Eleanor Braine

Liane has been in a variety of shows in her time at Cambridge, ranging from American dramas such as American drama recently in 'All My Sons' to musicals such as 'Annie Get Your Gun', and is directing the CUMTs May Week show 'High Society'

What, and how, was your first experience of Cambridge theatre?

My very first Cambridge theatre experience was a production of Shakespeare's 'Troilus and Cressida' at St. John's College in the School of Pythagorus. Having run out of male actors (a perpetual Cambridge theatre problem!) the director decided to use females for the male parts and so I played Agamemnon. All the Greek's wore masks, so no one even saw my face! (What a debut to make, eh?) It was a fairly positive experience, aside from the absolutely freezing venue and the 'wing' being a tiny, stone-walled, freezing, cupboard-type-room with 10 people squeezed in it...but the people were very nice and the show wasn't bad! I'm not going to lie though, I still don't understand Troilus and Cressida much! That was closely followed 2 weeks after by playing Mrs Swabb in Alan Bennett's 'Habeus Corpus' at Selwyn College for The Mighty Players - my first 5* review, and absolute proof that great theatre can be created on a 3-by-5m stage, with limited lighting and sound, with a talented group of people and enough enthusiasm!

What has been your proudest theatrical moment?

My proudest moment has got to be, without question, the final night of the ADC Production of 'All My Sons' in May 2011. The show had been like my little baby for 3 months, from the theatre application to having it realised on stage. Everyone, and I mean everyone had worked so unbelievably hard and by the last week the entire cast and crew had really pulled together and we suddenly, collectively, stepped up a gear! It is an enormously difficult play, and without a doubt the hardest part I've ever played but our director was wonderful and incredibly patient with me, and the rest of the cast were phenomenal - it was a real ensemble effort. The standing ovations each night were incredibly moving, but that final night, with my Mum in the audience and almost everyone on their feet, with some of my closest friends bowing next to me and the knowledge that we'd done the play justice and done ourselves proud - it all just took my breath away!

Do you have theatre-themed plans for the future?

"Hi-diddly-di, an actor's life for me!" Ideally, I'd like to go back to New York as it's where I went to drama school and I have lots of friends and teachers out there that will provide a great support network. Plus, New York is just the most wonderful place for an actor to be! However, getting back there is no easy task so I'm in the process of working that one out. I will also be training as a teacher either in England or in the USA because, as we all know, actors spend a lot of time out of work but still have to earn a living and I decided I'd rather do that doing something I enjoy and am passionate about, and after spending time working in schools and teaching Special Needs children and working on drama projects and shows with a wide variety of kids, I decided it's something worth putting my time into when I'm not treading the stage boards. So who knows what's on the horizon...

Who is your biggest influence?

On a personal level, my Mum. That one's easy! Though I owe a lot to my Dad, brother and sister-in-law as well. If we're talking on a professional level, acting-wise, then I'd have to go with Judi Dench and Meryl Streep. They are unquestionably 2 of the most talented actresses in the world, possibly ever, so maybe they are obvious choices. Unlike many of their fellow film stars, they are both phenomenal stage actresses. I think there are too many actors and actresses who 'fall' in to the profession for whatever reason, because they know the right people, or maybe because they look great on camera! Judi and Meryl have honed their acting craft throughout their lives, and it shows, and it's why they've worked for so long and why they both still have such an immense presence on stage as well as on film. Plus, I have an enormous amount of respect for how they've both lived their lives largely out of the public eye, so when they enter on stage or appear on screen you know it's not for the money or the fame, it's because they love what they do and respect the profession. I doubt I will ever experience their kind of success, but if I can live my life half as respectably I'll be happy!

What advice would you give to people getting into Cambridge theatre now?

Keep at it! It can sometimes feel like you'll never break into the main-stream Cambridge theatre scene, and you don't get the parts that you want or any parts at all in the shows you want to be part of, and it then seems like giving up is the best option - don't! I've been there, it sucks, but keep going. If you enjoy theatre in any capacity, there are wonderful experiences to be had (not just at the ADC!) and lovely people to meet along the way - I've made some of my closest friends doing college theatre and on the Japan tour. So just keep going, say yes to small parts if you like the play and think you'll get along with the people, get involved in as much as you can (it's not impossible to fit in 2-3 shows a term, but don't tell your DOS I said that!), and make the most of the exceptional theatre opportunities Cambridge has to offer!

See the previous 'Spotlights' on Max Barton and Abi Tedder.