TALENT THRIVING IN THE ‘WEST END’ – AN INTERVIEW WITH ISLAND PERFORMERS ALICE SMITH & LOIS MOONEY

Posted Nov 7, 2019 6:01:19 PM

Two talented Island performers have completed drama and musical theatre courses with the support of Island-based consultancy Auxesia.

Throughout their year-long courses at the International School of Screen Acting in London and Arts Educational theatre school respectively, 23 year-old Alice Smith from Kirk Michael and 19 year-old Lois Mooney from Peel received ongoing mentoring and pastoral support, as well as financial assistance to help meet the costs of the course and living in London.

As part of the process, Managing Director Stuart Colligon interviewed both young talents to review their progress and hear about their hopes for the future.

He said: ‘Alice and Lois are two young women with a wealth of talent in all the performing disciplines. This sponsorship is about far more than just handing over a cheque and wishing them all the best. Just as we do with our clients, Auxesia provides more than just a one-off interaction, but instead we like to work with them throughout their journey.’

Where have you lived in your life?

Alice: I was born in Wolverhampton but grew up on the Island, in Kirk Michael, from the age of four.

Lois: I was born here and lived in Peel. Like Alice, over the past year I've been in London.

What’s the furthest place from home you have visited?

Alice: Thailand on holiday – I loved it.

Lois: America, I would say Miami. My cousins lived there and I’ve been lucky enough to visit them.

What's your pet peeve?

Alice: Difficult question…  Untidiness. My brother leaves mugs everywhere, it’s really annoying.

Lois: Oh, there's a few. I think my main one is when people can’t say sorry, or just appreciate that actions have consequences. That’s a pretty deep pet peeve!

What's your worst habit?

Alice: My worst habit is saying sorry when there’s no need.

Lois: Probably the same; I say sorry for everything. And I talk too much.

When and why did you start performing?

Alice: I started performing when I was three. My mum was a dancer and took me to ballet classes.

Lois: I was also three and began singing and musical theatre when I was four.

Lois, out of all the areas of performance, what is your favourite or are you a ‘triple threat’?

I'd like to say I'm a triple threat. There are definitely aspects where I'm stronger and that's going to happen with anyone. I enjoy dancing the most because it's something that comes quite naturally.

Do you play any instruments?

Alice: I’ve always really wanted to play one so six months ago I bought a ukulele.

Lois: I played violin for three years and guitar for a while but with so many other commitments it’s difficult to find time to practice.

Alice, what was the first song you sang in public?

Ellan Vannin. It was a solo in Yn Chruinnaght.

What about the first dancing or acting that you did, Alice?

I've been dancing all my life so I was in lots of small shows from a very young age. My Mum had her own dance school too, it’s in my DNA!  The first public performance I remember was at the Gaiety.

And Lois, what was the first performance you gave in public?

I think it was a Pippa Salter dance show at King William’s College, I must have been about five.

Is the rest of your family musical?

Alice: Yes, my brother is really good on the drums and bass guitar, and my mum plays clarinet.

Lois: My Mum is, she plays saxophone, and my Granny on her side used to be in choirs.

What are the three things that you can't live without?

Alice: I hate saying it but if I’m honest it’s my phone. Then Netflix and my dog. I adore him!  He’s a King Charles Spaniel called Jasper.

Lois: I know it’s the 21st century but I don’t want my phone to be in the top three (although it probably is) so I’d go for a very thick, heavy duvet as I’m always cold, my grey hoodie, probably past it’s best but is sentimental (I bought it before my first A-level exam), and maybe a Chinese takeaway.

Which performers do you admire?

Alice: My favourite musical theatre performer is Sutton Foster, I’m a massive fan. She’s incredible and can perform all three disciplines, singing, dancing and acting, quite brilliantly. I really admire Margot Robbie too. As well as being an amazing actor, she is so down to earth.

Lois: There are so many. I look up to Sam Barks a lot; coming from here and going across to make it in the industry. My friends are a great source of inspiration as I see their determination. Michael Phelps is incredible; he used what was classified as a negative issue to his advantage

Who is your celebrity crush?

Alice: Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Holland.

Lois: Zac Efron – I was so disappointed not to have met him when he came to the Island.

Who are your role models?

Alice: My mum and dad, of course, but professionally it has to be Meryl Streep.

Lois: Definitely my Mum. She’s had a tough year with her health but she’s been selfless in making me stay at ArtsEd rather than coming home to see her more often.

Alice, who was your first singing/dancing/drama teacher?

My Mum for the dancing! I went to Gena’s too. Sonia Callin was my first singing teacher, as well as Kristine Sutcliffe. For drama it was Jacqui Hawkes and Olivia Landells.

And Lois, who was your first singing teacher?

Like Alice, it was Sonia Callin – a fabulous woman!

Alice, what's your favourite song of all time?

Mr Brightside by The Killers is my party song and Adele’s Greatest Hits would be my album choice.

Lois, what is your favourite song at the moment?

Movies by Circa Waves – I’m a big Indie fan.

You've both performed in lots of shows. Which were your favourites?

Alice: CATS - hands down; it was a dream role. I remember watching it when I was younger and I just loved it. The rehearsals were intense as we had to dance in pretty much every number but learning to be a cat was a lot of fun and the team were lovely. I learned so much.

