An actress speaks: Pressure

An actress speaks: Pressure

by Hayley Mcfadyen

I personally suffer from the pressures of most things around me in life, not just acting and the overwhelming industry itself. Pressure can benefit us and push us, some of my best work comes from being switched on. But it can also cause problems which don’t need to be there. Pressure mostly comes from myself. I have very high expectations of myself and sometimes if I slip up or mess up an audition I am the only one that I disappoint. Only now have I come to terms with the damage it can cause when you overwhelm yourself with pressure, and over time the more I have relaxed the better actor I have become. 

As females I think we have quite a lot of pressure to deal with. It is very easy to compare yourself to other people, especially with how we look and how the media can portray us. As actors how we look is – unfortunately – key to what roles we play, not all, but some.

Casting types are there for a reason, the director wants to tell the story, writers have an image in their head that they want to fulfil and that’s okay. However, it is also okay to not fit that. If you are too tall or not the right size it is not the end of the world, I think it’s important to know what roles you fit, and not buckle under the pressures of fitting everything. This helps the feeling of being disappointed, there are some roles out there which I may not be able to play and never be able to play, this can be for all sorts of reasons, some older roles can have great depth which I like, however, I need to be patient until I can play those roles, focus on the things that are in your control right now. On the other hand I definitely feel like we can alter areas to fit the role, Alicia Vikander trained really hard for her role of Lara croft, her tiny frame was transformed into muscle so she could do her own stunts in Tomb Raider. There are definitely things everyone is capable of if they put their mind to it, and we don’t always have to play our casting types, we can escape that box if we believe we can do it.

I think one of the biggest pressures I face as a female is saying yes, and feeling obliged to do things, rather than being comfortable with it. Everyone has a personal limit and a comfort zone and to come out of it you need to feel comfortable, that comes above anything else. I am a very open person and I am usually very good at coming out of my comfort zone but there have been times when the boundary has been crossed and I wasn’t honest and it bothered me later on that I never said anything at the time. As actors we are constantly putting ourselves in vulnerable situations, going into auditions, meeting new people all the time in different places.

It is important as a female to be streetwise and be careful when walking into rooms. Sometimes you may not even know what the audition entails until you walk into it and you need to be confident with your boundaries. If you feel discomfort for whatever reason, just because you are in the room doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions, most people would prefer you to speak up than do something which you’re clearly not comfortable with or confused about. Obviously every situation is very different, and what I say does not relate to all of them, but what I am trying to say is to be more mindful of yourself, you should always be feeling comfortable and happy with what you’re doing. This will also in turn create a better performance because you are more relaxed and comfortable to play. 

Another pressure which I have only discovered recently is the pressure of questions. Questions from all kinds of people outside the industry. What we do in our own time is personal, what jobs we have in the pipeline we don’t always want to say, superstition and all of that. Therefore I find that I am constantly dodging the conversation with people about how my auditions are going or what I am up to.

Maybe this is just me, I don’t know, but I do think some people will resonate to some parts of what I am saying. This industry is hard and we wouldn’t do it unless we loved it and sometimes taking on such a big challenge can create pressure to prove to people that we can hack it. Sometimes not having anything to say to people that ask me questions can get to me, try not to let that happen, you know yourself and what you’re doing in terms of your craft.  Sometimes keeping things to yourself is okay, I personally don’t like to jinx things. It sounds silly, but I hope other actors will understand this: when a job is really exciting you don’t always want to talk about it incase it doesn’t happen, you don’t want it to become real until the very last minute. Keeping things to yourself is okay, don’t feel pressure to always divulge. 

About Hayley: An actor, poet and co-founder of House of Rhymes, a spoken word and live music evening based in London. House of Rhymes took on Vault Festival at the beginning of the year and sold out, along with its two other events since being created. Hayley has performed at the Cockpit Theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre as well as the Lyric Hammersmith as part of the 2019 Evolution Festival. Hayley is currently writing her own play, as well as collaborating with artists to create some sounds for her spoken word, striving to create tracks, in the hope that people will resonate more with poetry.

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