9 years…

*Soppy post alert….sorry*

On Sunday Jamie and I celebrated our 9 year Anniversary. Neither of us can quite believe how quickly time has flown and I think at our age it is pretty impressive to have grown up and been together for so long.

I see it that you either grow together or grow apart.  Don’t get me wrong we’ve had our ups and downs and our challenges, I don’t want you to think we live in some sort of Disney Fairytale, but we are a team and support each other and ultimately love sees us through (*sorry that was a bit cheesy*)

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We met at the Northcott Theatre in Exeter many moons ago and now here we are going into our tenth year both pursuing the career we always dreamed of and living together in our flat in London.

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One of the first photos taken of us together

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I won’t bore you with details but I’ll let you in on one secret….I was in rehearsals and Jamie was working on the show watching me sing in the front row of the auditorium, one of the ladies, Amanda, turned to me and said “that boy loves you” – we’d never met and this was the first time we’d seen each other.

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Anniversary cards

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We just wanted to have a lovely low key day.  Both of us are so busy that it’s nice to be able just to spend time together so we decided on a day of just us and a picnic…it rained…of course it did! However no amount of rain could dampen our spirits, we just changed the location to our sitting room floor.

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No English picnic is up to scratch without egg mayonnaise sandwiches in Jamie’s book!

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and a Victoria sponge (which Jamie proudly made and lovingly ate!)

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A perfect day.

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Topped off by snuggling on the sofa to watch the Boat Race

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Our goal this year is to find time to have a holiday together.  We haven’t been away at the same time for years!

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I know that Jamie will hope when I write this post in a years time that we will have a dog…who knows. I’ll write it here now so we can see where this year takes us.

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A x

Don’t Give Up

Jamie and I are usually quite private about our working lives, particularly when it comes to auditions.  I find the constant highs and lows you experience as an actor to be a very personal thing that not many non industry people understand.  From one minute picking up the phone for a recall and having material sent through for the part you’re up for, to the next hearing that people you know are in for the next round but you haven’t heard, so assuming a “no”. It’s of course not always the case but the majority of the time you don’t even hear that you haven’t got any further.

For one role it was between me and another girl in the final round, I’d been in and out over about five auditions across a few weeks and, shortly after, I found out that I hadn’t got the part through a musical theatre blog . I’ve had to toughen up a lot.

I was recently in for one of my dream roles, I’d learnt all the material and knew I could do it and was suited to it. It sometimes makes it worse when everyone around you says “you’re perfect for it” – so I tend to keep it quiet when I’m auditioning.

Sadly I got the dreaded call of “it’s not going any further” just before the final round and was absolutely gutted.  I wanted this part – I’d channeled ‘The Secret’, I had put my  heart and soul into it.  The reason was so out of my hands that it made me question why I put myself through all of the heartache.

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I let myself wallow for a few hours and then I pick myself up and get on with my life.  You have to.  You wouldn’t survive in this industry else.

Today I came across a quote that touched a nerve and I’m sure many of you can relate no matter what field you are in.

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A x

Touring Dubai Part 1

It was an early rise as we left Oman for the UAE to hang out with the younger and brasher Dubai.

Dubai is like an adventurous new graduate out for a night of beaches, tequila and mayhem on Daddy’s credit card! It’s lavish and in your face, but measured and enterprising when its older brothers are in earshot. This is the land of bigger, taller and more impossible than anyone else; where competition is game and where, if you drop half a million GBP on an apartment, you’ll get a free Lamborghini to park on the drive!

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We arrived on a cool February morning and this trip was beginning to feel a little bit ‘hashtag lads on tour’! Note the unimpressed passenger.

Whoever founded this establishment deserves a medal.

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Our hotel was in the Al Barsha district, an optimistic stones throw from Jumeirah beach and the Burj Al Arab (the Sail Hotel) on the main road between Downtown on our right and New Dubai to the left.

First and foremost- WiFi!

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The very reason we were all in Dubai in the first place was, of course, for our play and so after getting settled, we headed off to the theatre to conduct some serious work fight over dressing rooms!

My attempts at capturing the auditorium were less than successful…

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Maybe they knew I’d blog their pretty faces! I tried again….

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…and after the Springbok and Gazelle had finally found pastures new…

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This was to be our home for the week! A beautiful, intimate but deceptively large space with great facilities and a Costa Coffee front of house! How could we complain.

We unloaded our personals in the dressing rooms and took a whistle-stop tour of The Mall of the Emirates. For those unfamiliar, the Mall of the Emirates is a tiny inconsequential mall, lots of shops, restaurants and an indoor ski- centre, much like every other shopping complex you’ve seen. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture- probably because I was so distracted with the sheer audacity of it all that I simply forgot where I was…. in space and time! What planet was this?!

