‘I want to be an actress when I grow up.’ I made this statement for the first time at eight years old shortly after I had, enthusiastically, taken part in our community panto. It was Jack & the Beanstalk and I was in the chorus. I continued to want to be an actress when I grew up at 17, when I was leaving school and going straight to Reid Kerr College to study my HND in Acting & Performance. I had the time of my life at college and learned more than I ever thought I would but what I really wanted, was to go to the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS). You see, that’s the tricky part. You can want to be an actress for as long as you want but it doesn’t mean you’ll be selected into a top drama school. It’s very competitive, they get thousands of applicants for only 23 places. I could go on now to tell you how I went on to enter the business some other way, but that wouldn’t be an accurate portrayal of what actually happened. You see, I wanted to be an actress when I grew up so badly that the fine people at RCS finally offered me a place on the BA Acting program in 2012…after five years of auditioning. I was delighted! Tricky part over, or so I thought…
Next tricky part. I’m in a wheelchair and the RCS had never accepted anyone in a wheelchair onto the Acting course before. How would they ever cope with my additional needs?! Just kidding, it went so much smoother than anyone could ever have imagined. Before I started my course, I was invited to attend a day-long workshop with all the tutors that work on the acting program and a few of the current first years. This was to briefly work through some of the more physical techniques used, so that they didn’t have to work out alternative ways of doing things in front of a room full of my classmates. To make me feel more comfortable knowing what was coming.
On the morning of the workshop, I was anything but comfortable. I was terrified! Little old me and a room full of grown-ups, judging me? Wait a minute, didn’t I already audition for this course? Turns out, it was a great idea because everything was put out in the open. I gave them permission to have frank and honest conversations with me if there were any worries or doubts and we all left at the end of the day feeling calmer and reassured. When I eventually started my course in the September of 2012, I joined a year group of the most open and accepting people I could ever have asked for. They were excited about working with someone who looked/moved/thought differently to anyone they had ever worked with before. It taught me that the next generation of artists are ready for the challenge of diversity. They’re ready for art that reflects life in a real way. They’ll go out not afraid to work with people with different abilities, or that look different, sound different, think differently to them. They’ll embrace it and understand that different is creative. The only way people start to think this way, is if they have the experience of working, or watching people like me on stage or film. If it becomes the norm.
If you are a young disabled person who is dying to act, go out and do it because if you force people to get over it, they will. If acting is what you want to do, become amazing at it. Practice. Make sure you know what you’re talking about, don’t give people an excuse to shut you down. Training is very important in theatre so look into drama school. If you let them see your greatness, they’ll forget that thing they ever thought was going to be a bit ‘tricky’. I wanted to be an actress when I grew up; I’m 25 and I am one, despite my disability.
Wendy Hoose is at Soho Theatre 12 April to 7 May.
Photo by Eoin Carey