I first met Charlotte McGuinness in my first year at the RCS during a cross discipline collaboration and she ended up strung up like a puppet :) Whoever said that blondes have more fun was obviously hanging out with the wrong brunette.
I was so pleased CharlotteM agreed to let me quiz her about her course and hopes for the future:
Charlotte you’re in your final year of your three year BA Acting course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and it must all getting a bit real for you when you finish your degree to decide your next step, what would you like to do?
I really want to do acting with writing as an add-on, it is obviously hard as an actor to have that that as their only job and wait around waiting for a phone call every day. So you have to have a secondary job, in London before I started my course, I did a foundation course and I did all the phone jobs and retail jobs to supplement that, so I want to get into writing as that is still creative and I hope to make my own work with our company ‘Ink Dolls’. The world is so big with social media and social networking and everything you’ve got to be ready to take on every aspect. I was really inspired by the women who wrote Upstairs, Downstairs they wrote it and put themselves in it. The same with James Corden and Ruth Jones the creators of Gavin and Stacey to stop getting themselves typecast they wrote for characters to give themselves acting challenges outside their usual casting, they wrote it, developed it then put themselves in it as the actors. It’s just another way into acting.
Sometimes you do have to create your own opportunities, it’s the same for singers, so how do you know where to start in your speciality?
I think if you want to get into it, you just have to be brave and leap, we started this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe, we’re looking at how to develop new stuff we were writing. I did a mini internship recently at the Channel 4 Glasgow office producing in their creative diversity unit, making sure their creative programming is varied. I read lots of projects that have been put forward and it is interesting to see there are funds to create new and exciting projects. For example have you heard of Scrotal Recall, the program was written and developed using funds from C4? It is now a successful big programme.
What are you doing at the moment at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland?
I love comedy, I love to do that, at the moment we are rehearsing for ‘The Country Wife’ my role is Lady Fidget, she’s a Tory MP’s wife, very coiffured the original version of the play was written before even Shakespeare wrote his plays so when you first hear it you think this is odd. It was banned at the time because it was too outrageous, the lead man is Master Horner who is very horney, which is not very subtle, the modern equivalent is the Russell Brand sort of character, the story is from France and he, Master Horner, claims he’s an eunuch . It’s a lot about public face and private face and my character reflects rich people’s perceived obsession with how they look, honour, dating the right man, upper class, then you see what she is really like underneath.
So you are keeping it quite farcical or realistic?
It is quite farcical which is hard with a modern interpretation. You start thinking its high style and ridiculous, possibly Oscar Wilde style and then you get into it and there’s no truth in that at all. You’ve still got to develop the acting, get into character.
Is it true that some actors develop the character from the shoes they’re given?
It’s funny you should say that we had so many challenges with shoes in the last week, we have these costume parades, when you come in front of the Director and they see all this stuff and ideas get developed, so you parade yourself out in this catwalk thing and about eight people are just staring at you and ideas get thrown around, people are readjusting your sleeves and adding or taking away from your costume. Robert Carson our Director is quite fabulous anyway and he was into detail, for example, he wanted my character in a bigger heel because my costume was quite conservative and he still wanted my character to be sexy and believable. I was like oh heck because I’m running around all over the stage in 4.5” suede pink shoes (Charlotte’s smiling at me now “I knew you’d like that” – “Oh wow I do!”). So now I have to glide in and be very dignified and it forces me to take smaller steps, very birdlike, so I guess it’s all helping characterisation. You can’t just move without reason you have to think about heel toe, heel toe.
In singing we don’t get our costume till late and we’re told it’s all about the voice, all about the voice. But I think costume is so important, when I went to see Cinderella at the Opera last week I was quite disappointed with some of the costumes.
Your degree is in Drama, if I was 17 and asking you about what to expect what would you say?
The majority of our work in the first and second year is skills classes, movement which is different to dance; animal studies; colours; personalities and exploring all aspects of those. Voice lessons how to reach the deep parts of your voice and how to have more gravitas, Shakespeare pronunciation. We have classes in singing, choral and personal and participate in dance sessions.
That sounds jam packed!
We also do acrobatics, Cirque du Soleil, I was asked to do things I’ve never ever done before, but we started with stuff you’d do when you are about 11 like cartwheels, balancing. I did parkour instead of acrobatics second year, getting grounded. Workshops including improvisation which is great, you have to fail and get it wrong and explore, it’s the only way to learn to fail and fail again and work on getting things right. Then we do a big project, ours was ‘Russians’, you start with ‘The Seagull’ laid back understated it’s all about what’s not said. Then in the second year we carry on with skills classes and a Shakespeare outreach where you teach secondary school students with workshops and games on how say Macbeth develops. Everybody has energy boards and we develop that on the stage and get into a scrum, we did this project with ‘King Lear’. We did a big show ‘Coriolanus’, a Shakespeare tragedy about a Roman leader, we took it on tour to Russia. You have to go for it but it’s crazy and you can’t be afraid to explore Shakespeare large. Then we build into our high style and Oscar Wilde style which is bigger and we have a Panto which is even bigger, we have the archetypes, the lovers and all of that and a full exploration. Finally we go back into Film in February, so we go from the glitz and glam of Panto to solid acting pared right back.