This from the telegraph should wet your appetite!

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Malls are already on my radar for Room 101 and I had to escape back to normality. My route out of the mall took me through and out of the very opulent Kempinski Hotel, past the parked-up super cars, onto the highway and right in front of a local police car. A Lamborghini police car.

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Still not finding anything remotely normal, I ordered some flowers for the room from a little flourist nearby- sadly not quite Emma Vowles Totnes but the best I could find in the given circumstances- and reached for some room service Dubai style!

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I very safely spent a normal evening getting acquainted with the roof- top bar.

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and our glorious views of Downtown. In the distance you can see, towering above the rest, the World’s tallest building- The Burj Khalifa. He’s the tall one in VIP with 20 empty bottles of Dom Pérignon Vintage!

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The next morning we all hopped on a bus to the far end of the Palm for some very touristy water sliding at the Atlantis Water Park- out of season, of course, but blissfully quiet and with no queuing!  The weather was glorious and there’s never a wrong time for a Mary Poppins reference.

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As this is Dubai, I wasn’t at all surprised to find the vertical 100ft high water slide, titled ‘Leap of Faith’, that drops you through a shark tank at the bottom! When in Rome, I say.

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You’ll be happy to know that I survived the Leap of Faith, as this certificate will testify.

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With more of my life in tact than expected, and clearly on a winning streak, I decided to chance my odds of survival on the next death defying ride. I think we termed this the ‘Ring of Men’. Equally terrifying.

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…and if you ever find yourself at a loss after accidentally lodging your shirt 40ft aloft in a palm tree  (don’t ask!) then Jimmy, below, will be sure to lend his body weight to its retrieval.

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The patient amongst us trialled the metro back to the hotel. The rest, myself included, hopped in taxis. Not before venturing to Starbucks for latte with a sprinkling of religious banter for the journey home.
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An enormously fun first few days in Dubai!

G’night!

J. X

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Aqua Shard

We recently caught up with our wonderful friends Tina and James.  I went to uni with Tina and we lived together in our third year and had an absolute ball! Two peas in a pod!

We arranged to go for drinks at Aqua Shard which as the name suggests is overlooking the water 31 floors up the Shard.

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We were very excited as we hadn’t been there before.  Jamie was still in the middle of his tour which explains his ridiculous facial hair!

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It was an amazingly clear night and the views were just beautiful.

The Shard

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The James’s

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The girlies

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As it was a busy Friday it took us a while to get a table but Jamie was on fine eagle eyed form.  Only the best table in the house, skillfully charmed from the waiter!

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Perfecting the heart shape….

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James stepping in to sort it out

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I’m now practicing making half heart shapes after my poor effort!

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Cocktails

True friends are those you can be apart from for ages but when you meet up it’s like you’ve never been apart.

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A truly magical night with quite simply magical friends.

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A x

Skincare SOS

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for lotions and potions and a salesperson’s dream, buying into all sorts of ridiculous claims: “This lip gloss makes your teeth look whiter” – I bought it….it didn’t!

I’ve always been fascinated by skincare and, thanks to my Mum, have always looked after my skin.  Recently I was asked if I might pop a quick blog up about my daily routine.  I don’t claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, just someone who takes care of their skin and is rather obsessed with products!

I’m a Liz Earle girl at heart.  When I left drama school I temped at the Liz Earle store in Sloane Square for about 6 months and fell in love with the brand.  I saw first hand the difference the products made to people’s skin and seeing Liz herself – well she is the best ambassador for her brand as her skin literally glows – and that was when she had no makeup on!-  I know life is so unfair!

I have always been a firm believer of ‘cleanse, tone and moisturise’ and ALWAYS, no matter how tired/ drunk you are, believe in taking make up off at night.  I have normal to combination skin which can be slightly sensitive.

I’m going to do my morning and evening routine side by side as they are basically the same.

Liz Earle’s cleanse and polish is my staple go to cleanser for removing make up and cleaning the skin.  It is so gentle that you could use it on a baby, yet it removes make up and leaves the skin feeling so soft.  It also smells gorgeous…not an added perfume smell but the natural aroma of the eucalyptus in the product.  You massage this all over your face and neck and then rinse of with a muslin cloth soaked in warm water.

Liz EarleOnce to twice a week I use the Liz Earle exfoliator which is a fabulously gentle exfoliator but still does the job but without being too abrasive on the skin.

