Interview: Rosie Wyatt

Rosie Wyatt is an actor, feminist and lover of stories. In October she will be at the Soho Theatre performing the play Spine, written by Clara Brennan, focusing on the contemporary political landscape, but in particular the way communities are being affected by library closures and other cuts. This week Female Arts' Amie Taylor ran a Q and A with Rosie to find out more.

AT: Hi Rosie, thanks for speaking with Female Arts, firstly tell us about you, your training and how you can to be an actor?

RW: I came to be an actor after falling in love with theatre as a 6th form student in Stratford-upon-Avon. I grew up in nearby Banbury and moved schools for 6th form and, despite having not studied it for GCSE, took up A Level drama. As a drama student in the area I was given a special discount card that got me £3.50 tickets at the RSC and I set about seeing as much as I could. I can remember being mesmerised watching Dame Harriet Walter play Cleopatra in the Swan Theatre and as clear as a bell I thought "That's what I want to do." I was lucky enough to get in to drama school straight out of 6th Form and trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

AT: As an actor, what kind of work are you most drawn towards?

RW: Stories, stories, stories. I want to be able to tell great stories. I'm a bibliophile and reading is one of my favourite pastimes and I think it was this combined with my childhood hobbies of dancing and singing and playing the violin that naturally lead to a career in theatre.
I've worked predominantly in new writing and love the process of seeing a first draft flourish in to a fully fledged production. My favourite projects have been where I've been able to work collaboratively with the playwright and director; mining a script until the story emerges in its clearest form.

AT: Yyou're soon to perform Spine again, this time at the Soho theatre, how did you get involved in this show, and what's it about?

RW: So yes I'm currently out on tour performing Spine around the country and we're bringing it back to the Soho Theatre after a really successful run both there and in Edinburgh in 2014.

Back in 2012 I was performing at the Edinburgh Fringe when artistic director of Theatre Uncut, Emma Callendar, approached me asking if I would like to do a short reading for them as part of their programme during the festival. This short ten minute piece was the early life of Spine. Director Beth Pitts got her hands on the script and challenged the writer of the piece Clara Brennan to develop it in to a full-length play. Having seen me do the script-in-hand performance in Edinburgh Clara kept me involved and after a public reading of the full piece gained us the support of Soho Theatre, we headed up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2014 where the play was so, so warmly received and went on to receive multiple awards.

Spine tells the story of the unlikely friendship between the young, mouthy, disenfranchised Amy and the much older and wiser, mischievous rebel Glenda.

AT: What do you hope audiences will take away from watching?

RW: Theatre Uncut for whom the original short play was written, are a company who create work that responds to current political events and Clara was inspired back in 2012 by the closure of the historic Kensal Rise Library, in which the council snuck in to the building at 2am and stripped it of its books and facilities, much to the anger of all the local community. It was an event that seemed to typify so much of what was angering writer Clara about the then coalition government and their austerity cuts.

And whilst 2015's election and the chaotic and confusing political events of this year have shifted the public focus on to many other issues, so much of the heat and anger that runs through the play is still so prescient. The freedom of learning, represented by those libraries, is being challenged with the hike in university fees and the potential reinstating of the grammar school system. Gender inequality, the lack of working class representation in politics, a generation feeling hamstrung by lack of employment opportunities and rising rental prices; it can feel as if things are only getting worse.
What I hope people take away from the play is bit of fire in their bellies and a belief that they might actually be able to make a difference. By exploring the political through a human story of emotions and friendship I hope that people leave our show believing in the power of compassion.

AT: Do you feel you've ever met any barriers as a woman working in theatre?

RW: There are fewer roles for women and far more female actors and whilst there are many people trying to redress the balance this currently remains true. This career takes a real sense of self belief; when you're out of work you need to believe you will work again, you need to be confident in your identity as an actor whether you're currently employed as one or not. I think that confidence is often a privilege afforded only to those well off enough to not feel the financial strain of not working and also to our male counterparts who, with fewer of them and more roles for them, are statistically more likely to work again sooner. If you have that confidence you can take risks with your career and make braver decisions. Add to that the societal expectation of the woman's role as sole provider of childcare and I can quickly begin to feel like surviving long-term in this industry as a woman is like battling a storm. But I'm determined to make it work and find a way of surviving, whatever my future should bring me.

I think this is a frustration felt by many women across many industries where an inequality in the sexes still exists and I really think as a society we need a dramatic re-think about childcare provision in order to facilitate the advancement of women in many industries.

AT: Where can we find out more about you?

RW: You could follow me on Twitter if you wanted to read my tweets about reality television and public transport, but really I'm someone who is far more comfortable when portraying someone else.

Thank you Rosie!

If you do want to follow Rosie on Twitter, you can do so here: @RosieWyatt. Also check out #SpineThePlay, and if you'd like to book to see it at The Soho Theatre from 3rd - 8th Oct 2016, then you can do so here:

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