Arriving at university at the end of September last year feels both a million years ago and only just yesterday. Within two weeks of settling into my course I had a successful audition for a play called Raging Quiet. As well as feeling as though I had thrown myself in the deep end and fearing that the writer (the wonderful Emily Holyoake) and the director (the fabulous Abbi Davey) would decide, about halfway through the process that I cannot act and should be sent home, I found some of my closest university friends through this play as well as a boatload of confidence and am ever thankful for.

Since then, I say rather smugly, that I have not spent any time in my first year where I wasn’t involved in a production. There was my cameo in RL (written and directed by the aforementioned dynamic duo) where I got to play a space alien in a fake television drama and had the coolest outfit/make-up I think I will ever have; then Dracula which I was the A.D. for, I absolutely loved my role in this rehearsal process and am so proud to have worked on this show with such a truly lovely bunch of people; Mary Stuart, directed by Kathrin Rosenberger, a project that took six months, had a lot of bumps in the road and was, eventually, pulled-off wonderfully by a really tight and beautiful cast; then there was THE GAME.

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THE GAME (which you just lost and I always feel the need to capitalise) was Exeter Theatre Collective’s (etc.) debut performance as a fresh theatre company/collective run by graduates in Exeter and I couldn’t have hoped to go out this year with more of a bang.

THE GAME was an interactive murder mystery event in which the audience were able to interrogate suspects, look for clues at the crime scene and, eventually, have their say in who they think dunnit. I played Jay Check, forensic intern and for those of you who failed to attend: It was me.

I got to play the merry murderess or, at least, that was my initial thought. Even the cast weren’t told until about halfway through the rehearsal process who the killer was. This was to make sure (presumably) that all of the actors created well-rounded characters and figured out their relationships with one another with no preconceived notion of who would finally be singled out at the end. It was imperative to have fully-formed characters as the audience were able to ask you anything at any time during the three hour long game.

This was the most intensive rehearsal processes I have ever undergone. I am someone who walks into a space, plays the character, and leaves the space. Hearing actors talk about being stuck in character has always seemed to me to be a bit farfetched and over-the-top.

However, over the three week rehearsal process I actually spent more of the hours I was awake being Jay than I did being myself. I created a life, a childhood, a relationship with a father (who wasn’t actually my father either in the play or in real life), in-jokes about dad’s cooking, a cat I have and will never own and, finally, got to play out the murder scene in the most harrowing improvisation I have ever done (actually, I had to do it twice, but I am not getting into that).

For someone who turned up to the audition feeling as though I am useless unless handed a script, I managed to improvise successfully in character for twelve hours of performance over two days. And it was one of the best experiences in theatre that I have ever had and I have to say a huge thank you to the absolutely astounding cast and to the directors, Abbi Davy and Matt Williams, for whom I cannot find the words to really say enough.

So thank you everyone who made this year so full of wonderful theatre. I look back over this year and feel I have come a long way in a very short space of time but can’t imagine how far I’ve still got to go over the next two years. I find myself backing away and, at the same time, thinking ‘Bring it on!’. The most exciting prospect for me will be discovering the new and amazing people I have yet to work with.

And on that slightly sappy note…