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CMcG

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, as you’re in your final year of your three year BA Acting degree  at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), it must all be getting a bit real for you now, so when you finish your degree have you decided what your next step will be? What would you like to do next?

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 were 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 M’s smiling back 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.

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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.

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Read the fabulous 5* review in The Herald http://www.heraldscotland.com/arts-ents/stage/review-theatre.25791991

A Cold Day In June

June 12, 2014 — 26 Comments

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The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland is a mixed discipline conservatoire that covers a wide spectrum of training in the arts. One aspect is Film Studies and Digital TV and one of the friends I made last year, Michael Ferns, is just about to release a short film called ‘A Cold Day in June’ after graduating in 2012. He promised me an interview for my blog so even though he’s busy in London I nagged, scratch that, reminded him politely to tell me more about what he’s been up to:

What is your educational background Michael?

I went to Balfron High School, to the west of Stirling, you leave school after just 6 years, instead of the seven years you have in England, the Scottish system is a little bit different, so I started at the RCS age 17 and I was there for three years, then I graduated with a BA in Digital Film and Television. I really enjoyed my time at the RCS the place is great, the contacts you make there are great, the cross curricular collaboration is good.

Who were your favourite people to work with: singers, actors, dancers?

Talking to you Charlotte I’m going to have to say singers 🙂  but it depends what for, music videos: I enjoy creating videos with singers and bands and of course with my films with actors obviously. I met Billy Boyd when he contacted me after seeing and liking my website. it was a dream come true as he was a star of one of my favourite film franchises of all time Lord of the Rings (he played the part of Pippin Took).  He wanted a music video to ‘Please Stay’, we started the first video which was a basic concept just at the end of my 3rd year before I graduated; we used a lot of people from my class. He was really happy with that. We did the second video with him on location in Penrith in the North of England and in Glasgow called ‘The Clown’ which was rather more ambitious than the first. We filmed it in November. It involved sinking Billy Boyd in a boat into a freezing cold loch.

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Were you in the water or were you dry?

I wasn’t dry it was pouring down with rain, but I wasn’t actually in the water, it was a very arduous experience.

Can you see the music video on-line?

Yes , I will send you the link.

Here it is, well worth watching, a message that not everyone you know with a smile is happy:


Congratulations for your BAFTA how did you win and what were you awarded for?

When I was 17 we got funding from the Lottery and The Co-op to make a period feature film called ‘Kirk’ based on the Scottish Legend of this Reverend in the 1600’s who believed fairies lived on the top of the hill of the Parish where he lived, everyone in the village thought he was crazy. He wrote a book called ‘The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies’ published in 1691 it’s still available now. The film was based on his writings, his wife thought he was crazy too. He died on the top of the hill and loads of people believe he was taken by the fairies and we made the film based on his story, it was very low budget, everyone was doing stuff for free. We won the best feature film at the Manchester Film Festival and I won the best Director at the BAFTA New Talent awards 2010.

Wow that’s impressive. Were you nominated or did you put yourself forward?

We were nominated. There were three nominees that year. We had no idea we’d won.

Did you get a red carpet treatment?

Yes there was a red carpet actually and there is even an embarrassing acceptance speech on line somewhere. I don’t particularly enjoy being in front of the camera. I certainly wouldn’t want to act. I would love to be able to sing but I can’t, I would love to be able to do that but as my singer friend Lawrence will testify its not my area of expertise.

Ahh but do you enjoy your own singing? Could I tempt you to do me a Vox-pop to go with this interview? 

Maybe totally alone singing to myself, but no I wouldn’t want to inflict it on too many people at once. I’m quite good at auto-tuning software though so I could get you a polished version later 🙂 .

So what’s next for you and what are your hopes for the future?

Having moved to London I’ve signed with a commercial agent to make tv commercials but I’d love to make big budget feature films, like Lord of the Rings or Jurassic Park, something big and impressive.

So what is the definition of a ‘feature film’?

What everyone would consider a film at the Cinema, the bigger the budget the better something with heart, not really Transformers for me as I like films where you care for the people in the movie?

What are you favourite Top movies?

Jurassic Park

Lord of the Rings Trilogy, so many but those are my two favourites.

Did you like the Hobbit?

I didn’t really like the Hobbit, maybe because my friend Billy isn’t in that one. I don’t know, it was ok I thought it lacked a bit of heart. It was a big CGI spectacular but I missed the funny characters. It was good for what it was but it wasn’t what Lord of the Rings was.

I agree with you on the Hobbit.

How many people are normally on your production team?

On the latest couple of short films and adverts its normally about 20 to 25 and I would say it depends on the cast number on top of that and if there are children you need chaperones.

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Have you swapped into other roles or do you stick to the directing?

Not on set but I edit a lot of stuff and work as an editor but I don’t really get involved in sound, lighting on the set.  You can get editing work for experience and earnings whilst you’re waiting for directing opportunities.

What made you decide to get involved in this line of training/work?

It was from my Grandfather who was the Director of the Scottish Film Council and he set up the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Edinburgh Film House, he was the youngest director of the Edinburgh Film Festival, he had a camera and stuff he could give me and he knew a lot of contacts although many of them have passed away now. I think through his knowledge I was exposed to it and I got the bug when I was about 12 getting family to act in home videos for me, you know it went from there.

Do you ever write stories for yourself?

Generally if you’re a Director – you’re a director and you work with writers, my latest short film I wrote myself with my partner Lawrence Smith, we shot it three weeks ago and that’s being edited at the moment, I have a trailer for it you can link to. It’s called ‘A Cold Day in June’. Its set over an hour (the film is twenty minutes long) following a tragic accident where a young girl falls off the end of a pier and drowns and the aftermath of that. There are two sisters, the mother and her sister who is visiting, who suspect the younger son of potentially being involved, the mother worried that her husband who is the boys stepfather will blame the son because it’s not his son and it’s his daughter that has died. So it’s about her in this horrible moment thinking about what to tell her husband.

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Sounds very hard hitting

So are you planning on filming any opera singers one day soon?

I’d absolutely love to collaborate with Charlotte Hoather on her first epic music video.

Ah that would be cool, awesome.

On the top of a hilltop or something.

Definitely this is starting to come together, maybe involve dance as well if it’s going to be epic!

So that’s the dream Charlotte.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress on my Website and Facebook.

Fabulous Michael, thanks so much for this interview I bet your fingers are itching to edit this piece after you read it 🙂 .

Hmmm I best not suggest a Ruselka’s ‘Song to the Moon’ video as he seems to like submerging people waist deep into freezing cold lochs.  I think I’ll re-learn Summertime 🙂  

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After my interview with Andrew Hislop on BBC Radio Guernsey last Sunday morning ( 27th April 2014 ) I asked him if he would allow me to turn the tables on him and interview him for my blog. He happily agreed and so we arranged a date and time to set it up on Skype.  I was thoroughly inspired by our chat and I hope you enjoy the interview. AndrewHislop

Hi Andy, this is very exciting for me being the interviewer and turning the tables on you.

It’s a bit weird to be honest. I’m not used to being interviewed, the last time I was interviewed was three months ago for Jubilee Radio, a hospital radio here in Guernsey, that was fun but as I said I’m not used to it, I like to be in the seat of power.

I can understand that, it’s nice knowing I have the questions sorted so that I don’t have to think so much on the spot.

Very good, the question outline you sent to me was interesting.  You’d make a good journalist.

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Now there’s a thought for a Summer job 🙂

 

Thank you, here we go…

How long have you been working in radio?

Probably for a total of six years, the first year was to do with radio editing.  I had no experience in working in radio a friend asked if I’d like to help.  After a year the editor asked me, out of the blue, if I’d like to produce and present the Sunday breakfast service I think he knew I’d had some performance experience and he also mentioned my voice would be great for radio.  I said ‘yes’. A baptism of fire.

So you were in the right place at the right time. 

Yes, about 15 years ago, I applied for a job to work for the radio and they told me that it would be better for me to be an actor than a radio presenter, so here I am.

There you go.  So you’ve done it for yourself anyway!  How many hours each week do you work at the BBC Guernsey radio station?

I have a regular Monday to Friday job, but I am contracted to work 10 hours per week, which I do predominantly over the weekend, but I probably do double that time in terms of communicating with my colleagues in the UK, people over here and visiting people in order to get stories, so it is a lot of work, the program is unique and specialised so I need to sit down and engage with the people to fully understand what is going on.  In theory ten hours each week, in theory.

I get that from your shows, that you have a very personal style, you can tell you’ve researched well.

The person that is being interviewed needs to feel comfortable and relaxed.  People are interested in the person behind story.  So I try to make it personal.

When you were at school what was your dream job?

My dream job was as an actor and I trained for this from about the age of 6 I went to elocution lessons, I had a very small lisp when I was younger so my Mum sent myself and my sister to Betty Isabelle Meakin Studio of Drama, as a result of that I decided that I wanted to be an actor.  My school wasn’t very supportive in that and their view was that I should get a proper job.

Would you like to work at a national station if you had the choice and what would be your favourite sort of show?

I’d like to do something really similar to what I do now, the program is quite unique in that I can explore any subject but the challenge is to try and find whether it would be ethical or inspirational or has a faith element and so what that means is that you don’t necessarily have to be a black and white journalist but inquisitive to get to the person rather than just the story.  I’d love to do what I do at the weekend, 9-5 for a national station.  Not many people get the chance to do what they would really like to do, but that is one thing that would be wonderful.

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Ever the interviewer Andrew asked me about an observation he’d made watching my performances.

I watched some of your videos and your posture is that of a dancer and that must have helped with your singing?

My Mum had always wanted to dance as a child and encouraged me to join dance classes as soon as I could about the age of two and a half.   It can help and it can hinder my singing it’s all to do with rotation of the hips, so I take the positives of my dance training and use it well especially with confidence on the stage, but don’t get me started talking about me.

I know you have two children, I heard your super recordings of them on your show, are they interested in the performing arts?

My daughter Jasmine who will be 16 in two months’ time, isn’t so much now, when she was younger maybe, she has a very good singing voice but she doesn’t like to stand at the front and sing in front of people.  My son however loves to perform, very confident, very clear, expresses himself really well, I think if anyone in my family was going to consider a career in performance he would be the one to explore it.  More in an acting direction.

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NYT

When we chatted before we discussed the National Youth Theatre.  What did you do with the NYT?

The National Youth Theatre was one of those life changing moments, a hugely life changing moment.  I was fortunate enough to audition for them in the 80’s, before you were born.  At that time they’d interview about 3000 people and they’d only take about 50, a very small number of people, not like it is today.   I was very fortunate to get in, over the following six years I’d travel to London and do several performances. We would do performances in London or in Newcastle and it was great.  I went to NYT with Daniel Craig, James Bond, to mention one of the most well-known people, we were both in two plays together in London in my last year.

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We did Murder in the Cathedral in London, then I was asked to stay by the Director with Daniel for a further four or five weeks and we did Romeo and Juliet in London and then took that up to Newcastle, NYT was a huge input in my life, I played the Prince and Daniel played Paris.  I have fond memories of that time.

If I was an aspiring radio presenter what would be your three top tips?

I think first and foremost it would be to be yourself, personality is one of the big things that makes a huge different to a show, you could have five questions but each person would deliver them in a different way and prompt different answers, communicate and express yourself as you, don’t try to be anyone else.

Second thing: Energy and enthusiasm, one of the things on the radio you don’t have is to determine someone’s physicality, you can’t see their eyes, their body language, or facial expressions, so your voice and energy behind it is fundamental.  They listen to your voice and mentally paint a picture of what that person is like, so it’s really important to have that energy and enthusiasm.

The third is don’t give up, if someone really wants to pursue a career in radio the door may not open wide immediately, folks may ask you to be a broadcast assistant and it is commitment and a passion to keep going for it that is really important.  Sometimes you have to fight for your dreams and don’t let people say not at this moment in time, it doesn’t necessarily mean no it may just mean you need more personal development, and take that as a challenge and continue on.

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I like that one, that goes across all disciplines, I know myself if I go for an audition I may not be what they are looking for on that day but you have to remember to go for everything you’d like to do and carry on.

Achieving your goals doesn’t necessarily mean just achieving total success, you need to sometimes fight for it, if you have an aim and a goal for yourself, it’s carrying on after knocks and it’s the difference between the ordinary people and the extra-ordinary person.  Can you take the knocks, learn, develop and push forward?

Have you ever done any voice-over work?

Yes, I have I’ve done a couple, in one I did a voice-over project with my daughter we were contacted by a company in Germany, it was all about teaching young German children how to speak English, both of us were used to do voice over work for particular characters.  That was fun that was very good.  I’ve also done work for the Alternative Radio Station here on Guernsey that’s real fun.  I’m currently working on a project with a US artist who’s releasing his first album and he’s asked me to do some voice over work on his album with him.  I’ve just actually put together my website to put myself out there as a professional actor and voice-over artist.

Is there anything you’d love to do in particular?

Othello

Well there is, there’s one in particular that I’d like to do – William Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, I’ve played Othello twice and the last time I played the role of Othello I was fortunate to win the Timothy Dalton Award for best actor which was really good fun.  I spoke to a chap at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and he was keen to do this alternative version, I’ve always wanted to play Iago, Othello is of course African, a black guy but Iago is a white European, but I’d love the idea of exploring Iago being a mixed race man because that idea hasn’t been explored yet.  I’d love to do more on that in particular.

An alternative interpretation would be fabulous.  I remember reading a book called Noughts and Crosses at High School, it was a book about race and it was a switch-about of minorities and it was a great way for me to understand and explore the era of slavery and racism because I didn’t come into contact with racism as my school was, and now the RCS is, very multi-cultural so it would be interesting for me to see that explored.

I’d love to do it and it is one of my aims.  A chap came over to Guernsey and would love to do it but I’d need lots of funding.  I’m hoping no-one pursues the idea before I get to do it.

Coming back to education and on behalf of other young aspirational radio presenters, what education did you have at school, what do you suggest a radio presenter needs and how did your education influence where you are today?

My education journey was a really challenging one, the gist was that I was taken out of school for a considerable length of my time as a young man, so when I went back to school I was behind my peers reading, writing and communicating properly.  By the time I reached the age of about 14 my education was still behind, however, when I was 15 or 16 when I got into the NYT, I remember going to London and panicking because they were going to ask me to read really complicated scripts, but what struck me was that I was working alongside really intelligent people who were doing the equivalent of GCSEs and A levels and we got on like a house on fire and education wasn’t relevant, it was very equalising.  I went back to school and said to Mrs Breslin the Headmistress that I’d like to do ‘O’ levels and she laughed and said she’d give me a trial period.  I got my GCSEs and my A levels and I have to say my faith had an element in that as well and that changed everything and so I don’t have an issue with education and I learnt to love it during an intense period.  So coming back to your question although I can’t think of any particularly suitable qualification per se you need to be articulate, understanding and discerning.  I don’t have a degree I sometimes wish I did I planned to go to drama school instead.

I’ve had a lovely chat with you Andy, you have been very accommodating with my questions and very interesting to talk to, whilst typing today I thought oh why didn’t I ask… such and such, like what is your favourite music to listen to?  I feel inspired by your aim and I hope that you have the opportunity to bring your Iago into reality it would be a fitting tribute during Shakespeares 450th birthday celebrations and may bring a new audience and a twist to a wonderful play.   Good Luck.