Gosh the course can’t be accused of being stale and sticking with say Stanislavski!
It’s important to be versatile.
Do you see yourself as being an advocate for Shakespeare and Drama in say the school curriculum?
Absolutely! I went to a High School that was put in special measures who gave no encouragement to go on to higher education and they have now converted into an Academy, we did Drama but then only at 13 and 14 it wasn’t part of the English curriculum. Aside from the fact that for people with reading issues like dyslexia drama and play acting so helps to relate to problem issues in a different way and helps with understanding text. For a lot of people they would otherwise not come into contact with plays and drama productions if it wasn’t covered at school.
I read about you getting into photography in this article , how did you get into that was it something your Mum was in to?
My Mum went to a similar school to me and they were encouraged to go into offices or shops, people got married and didn’t really consider an arts career. So my Mum wasn’t part of that world, she was very artistic but she went off to be a secretary and secretarial college, so eventually she retrained as a teacher and now she’s into politics. But I love art and I sketch and draw, and photography is just an extension of that and it’s something we could develop together and she encouraged me. I did fine art and photography and carried it through to ‘A’ level. I did a lot of dark room stuff. I love fantastic images I researched Annie Liebovitz photography a lot and a guy called Tim Walker, Gregory Crewdson very colourful images, but I like black and white too. My friend Rob and I used to photograph each other for projects, he’s in Les Mis. at the moment on the West End. I’m glad I did develop it because I can use those skills to create headshots and posters and I know how to use Photoshop so we can cover lots of our own marketing. We were clear about what we wanted our logo to look like we used a designer in Greece. We helped create the poster for ‘Flat Pack’ our play we created for the Edinburgh Fringe. Em J my partner in Ink Dolls came from a background in the arts as well and it helps with staging, costumes and just how we want things to look, I’m getting quite involved with typography at the moment.
What do you feel is the most important characteristics for an Actor?
Be aware of what makes up your soul, be aware of your character, be aware of your unique characteristics; be sure you represent your quality – whether it be sly, charming, crazy, or romantic. People can audition for three to five years just to get into schools like the RCS if it’s something you’re serious about you can’t just have a quitting nature. Maturity, confidence, experience, love, loss, having a presence , foundation courses, rep years, get experience on the Fringe, mini courses, NYT just getting experience and what the demands are and being around other actors, its relentless. A good memory is helpful you have to remember monologues with just one day’s preparation. Go do all the crap jobs to build your character and meet some great characters, see the world around you, and don’t just stay in the rarefied environment of the classroom. Audition tutors are a good idea too, it does cost quite a lot but so is the cost of auditioning and re-auditioning, they will tell you to concentrate on your strengths and give your critical feedback. The top Universities like Oxbridge are sometimes easier to get into than the best Drama schools and they have organisations who offer Oxbridge application training to get into those organisations, it’s something you shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to do I wish I’d have known about it. It is all about you and they help to teach you how to make yourself shine and hope that someone needs the character that you are.
I think a thing to remember is that no Actor, not even someone I admire like Leonardo DiCaprio started out perfect, they will have a back catalogue of less than perfect performances that have helped to hone their skill over the years, until today when he isn’t type cast and can trusted to truly represent a variety of roles, it is unrealistic of 21 year olds to expect to be perfect from the off.
Were there any days you thought you couldn’t do it?
There have absolutely been times where the pressure and the multi-tasking for example when we lived with everyone who did ‘The Flat Pack’ project with us, we didn’t have our internet set up, we’d just given everyone the script, sometimes the hours are so long, so little time for sleep and the house was so mental you forget to eat and we were so busy that it seemed the project might not get done, had we taken on too much? I can’t believe I thought it was a good idea to write, direct, produce, one of us act in it, market it, raise the funds, there are days where you are so exhausted that you just think I can’t do this. With all big projects I would imagine there are days where you think the monies going to run out, people aren’t auditioning, it’s just a game sometimes of whose the last person standing. Just remember have faith, keep on going, pick yourself up, get some sleep, if you have a modicum of talent its often those who can handle the most, have great friends, family and remember to be a regular person and that this is a job, you are a person first and foremost and don’t lose sight of that.