Welcome to the third in our series of company profiles. In this post OOC actor Christie talks about finding her theatrical family, the criminalisation of mental illness & combining the disciplines of acting & dance.
Name: Christie Barnes
Describe yourself in 3 words: Giggly, passionate, talkative
What other creative projects are you involved in?
Recently just finished Dance It Up North at York Theatre Royal, mid-way through R&D phase with Del Dance Theatre’s Carnival of the Animals which is a piece of children’s dance theatre, and I get to be a chicken and a waltzing elephant!
How long have you been in OOC? 5 years? 6?
What led you to join the company?
I was actually doing Converge dance at the time and Gemma Alldred who is a founder of Converge used to join. OOC at the time needed a younger female for the Henry IV production at the Theatre Royal so I was put on a trial period for the show. Afterwards everyone said I could stay!
What has been your favourite role?
I’m quite enjoying Lady Emily for Objects of Terror but body-guard come-gangster for Retail Therapy was pretty funny. I’d definitely do that again.
Tell us about Lady Emily...
She’s in the asylum because she believes she is part of the minor aristocracy and has been placed there by her husband. She believes she has frequent chats with the queen, but also fears that the hospital staff are going to behead her! She keeps note of everything in her little notebook, like a diary, she can always been seen scribbling in it.
Can you describe how your work as an actor influences your work as a dancer and vice versa...
Well, working in both areas is a great help! When I’m doing dance work that requires me to use my voice, find a character in the movement; tell a story, it’s then so easy to the draw upon theatre stuff. Likewise acting is also about movement, and when you feel more and more comfortable in your body its then easier to go inside and find the movement you need. Plus I think it’s an energy, there’s an aliveness that dance gives me and I think it drives through acting stuff I do too. But also body memory is good- movement and floor patterns help trigger my memory, so if I forget my lines but follow my ‘movement pattern’ I’ll generally remember what I’m supposed to be saying! And vise versa!
How has being in the company affected your recovery?
I haven’t been to hospital for in-patient treatment for years. Initially it took a while, but I found it hard to be connected to people generally and spent a lot of time alone. Now OOC is like a family, being able to be all sides of yourself in front of people and no judgement whatsoever really makes you feel like you’re actually okay. It gave me social time (& a partner!!) but also helped fuel my passion for performing and gave me opportunities and the confidence to go off and do other things. OOC is still my base, and I’ll always come back even if I need to take time off for other stuff. Sometimes I think being connected to others and just having a laugh and ‘playing’ in theatre, being able to lose inhibitions and being accepted is way more valuable than talking therapy ever was.
What do you think of Bootham closing and the plans for a new hospital?
I’m a bit pissed, it was a place of safety for some people. And having had people in crisis go to police stations appalls me. I had the utter pleasure of that and you’re treated like a criminal, a pain, an inconvenience. You wouldn’t put a cancer patient who needed immediate treatment into a cell, strip her down and put her in oversized clothes, refuse her water and her meds, and stop responding to a nurse call would you? But that’s what they do, so why take that place of safety away? If it was to do with money people in power need to think long and hard, and I never wish illness on anyone but a bit more empathy wouldn’t hurt. They’d want it if they became ill. The new hospital can’t come quick enough, but now my skeptical self can imagine money being syphoned off and delays occurring. Because obviously mental health doesn’t matter; I’m a positive person, but I have lost my faith.
On a brighter note what advice do you have for other actors, dancers and artists?
Believe in yourself. Others do. So stop being hard on yourself.