Particularly for getting off stage makeup, I use something like this L’oreal Micellar Solution before the cleanse and polish just to get rid of the mascara and excess make up, as although the cleanse and polish does a good job on removing light make up you just end up with a filthy muslin cloth of make up.

L'oreal Miscellar SolutionThis is my life saviour taking off stage make up and having tried lots of different products such as the Shu Uemura oil and the Mac oil I think this wins hands down as if the oil goes in your eye you can’t see for a good five minutes…not always ideal when you’re trying to rush out of the theatre.  Also it’s much cheaper!

My beloved cleanse and polish was nearly finished and I decided to try something else (*hangs head in shame*) after hearing such incredible things about Clinique’s take the day off cleansing balm.

CliniqueNow I’m not a lover of Clinique skincare.  For me I have always found it too heavy and harsh on my skin and years ago hearing that their cleanser was strong enough to wipe down their counter surfaces with, I think it stuck in my mind even if it was just hearsay.  However I like to be proved wrong.

I’m in love.  I can’t recommend this product enough.  It comes in a hard waxy balm and you pop your finger in and dig out a small amount, warm it in your fingers and massage it all over your face (including eyes).  You can rinse it off just with water but I prefer to use a flannel or muslin cloth.  Your skin is left feeling as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom and squeaky clean.

Clinique cleansing balmNow when I went to the Clinique counter and requested this product (it wasn’t on show as they seem to always be sold out) the lady got one out of a cupboard and said yes it’s great for removing make up, but that’s all it does, it won’t help your skin and you have to use a cleanser on top of it to remove it – I knew that she was then going to show me her Clinique 3 step system and try and sell me that….and voila she didn’t disappoint!  I didn’t want the 3 step system I’d only heard negative things about it and she only said I needed a cleanser on top to try and upsell….I ignored all her advice and went with my gut.

Thank goodness I did. My skin has never looked better and you don’t need a cleanser to take off the cleansing balm – the notion is absolutely ridiculous and I hate using too many products – surely product on top of product is just going to clog my skin?!

After cleansing I always use a toner and yes back to Liz Earle and their tonic.  I pop a bit on a cotton wool pad and sweep it all over my face just to hydrate the skin and get rid of any residual product left on the skin.  In the mornings I tend to use the spritzer version to wake me up a bit!

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After that it’s time to turn to my old faithful Nivea.  I have tried so many different moisturisers from high end to Boots own and turn back to Nivea time and time again. My skin is quite fussy and it seems to love it.  The light one for the day so that my skin isn’t left too greasy with too thick a product and then their slightly thicker one at night for some skin tlc.  I always moisturise my neck in an upward motion as well – I swear this is going to stop me getting a wrinkly neck…hmmmmm

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My little skin saviours are Elizabeth Arden’s eight hour cream – although I’ve run out at the moment and instead having been using Lucas’ Papaw.  An Australian all time favourite product with similar healing properties and much cheaper.  I still prefer Elizabeth Arden’s but this little red tube is filling the time nicely till I restock. The best lip balm ever and can be put on any blisters, cuts, burns, blemishes, dry skin.

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Tea Tree oil directly onto any blemishes. It is a natural antiseptic so a dream at tackling those unwanted spots.

When I want to look more bright eyed and bushy tailed I pop on the Clarins beauty flash balm.  I usually wear it like a primer under my foundation, not only does it prolong the wear of your foundation but it tightens the skin and makes you look more energised.  It can also be worn on its own.

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm

And finally if you’re going to look after you skin you can’t forget the rest of your body.  In the summer I’m pretty good at slathering on yummy body butters but in the winter I am always too cold and so this new moisturiser Spray from Vaseline is the answer to my prayers.  Just a quick spray and rub in (you can ignore this last step if you’re feeling particularly lazy) and you’re done.

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What are your skincare saviours and products you just can’t live without?

A x

Oman- fit for a Sultan

My last post was brought to you from the length and breadth of the United Kingdom of Glorious Theatres, in association with rain and wind. It was all about my recent job and I promised you the next instalment from Oman would be a little sunnier.

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(The Sultanate of) Oman hugs the south-eastern edge of Saudi Arabia, bordered by The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen and is just across the water from Iran. It’s a lovely place to spend some time, with lots of traditional Asian/ Middle- Eastern atmosphere.

After a long flight and a change at Doha International in Qatar, we finally arrived into Muscat. Check-in was quite the experience!

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We were staying in the capital, Muscat, in the North- East of Oman in a very new, three-week old, hotel. It was so shiny it felt literally untouched!

