunch.