This week, Fiona introduces a guest blog from The Crucible actor Natalie Gavin...

If the 14-year-old you could have predicted where you are now and the route you’ve taken to get to the position you find yourself in, would you be surprised?

For most of us life is what happens when you’re planning other things and we can often forget that the small detail of our day-to-day activity plays a huge role in shaping the direction of our future.

There are some professions that have a very set route to entry – law, medicine, accountancy etc. and there are others that don’t, theatre being one of them. Very few performers have had a straightforward journey into the profession and once there the road is a bumpy one and directions can be unclear.

This week we’re joined by actor Natalie Gavin, who describes her particular experience.

My journey towards becoming an actress wasn’t your typical one, as I didn’t particularly choose the career, it chose me. Aged 14, I had a one-hour session of drama for GCSE once a week, and I wasn’t an outgoing child. I would sit at the back of the class and keep my fingers firmly crossed that I wouldn't be chosen to get up and perform. I managed to get through the majority of the year unnoticed, until eventually the teacher and the class picked me to create a five-minute improvisation on my own.

The feelings I experienced were overwhelming. I was so nervous - and clearly showing it, with butterflies in my stomach - but the more I concentrated on the task at hand, the more the butterflies turned into a ball of fire and the adrenaline ran through my whole body.

These short five minutes changed my life. I played on my nerves and created a nervous character that made the class burst into laughter. They were laughing with me not at me, and at that moment I realised I needed to feel that burning in my belly again – I knew from then on that this was what I was meant to do.

I would describe acting for me like the ‘butterfly effect’. As soon as I start reading the words on the page, I slip into the character’s world and everything else disappears. Through practising your craft you learn to access your self-awareness - so there’s the element of being yourself at all times, but your mind and body is responding to the character.

I think this is a part of the preparation: if you can find their world then you are right to portray that role, and your next job is to convince everyone else that you have the ability to do so, with confidence. There’s a porthole into the character, known as ‘state of flow’, and every actor will have a different way of entering it. Whilst playing Mary Warren in The Crucible, I had a few different rituals that I needed to carry out in order to feel completely confident in portraying her character.

For example, I would push the wall with full force for as long as I could to feel grounded, but also dishevelled and weak. I would lie down backstage and listen to the scene before, to feel the atmosphere before entering. I would also crawl on my bare knees to collect my poppet and take the needle out and start to sew.

This must have seemed mad to the people backstage, but I recall them telling me that they found it fascinating to watch all the actors having completely different rituals they had to complete to feel in character. I believe that I did carry Mary Warren around with me. The lady that I lived with witnessed me experiencing all types of different emotions after the show - I could come in and burst into tears, and other days feeling relief, both emotions I portrayed on stage minutes earlier.  


Today we publish the transcript of our interview with Natalie, who goes into greater detail about taking on Arthur Miller’s huge play and how her very practical approach grounded her and gave her confidence.