I grew up in a small village in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near a small town of little consequence in the UK, known as ‘Huntingdon.’
Something between a mix of serendipity, scholarships and perseverance have taken me around the world for work, relationships, and adventures. My first love was for music, and I trained classically in voice, piano and flute from a young age, attaining grade 8 with the ABRSM by 16. At 18 I attended the Guildford School of Acting’s short course for musical theatre, facilitated by titan of industry, Gerry Tebbutt. Upon completion of the course, I went on to secure a recording contract with Blue Fox Management. After recording my first EP, I was whisked off to Cyprus to work as a vocalist on 5* resorts with KMC Entertainment. I was young, inexperienced, and petrified with a tiny rep list; I didn’t last long in the hotel arena. My Cyprus journey wasn’t over though. Belting my heart out in a karaoke bar somewhere on the outskirts of Paphos, I encountered my deus ex machina in the form of DJ Korine Skelter, who transformed the tragic narrative of my hotel shortcomings into a delicious denouement. Korine Performance Management launched me into the bar and club circuit with a new act, an Amy Winehouse tribute. I had the time of my life performing around the island of Cyprus, and that was it…my passion for travel had been ignited. I’ve been an avid fan of exploring throughout my twenties and have gallivanted around 80 or so countries. I guess at some point I figured it was time to settle down. Arriving in Canada has been a new chapter for me. Toronto is home.
Inspired largely by all these creativity-rousing wanderings, I have tried to develop a production company that seeks to connect diverse and varied talent from around the globe. Elysian Productions aims to establish praxis and work that amplifies marginalised voices, predominantly through interventionist, dialogically-based pedagogical methods that employ the fundamentals of Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed techniques, whilst aspiring to exceptional production value.
At 19, I attained a scholarship to attend the prestigiously renowned Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and relocated to Glasgow for my BA in Musical Theatre. This encompassed 3 years of intensive training in dance, music, acting and voice, integrated through conservatoire-level tuition, professional workshops and industry practice and performance. My time in Scotland was colourful and exhaustive: I went on tour with Susan Boyle, performed numerous times at the SECC, sang with John Barrowman in concert, filmed on the River City set, spent a season as a performer in Mallorca, filmed for Children in Need with the BBC, took a devised show to the Verge and had the opportunity to perform on a West End stage whilst featured in shows such as Legally Blonde, Betty Blue Eyes and A Man of No Importance, to name a few. Upon graduating I attained an agent in the heart of London. London was utterly unaffordable for me at that age, whilst going back to the small village in the middle of nowhere was no option. Fortunately for me, I was engaged to a dude in Dubai at the time. My partner booked me on a flight to DXB and it was the start of a new chapter. I honestly did not anticipate that I would be able to work in a creative capacity while I was living in the Middle East; performance jobs are limited and usually sourced from overseas. I landed an opportunity early on though, to work on events for the Diplomat Club. I was hired by the Ambassador of Pakistan to speak at these events, addressing Royalty and Diplomats alike. It was a lucky gig for me; I had initially only been hired for one event and as a back-up, secondary speaker. The Ambassador had a regular emcee already; this semi-famous Italian public speaker guy with a tonne of credits and experience. Typical Dubai style though, the Ambassador decided he preferred doe-eyed, (more like ‘deer-in headlights’) 22 year-old me, so he fired that guy and hired me instead. I think people over there are generally under the impression that annunciating with an RP British accent equates to some kind of paramount integrity. Thanks BBC. To which, much-piqued Italian guy, packing up his briefcase in haughty disdain turned to me and exclaimed – “Vafanopoli” – which I have come to learn means ‘go to Naples.’ Sounded pleasant enough at the time. Not so much of a ‘bon voyage’ as anticipated though- apparently Naples is the place to tell someone to go get sodomised. C’est la vie.
I spent three years in Dubai, it remains the most turbulent time of my life. I had nothing when I moved there…one suitcase and stars in my eyes, my heart heavy with impending regret; I had left London, left my agent, abandoned hope of any kind of career in the UK. I confined myself to the desert for all those years without once setting foot in the west or seeing my own family. We actually moved to Mauritius for a season…I was planning on resigning myself to island life, working as a musician in some tropical beach bar for the remainder of forever. We had all our luggage with everything we owned stolen along the way though, which complicated things somewhat…clutching our passports to our chests in Kuala Lumpur airport, our coveted, only remaining possessions, we encountered a Chinese sage at the gates who restored our faith in humanity. He offered us his own suitcase of clothes and a credit card of his father’s. We didn’t accept of course, but it was consoling all the same. Upon arriving, in some fit of philanthropy, (or perhaps he was trying to mirror the gesture of the Chinese guy) my brother-in-law had a heroin addict move in with us…our bathroom was littered with needles – I thought the poor guy had diabetes, so the heroin was news to me – and I wasn’t too thrilled about it. We found a puppy on the streets of Port Louis, and I reconciled with the others to rescue and keep it, reasoning that if they could have an addict, then I could have a puppy. Things were going OK for a while, aside from the driving issues – every time I got in the car, I thought we were going to die, I figured we’d get used to the roads, but we crashed a few times. And THEN there was the recurring Chinese guy issue – we kept bumping into him on the island, like some archetypal trope for a bad omen, he just couldn’t seem to keep out of trouble. Every week he’d pop up somewhere and had befallen another misfortune…he got beaten up, his safe got broken into, he got robbed, he fell off a motorbike, he nearly got run over…and we tried to help him, but he said he was too weary of strangers to allow us to help and made us vow to trust no one on the whole island. We lamented his sorrows and bode our farewells, we watched his fatigued figure wane in the tropic distance…with just enough time to witness a biker meander by, snatch his backpack off his shoulder and speed into the vanishing horizon. In short, it was all too much drama, we entrusted the dog to some benevolent police officers and returned to Dubai.