I couldn’t resist hauling myself up early the next morning and into the gym. Seeing a new place bright and early is always one of my favourite things to do, especially with such lovely weather to wake up to!

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We were off to what turned out to be a very wonderful gem of a school that morning. It was the very first time Shakespeare (of any kind) had been performed in the Sultanate and these kids were so enthusiastic and knowledgeable we just couldn’t resist paying a visit!

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and playing some football!

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Between playing football and signing for the kids, we managed to get some work done!

A blistering 150 kph, no seatbelt, white-knuckle taxi convoy later and we were back at the hotel and in the pool, despite it being after dark and only 17 degrees! We’re British, we will pool wherever, whenever!

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Dessert in this place was to die for! Someone went to a lot of effort to make plenty of pudding minis for our hungry tribe which is, of course, the best possible way to have dessert because you can load up with one of everything. And I did!

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I don’t think Amy was having quite the same time back home in rainy old England though!

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I’ll check in with you in a few days when its off to Dubai to experience the ‘LA of the Middle East’.

J. X

Spring is on its way

February is a funny month….although it is the shortest month, it can feel never ending – and the weather most definitely does not help matters!

This morning on my usual route to the train I noticed this little shining beacon of Spring appearing out of the murky grey drizzly morning….Pink blossom to melt even the stoniest of hearts

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I thought I’d share it with you as I think it’s saying to us all “hey guys keep going, Spring is on its way”

A x

Photo Noir

We were very lucky to be invited to the opening of the Cornel Lucas photography exhibition ‘Photo Noir’ at the National Theatre on Wednesday Night.

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Cornel Lucas photo exhibition

Jamie worked with Susan, the late Cornel’s wife, in the play Daisy Pulls It Off last year, and it was Susan’s image that was featured on the huge banner as we walked in.  She told us that this image was taken the very first time they had met during a shoot at Pinewood Studios.

Cornel Lucas exhibition

Virginia McKenna opened the exhibition. Star of Born Free and Anna in the King and I opposite Yul Brynner at the London Palladium.

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Cornel Lucas

Cornel is the only photographer to have received a BAFTA for his work.

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He photographed anyone who was anyone and the shots are simply exquisite.  Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, Jean Simmons, Steven Spielberg to name just a few.  Have a gander at his website to see more examples of his work.

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Jamie and his friend Rob with Susan. They are in front of Cornel’s photograph of Susan and her mother.

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It really struck me seeing that someone as beautiful as Brigitte Bardot was self-conscious…

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There was something rather ironic about everyone snapping away on iPhones when Cornel apparently hated using digital, much preferring the quality of traditional methods and the transformation of developing.

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The exhibition is on at the National Theatre in the Lyttleton Exhibition Space until the end of March and we cannot recommend it enough…we’re insisting our parents come up to see it and we’ll definitely go again.  And to top it off, entry is free!

A lovely walk back home along the Southbank…London really is beautiful at night

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J & A x

 

Tour

I realised I don’t very often talk in too much detail about my work on here so I thought, having just returned from the Middle East, I’d share a little bit of it with you.

An actor’s life is turbulent and not always plain sailing when it comes to planning the next job in this business we call show. Sometimes there are a few things on the cards, other times there is nothing to choose from and you are required to make your own work. Oftentimes something will just come out of the blue, unexpectedly, requiring some quick thinking and planning.

Last December I very happily signed on to be a part of a UK and Middle Eastern tour of Macbeth and we began rehearsals on the first working day of 2014, January 2nd.  We started with two weeks of rehearsal which included a table reading, where the cast read through the entire script on the first day, followed by staging, learning material and choreographing the fight scenes in the days and weeks after. Towards the end, and in the days running up to opening night, we entered ‘tech’ where the lighting, sound and other technical layers are added.

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I play Banquo, Macbeth’s loyal right-hand man and close friend who supports him in battle, before (spoiler alert) being brutally murdered amidst Macbeth’s insecurities and plot to rise to the throne as King of Scotland.

‘Sometimes’ the Producer will work hard!

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The cast need downtime like anyone else, and at a late late stop-off at a service station, this is most definitely necessary!

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After opening briefly outside of London we visited some beautiful venues around the UK before jetting off to start the first leg of our Middle-Eastern tour, in Muscat- in the Sultanate of Oman.

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Keeping fit and healthy is important on a hard touring schedule. ‘Hardcore training’ with our resident fitness instructor, “Harry Stone Actor”.

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Myself and a few others get quite bloody in this production and so, much to the amusement of the rest of the cast, a good skin-care routine is also a must! More face products than Amy at the moment!

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Next blog up- the Middle East! See you there.

J. X