Being an actor means being vulnerable. I think so, anyway. I don’t believe I could do what I do on the stage if I hadn’t lived, really lived. That isn’t to say that if a person hasn’t rolled around in the muck of life they can’t be a convincing actor; some people just have the gift of telling stories. I like to think of acting as representing life as honestly as possible. My dear mentor and teacher Peter Oyston once said to me that nothing we do on stage as actors is ‘real’. It’s all contrived, but to be in the moment when we’re on stage, to utterly believe in that moment is the best chance we have of producing an authentic representation of life.
Peter passed away two weeks ago, which has driven me into a long series of moments of reflection. He was the first person in my life to sit me down and say, “you can act. And you should.” I’ve been acting all my life: when I was in the sex industry (bombshell alert!), I was acting. At school, at Uni, I was acting. We all ‘act’ at various points in our lives, but Peter gave me permission to act for a living, and he helped me to see that my experiences in life were only going to inform my process. He accepted me with no judgment. He saw the shitty things I went through in my younger years as a boon to my craft. To be unapologetically poetic, he set me free. And I thank him for that.
Earlier this year, another theatre-maker friend and I wrote and produced a play called “Skinhouse” which Peter came to see. It was a play based around my experiences in the sex industry and how my friend – who I lived with for a time – and I coped with these experiences. I was standing outside after the performance talking with Peter and a reviewer, and I said of Peter, “this is the man who taught me how to act.” Peter smiled and said, “you already knew, Princess. I merely helped you to see that you could do it.”