Dubai is a difficult place to live when you have nothing. There’s no way of hustling your way through a bar job or as a server or administrator; those kind of stuff are not available to westerners. I had to navigate my way through the white -collar market in order to support myself. I somehow found myself in the position of ‘sales manager’ for a magazine, shortly upon arriving, where I adopted alias ‘Dr. Middleton’ – a character that enabled me the sales I needed. Sounds dishonest, and it was – but Mr. Sales Director claimed it was Buffet’s method…he’d relayed that tid-bit of info to him personally, apparently. It was soul destroying and exhausting; I realized I never wanted to have to ‘act’ at work ever again unless it was my job to do so. But I learned a lot. By the time I was 24 I was managing an office with my own assistant, I used to gaze at the skyscrapers outside my own office window every day and marvel ‘how on earth did I get here?’ And really to this day I have no idea…I was completely under-qualified and pretty useless. I am a massive fan of Meisner.
I landed the role of Gabriella in Marc Camellotti’s hilarious farce ‘Boeing Boeing’ back in 2015 and that was the beginning of everything… I was scouted by a producer on opening night that resulted in me starring in Ahmed Zain’s production of ‘Lisa’ that aired across GCC cinemas and airline entertainment for Emirates and Qatar. My most challenging and coveted role was as Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire which went on to win the Junction Awards and was nominated for The Time Out Awards Dubai, best production 2016. Throughout my time in Dubai, I racked up credits in film, radio, commercials, theatre and corporate events and as a club vocalist. Whilst I was in Dubai, I founded my theatre company Elysian Productions and went on to write and direct my first plays: ‘The F Word’ and ‘Ladies Night.’ In 2015 I presented for the Face of Arabia awards in Abu Dhabi, performed as a burlesque artist and singer for the Hendricks Cucumber Cup corporate show, featured in Azeel’s feature production of ‘If Something Happens’ and I went on to represent the UK at the Hilton in Abu Dhabi as British National poet of the UAE, shortly after filming for a popular HSBC commercial.
I left eventually, with an exceeded 80kg baggage allowance, a cleavage that would enable me to get away with said as such baggage excess (hello EgyptAir), a wad of cash shoved in my bra (never had a bank account), alongside a resilience that had been founded upon experiences I would never have encountered had I never launched myself into the wild unknown. I left with a future.
I moved back to the UK in 2017 with a scholarship to study an MA in writing for stage and broadcast at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Here I trained under the direction of Dr. Sarah Grochala, prolific writer and academic Tony Fischer and Tanika Gupta whilst I attended workshops with the likes of Dennis Kelly and PapaTango as components of the course. I curated a portfolio of work for radio, stage, film, and television. I went on to write and produce full-length play ‘Paper Soldiers’ with Elysian, which was directed by Kyril Buhowski and performed at the Etcetera Theatre. Whilst in London I was fortunate enough to work professionally as an actor in musical theatre, stage, immersive theatre, voice over and in film. Most notable theatre roles were as Nancy in Oliver! at the Brookside theatre, Tilley Tulip in Funicular’s production of ‘The Murder Express’ and Sabine in ‘Journey to the Underworld.’ I landed a great balance of comedy and serious roles, filming for Graham Wallace’s production of ‘Still here’ as Anna and in ‘Her’ as hilarious June’s antagonist. I worked as a LAMDA teacher and theatre facilitator whilst in London with a focus on practice that sought to address the inaccessibility of the industry for unprivileged young talent.
I am currently studying for my PhD with the university of Birmingham. I relocated to Toronto in March 2020 with my theatre company to conduct research and develop productions in North America. I am passionate about curating opportunities for disadvantaged youths in the arts and my research encompasses Applied Theatre interventions amongst marginalised Aboriginal communities. Since lockdown I have been fortunate enough to land a role in Peracal’s production of ‘Strangers and Neighbours,’ a series following the trajectory of 6 characters suffering under the predicament of lockdown.