What do you do when you live and work in the Isle of Man and you’re passionate about studying screen acting but your acting school’s in England?
If you’re Kathryn Cawte the answer’s simple; travel every weekend to Cheshire.
By day Kathryn, 27, a former Ballakermeen High School student, is a member of Douglas Borough Council chief executive’s department reception team at Douglas town hall but come Friday night it’s the duvet not the disco that calls her, as she gets an early night in readiness for an early morning sailing or flight to Liverpool, followed by train and taxi rides to reach her acting school, Actor Tribe, based in Knutsford, Cheshire.
Kathryn’s passion for screen acting developed after she spent two and half years studying at the Isle of Man Academy of Television, Film and Theatre under Carl Parker and Colin Snell, who went on to set up the production company Parker &Snell Company.
‘I joined originally because I thought it would be a good way of boosting my self-confidence but very early on after I’d joined this passion for screen acting came out of nowhere. It was truly a life-changing experience and so very different from when, as a child at school, I would perform on stage, dancing mostly.’
When the academy temporarily closed Kathryn knew she wanted to continue with acting classes and would have to look elsewhere. ‘I’d fallen totally for the whole concept. I loved being a student and training with like-minded people who understand you.’
In 2013 she joined Actor Tribe set up by working industry professionals and former Coronation Street actors Jennifer James and her husband Lee Boardman.
‘I first met Lee through being a follower and member of MannIN Shorts, the local filmmaking scheme run by Dave Armstrong and Christy DeHaven of DAM Productions, then later I joined the Beverley Keogh casting school in Manchester, although that didn’t work out for me. But from the moment I became involved with Actor Tribe my life outside of my nine-to-five job changed totally.
‘To me, acting in front of the camera is such a different technique from performing on stage. When you’re learning screen acting you have to dig really deep inside yourself for the truth…and it’s discovering and being able to portray that truth that’s the key. I believe most successful professional actors have personal demons and drawing on those demons is what brings truth to their roles. I follow that technique, too, learning the lines first then making the connection.
‘Seven months ago when I started with Actor Tribe I was really nervous but what soon became clear to me was that just dancing would never be enough for me. I wanted more and have always had a fear of just leading a regular “normal” life. I’d become frustrated with life but all that changed when I joined Lee and Jenny’s school.
‘Acting makes you feel better. Being part of the Actor Tribe “family” – a world of acceptance – is the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. I’m completely hooked. What Lee and his fellow teachers get out of their students in the workshops and improvisation sessions is just amazing. Lee’s acting philosophy is “less is more” and every time you walk through the door you’ve no idea what will happen, but at the end of the session you’ll have learned something new. You’re always giving 100 per cent of yourself and you benefit from workshops led by professionals; Suranne Jones, for example, Actor Tribe’s patron, and Paul Norton Walker, the director of Shameless, Scott and Bailey and Trollied. The school’s also the perfect place for being spotted by casting agents, although luck will always have a huge part to play.’
Kathryn likes to be tested with different types of roles but says she’s most often typecast as a ‘damaged’ person. ‘I don’t mind that, though; I can usually push a few buttons and find something inside me to draw on.’
For Kathryn ‘finding the truth’ in screen acting also means finding the funds to travel to Cheshire most weekends. Sometimes by air, sometimes by sea…and she’s never missed a class yet. ‘I’m very grateful to everyone who’s helped me. Conister Bank has been a real life-saver at times, providing sponsorship to help with my expenses in my hour of need. And the same goes to the great team at Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, especially Charlie Henry, for being so understanding and helpful. Then there’s the Isle of Man Arts Council for the support they’ve given in the past; Bev Lawley from Ex-Isle Casting Agency; my employers, Douglas Borough Council and, of course, my family and friends who’ve been so supportive.’
Outside of Actor Tribe term times Kathryn says she becomes ‘very agitated. I feel like there’s a part of me that’s missing. Going to Actor Tribe every week isn’t something I want to do; it’s something I have to do. You only live once and I just don’t want to have any regrets.’