Lois: I really enjoyed CATS too. The cast in Sunset Boulevard were brilliant, I made some great memories. Annie was also a favourite; it was my first musical which I’ve since repeated.

How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

Alice: I improvise and pretend it was meant to happen! The audience doesn't usually notice.

Lois: The same for me, you’ve just got to carry on and laugh it off.

Do you get nervous before performing?

Alice: Absolutely. I think it is always the build-up to the first performance that is worst, but once you get over that it’s easier to cope.

Lois: Oddly, I don’t for the big shows, probably because there's a massive cast so you've got everybody behind you and they're all feeling the same. I feel more nervous during The Guild as there is no place to hide. It’s also easier when the audience is mainly strangers.

Alice, do you think it's good to be nervous? Do you worry when you're not nervous?

Yes, I definitely think it is. I think it’s because I care, I want to do a good job and that makes me nervous.

What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?

Alice: I had to do work through the nerves. Learning to be positive and think that this is what I want to do. I constantly remind myself that if it goes wrong, it's not the end ‘of the world’. Just enjoy it.

Lois: I'm going to give the cliché that they should take a deep breath, because that is so true. During my whole year at ArtsEd, everything that I've been taught is somehow connected to this idea of just breathing. As soon as you get your breathing correct, you'll be fine.

Alice, you've been away for the last year at ISSA. What things have you missed about the Isle of Man?

I’ve really missed the beach. The greenery, the views, the fresh air, and of course walking my dog. I’ve missed him so much.

Lois, You’ve been away for the last year at ArtsEd – what have you missed about the Island?

Cows - the fluffy ones near Gansey, I think they are Highland cows. They’re beautiful and really tame.  Also, the Jade Harbour Chinese in Peel. Nowhere does prawn wantons quite like it.

How did Auxesia’s sponsorship help you in the last year?

Alice: The pastoral care’s been helpful and the visits so welcome. This always put a spring in my step. I wouldn't have been able to do it without your sponsorship and ongoing support.

Lois: It provided financial and emotional support. London’s a very expensive city but the sponsorship allowed me to concentrate on the course. I always knew I could contact Auxesia for a measured view if there was anything to talk through.

What are the key things that you learned on your course Alice?  

My confidence has grown. I've learned not to doubt myself but trust my choices and be bold. Technically, I've learned so much, met amazing people and worked with incredible tutors who are working in the industry. I’ve learned how the industry works and what I need to be doing.; it has been a truly amazing experience.

What new tricks and skills did you learn at ArtsEd Lois?

So, so many, but lots of small things that build up to the bigger picture. Things that seem simple, such as correct arm placement, but make the difference between good and great. I learned that I am a mezzo soprano, which is slightly lower than soprano and has a ‘beltier’ voice. I also learned how to cry on cue!

What have you learned about yourself?

Alice: I’ve learned more than I ever imagined. I've realised there is so much out there to experience and if I really want to do something, then I can at least give it a good go!

Lois: I learned I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was, both mentally and physically, but that it’s fine to ask for help when I need it.

How will what you've learned in the last year help you, practically, in your career?

Alice: I can just see a different picture now. It's been an eye-opening journey where I’ve been given the opportunity to learn and train at the same time. Not just the acting training that I was given, but also learning about all the different elements of the industry, like the role of the Casting Director, the way auditions work, and the way everything is processed.

Lois: I think the Foundation year sets you up to discipline yourself. We were taken back to strict basics and built up from there. It made me open-minded and ready to learn which has made me a more versatile performer.

What advice would you give to people considering spending some time in a major city to further their career?

Alice: It's very different to home but if you're nervous just turn it to excitement. There is so much to do, so much enjoyment. Look after yourself, but make the most of every minute, because being in London is just a brilliant opportunity. I’ve loved it!

Lois: Explore! London was brilliant for me, because I could go out and find 10 things I'd never seen before each weekend. London's a very big city so finding good friends to surround yourself with is essential. Be careful with money but broadening your experience can be valuable.

If you knew a year ago the things you know now, what would you change about what you did, or what you thought, or how you behaved?

Alice: I definitely wouldn't have been so nervous and may have put myself out there more to begin with. I tried to stay very focused on what I was there to do and perhaps didn’t meet as many people as I could have initially. Since the New Year though, I’ve been making a real effort to meet people from the industry, especially performers, and doing that quickly expands your network.

Lois: It’s hard to say because I loved my time in London, so I wouldn’t want to change my experience.

Where do you want to be and what do you want to be doing 10 years from now?

Alice: My dream’s to be involved in a Netflix series, TV commercials or soap opera. Perhaps a bit on stage too. I love Killing Eve and Fleabag so to be a part of an incredible series would be amazing.

Lois: I'd like to have an established career, not necessarily a ‘safe’ one, just an established one.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Alice: Just to say how thankful I am for your support. Honestly, I really, really wouldn't have been able to do this without you.

Lois: I’m the same; a big thank you to Auxesia and all the other people, whether they know it or not, who’ve supported me.

 

Lois Mooney Stuart Colligon left and Belinda Watson right from Auxesia with Alice Smith centre 
Lois Mooney Stuart Colligon and Alice Smith in London v2

Belinda Watson Lois Mooney and Stuart Colligon

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