It’s coming up to that time of year when a lot of companies are starting to look for panto casts for the Christmas season. It may seem a little too early to be thinking about which fairytale to treat the family to this year, but for the organisers behind the magic there’s an awful lot to do in that time. So already we’re starting to see the first calls for “fantastic singers with acting ability” to play Cinders, the Wicked Witch and Prince Charming. But it’s not just panto season that calls for all-rounders. On casting sites such as Casting Call Pro and Spotlight there are frequently calls for ‘triple threats’ for a wide range of productions. In such a competitive industry more often than not it’s not enough to have one skill, no matter how honed. You need to be able to act, sing and dance to a good degree and if you play instrument too then you’re well set. All these things take time, dedication and generally a fair bit of money.
As an actress I’ve been at a level of confidence for some time: I’ve trained at university, and developed and applied my skills through many workshops and performances. As a dancer I trained for 12 years and, while I’m not necessarily at the standard I was five years ago, I’m still more than capable. In a lot of cases though it’s more a question of being able to move well and pick up choreography rather than being able to perform a stunning pas de deux. But then we come to that third element of being a ‘triple threat’: singing.
I’m not sure when it started, but I know I was young. I became simply terrified of singing. Fairly debilitating as a performer, even in the early stages when I was considering drama school. The mere sight of ‘singing audition’ was enough to make me think twice about applying to some places, although thankfully the desire to train was stronger. And so it continued until, in my second year, a group of friends and I decided to take a week to train at the Au Brana Cultural Centre in France with resident company Obra. Now I know that we in the arts have a penchant for over-exaggerating but I think I can honestly say that this week changed my life. Not physically perhaps, but certainly professionally and a little emotionally. It was pretty much the most excruciating experience I’ve ever had, but it was fantastic. The amazing Kate Perry took none of my excuses and patiently worked with me until I had an incredible breakthrough and was singing with the rest. OK, so I was no Mariah Carey, but it was a start. I was singing, fairly in tune and in public.
This was a few years ago now and, while I’ve been a lot more confident and willing to give things a go, I’ve decided to take the next step. I’m happy singing as part of an ensemble and have even been known to sing small solo parts in group songs in performances, but I want to iron out those significant little details that make a big difference when you’re singing on your own. So I have taken the plunge and started to have singing lessons. I don’t necessarily envisage being the starring soloist in a West End musical any time soon, but having confidence in my own voice will give me that extra boost at auditions to know that even if I am asked to sing unexpectedly, I won’t have a panic attack. And of course there’s the added bonus that working on your singing voice improves your speaking voice and overall performance.
So if there’s something you’re terrified of doing, no matter what your profession, bite the bullet and go for it, because if you make it through it you’ll feel a hundred times better and you might even end up being that sought-after triple threat. That little bit of pain all becomes worthwhile, honestly.