ALRA South’s 2014-2017 Three Year Acting BA (HONS) graduate and 2017 BBC Carleton Hobbs Bursary Award winner Abbie Andrews recently spoke to us about her playing ‘Coral’, a lead part in the radio adaptation of ‘Stamboul Train’ by Graham Greene - set on The Orient Express. To listen to Abbie, stay tuned to BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 18th November at 2:15 pm.
Here’s a lovely interview with Abbie Andrews, find out what she told us:
ALRA: Hi Abbie, we were all delighted when you won the Carleton Hobbs prize earlier this year. Winning has meant that you went straight into professional work on graduating this summer which is a great advantage. Can you tell us a little bit about your first few projects?
Abbie Andrews: The very first week was our “induction” week which involved seven packed days of workshops including Shakespeare, accents, mic technique and getting to grips with the studio. During this week I voiced a children’s TV show for The Archers (BBC radio’s longest running drama) which was so much fun.
I then got my first script on my tray for the comedy series “Holmes & Watford” directed by Sally Avens. I got to play a boisterous young woman from Lincolnshire having a blazing row with her fella. I remember feeling so nervous but after the first green light I just relaxed, had fun and enjoyed the recording.
ALRA: What have you learned during the past couple of months about radio drama that has helped you develop your skills?
AA: Working on the radio drama company has been such a learning process owing to the vast amount of scripts you get. I’ve felt myself become so much faster at sight-reading and I've learned more about establishing differences in characters using pitch, pace and accents as sometimes you’re asked to play four or even five different characters in one production.
Also, I've seen the importance of the ability to take direction and straight away apply it as radio recording is such a fast process.
ALRA: ALRA offers some preparation for radio drama, did you find this experience useful?
AA: The radio training at ALRA set me up brilliantly for working on the RDC as I didn’t feel alien to the microphone and knew how to work it. I also was taught about avoiding noisy scripts during takes (which is very important) and the importance of vocal technique to give you the ability to have a versatile, exciting voice full of range.
ALRA: What are the highlights so far of working at the BBC?
AA: A big highlight for me was being given a lead role in ‘Stamboul Train’. I felt so grateful to the director (Marc Beeby - also head of the Carleton Hobbs judging panel) for believing in me. Being in the studio for three days straight was amazing, as was getting so much creative license with my character; Coral. I had one of those “is this seriously my job!?!” moments!
Another highlight has been meeting and working with so many talented and respected actors and sitting in a studio just being able to soak in their experience and learning from them. A few of the actors who have come in are; Timothy West, Lenny Henry, Maureen Lipman, Susan Wokoma, John Heffernan and Beattie Edmonson… to name a few!
ALRA: How are you continuing to maintain your performance skills now that you’ve graduated?
AA: The great thing about this job is I'm needing to do a vocal warm-up on most days, especially if I have a reading for the news or the world service channel as the mic will pick up any spec of sloppy speech. Also, being on the RDC you meet and network with so many creatives i.e. writers, directors and producers, which allows you as an actor to plant lots of seeds for the future.
ALRA: At this time of year, many aspiring actors are applying and auditioning for drama school training – do you remember your auditions?
AA: I auditioned for two years to get into drama school and had a gap year. In my first year of auditioning I got feedback that I was “just too young” which at the time frustrated me so much but after a year of working and gaining that all important “life experience” I was able to see how much more resilient and passionate I had become in time for my second try.
ALRA: What piece of advice would you give prospective ALRA students about their audition?
AA: Honestly, who knows what the panel is looking for so stop trying to be anything other than the best version of you! Just let that be enough and it’ll happen, just trust.
ALRA: What advice would you give students about radio drama and about training in general?
AA: I think radio drama can be so overlooked by young actors in training. It’s so important to realise it’s quite a difficult side of the industry to get into and can be the difference between having a part-time job that you hate to keep you afloat or getting one or two radio gigs a month that enable you to pay your bills on time and do what you love. I’d also say if you don’t read - start!
Radio or any kind of voice over work requires you to sight-read without too many fluffs and lift words off a page like you’re saying them spontaneously. My advice is to start picking up a random book or play and to read out loud, a page a day, that’s all! You’ll see the difference.
ALRA: What are your fondest memories of your training at ALRA?
AA: I feel totally blessed to have had the year group I did. One of my fondest memories was the amount of support I received from everyone when I got the BBC Carleton Hobbs bursary. It was incredible and cemented the fact that my 2014-17 year group will always be like a family.
ALRA: Thank you so much, Abbie Andrews, for sharing your story, we wish you all the best for your shows and future career and look forward to seeing what’s next!