Published: Apr 04, 2012
LIPA’s BA (Hons) Music, Theatre and Entertainment Management students were presented with a musical treat recently, when one of Scotland’s most beloved actors, Elaine C. Smith, came to the institute to talk about her career in film, television, and theatre.
Elaine – who is currently playing the role of Susan Boyle in the hit musical I Dreamed a Dream – spent two hours with students, and talked extensively about her life as an actress, and the difficulties of trying to establish a career outside of London.
“I came from a working class mining community in Scotland, which meant that there were a lot of barriers I had to overcome,” she said. “I always felt that actors – especially women actors – had to look and sound a certain way. It was incredibly liberating when people like Billy Connolly came along and showed that you didn’t have to have a posh ‘RP’ accent to be successful.”
After training at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Elaine toured with a number of small theatre groups around Scotland before her first major television appearance in 1986 as a star on the BBC Scotland sketch show Naked Video. However, she is perhaps best known for her role as Mary Nesbitt in the BBC sitcom Rab C. Nesbitt, which ran for nine years on BBC2.
Since then, she has performed extensively on stage - both in pantomimes and in straight plays such as The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Shirley Valentine and Calendar Girls. “People look down their nose at shows which are popular,” she said. “However, some shows are popular for a reason, especially in a recession.”
She continued: “The audience is key, and should always be a performers first concern. It’s important to never forget them – that they have paid money to come and see you, so you need to do all you can to connect with them.”
As well as telling anecdotes, answering questions from students, and talking about her experiences of attending castings and auditions (both as a casting director and as an actor), Elaine gave her insights into the future of theatre and the role of critics.
“A good review is as dangerous as a bad review,” she said. “But, the role of the critic is changing immensely. The things that the general public say about you on social media is becoming much more powerful, so it’s important that actors never stop believing that what they do can make a difference.”