Krissi Bohn is an actress best known for playing Jenn Kamara in 'Coronation Street' between 2012 and 2014. She has worked for theatre companies across the country including the National Theatre, Nottingham Playhouse , Theatre Royal Northampton and the Tobacco Factory. Krissi stars in 'The Bogus Woman' at Unity Theatre Fri 2nd - Sat 3rd Oct. We caught up for a chat with Kirssi to find out a little more...
You did this play back in 2008. Why did you want to do the play again and why now? What are you most looking forward to?
When I did the play back in 2008 I always said it would probably be the best piece of work I ever did. It was just such a fantastic experience and I simply couldn’t turn down the chance to do it again. The only thing I knew I wanted was for the director to be the same - it was such a joint process I don’t think it would be possible to work with someone else. Sophie (our Producer) worked at Theatre by the Lake in 2008 so she had her own experience of the show and it is her belief and determination that led to the tour. I am most looking forward to taking the play to a wider audience, as well as the challenge of performing in so many different spaces.
How has the world changed since you last did the show?
So much has happened in the last seven years but sadly so much is still the same. Wars are still happening, people still need asylum and refugees are still being treated horrendously in this country and others. That said, thanks to the rise of social media (Twitter didn’t exist in ’07!) people’s stories are being heard and shows like this can be promoted at the click of a button!
How was life working on Coronation Street?
Corrie was an amazing experience, something that I could never have imagined happening to me. It is a completely different world from theatre but one I completely embraced and enjoyed. Every day was a learning curve for me – having only done a couple of scenes on camera before there was so much I didn’t know. It was strange learning a scene, doing it a few times and then forgetting it. It’s great being back on stage but I would love to do more TV in the future – playing someone completely different to Jenna!
What are the main differences working in TV on a soap like Corrie and in theatre working on a play like this?
The most obvious difference is that theatre is live. On Corrie if you mess up your lines you can do it again. There’s a whole team of people working to make the show look as good as they can. In theatre it is just you on the stage. Although there is a team backstage, when the curtain goes up you are alone in front of the audience and the only person that can do the work. Then there is the script. In a soap you get them week by week, only finding out what your character is up to next when you get that weeks episodes delivered to you. With a play you obviously have the whole story. A beginning, a middle and an end which makes a character’s journey much easier to work through. Finally – the audience. Honestly there is nothing like standing on stage at the end of a play, hearing the applause and taking a bow. That is something TV can never replicate.
What do you find most challenging about doing this play again?
I think the hardest thing will definitely be performing in so many different spaces. Last time we did the play in one space – a 90 seat studio playing in traverse with 45 people on each side. Some of the spaces we are going to are ‘end on’ and seat 200. For me it is very important that the audience feel connected to the stage and I am still not sure how this will work when I have someone 15 rows away. Changing my performance to fit the space will be something completely new to me but I figure once I see the audience there I will know how to reach them!
What is it like being alone on stage? Do you worry about forgetting your lines?
Being alone on stage is one of the most exhilarating and terrifying experiences as an actor. There is absolutely nowhere to hide and all eyes are most definitely on you! (apart from when people fall asleep - which did actually happen to a couple of rather elderly people in my time doing the show in Keswick!) I try not to worry about forgetting my lines (easier said than done) as I think the more you worry the more likely it is it will happen. That being said, it did happen to me in one show in particular. I was in a scene where I played two characters. The first one was supposed to interrupt the second. Midway through speaking as the second character I realised that I couldn’t remember the line for the first one to interrupt with!! So I just ‘ad-libbed’ as the second character whilst wracking my brain for the line! It felt like a lifetime but it was only a few seconds. It took about 5 minutes for my heart to stop beating fast though!!
You play 51 different characters in the play. How do you do it?! Is there a technique?
I’m not sure if I’d call it a technique but I found that having a very clear picture of what each character is like made life a lot easier. The director and I went through the play and discussed each character. This involved giving them a name (if they weren’t already named in the play), taking about their height, age, size etc. Obviously if it was a character that only had a couple of lines we didn’t focus so much on them.
The characters in the play come from all over the UK, and all over the world. How do you prepare to change from one character to another? How do you learn all the different accents?
Once we have done the work on each character I actually find changing between characters relatively easy. I change characters with as little as a turn of my head or even a blink of an eye. Sometimes my posture changes, sometimes it’s just the accent.
Accents are the trickiest part of the whole play. Other than those characters whose accents are already stated in the script, we made decisions about what accents certain characters have so obviously we didn’t go with any that I find impossible to do (Newcastle being the first one that comes to mind, closely followed by Welsh!).
This is one of the few plays for a solo black female performer – what do you think are some of the challenges faced by black actors today?
Theatre is probably one of the only industries in which you can discriminate against someone employed to do a job due to their sex, race, height, ability or age – although there is legislation now that this can only happen if the traits are a specific requirement of the role.
In recent years there have been significant movements towards equality in casting – but I think there is still a way to go. Not every producer, whether in screen or theatre work, or indeed their audience is comfortable with ‘colour-blind casting’. For me, the challenges are not just about being black – it’s about getting a representation on stage of the multicultural Britain in which we live. Organisations such as Act for Change are campaigning to raise awareness and instigate change across theatre, film and television. One of the other challenges is that the collection of older plays we know and love which are revived time after time often reflect the times in which they were written – so there may be less opportunities for culturally diverse casting choices. The great thing about plays like The Bogus Woman is that this adds to our ‘canon’ of plays for the future – which is why new work, which reflects our times, is so important.
What are the major challenges facing a young person thinking about a career in the performing arts? Do you have any advice for them?
The hardest thing about a career in the performing arts is the time spent not actually performing. Someone once said to me – ‘acting is the best job in the world, being an actor is not’. Of course there are actors who just hop from one job to the next but that is actually quite rare and the majority of people have down time. It can be days, weeks, months or sometimes even years so you need to be prepared for this possibility – to have other skills so you can do a different job too. Staying positive is the best thing you can do when you are out of work. I am lucky and have generally enjoyed all the "in between" jobs I’ve had, but I have friends for whom it has been soul destroying.
Also you need to be able to take rejection. You may never know why you didn't get a job but learning to dust yourself off, accept it and move on is vital in this business. It's so easy to dwell on the ‘what ifs’ but actually if you can take something positive from a potentially negative situation this can really help! (For example, saying to yourself ‘I may not have got the job but actually I got to work on my audition technique or got to meet a new casing director...’)
Being a performer is hard - you miss birthdays, weddings, Christmases, holidays. You can't just ‘be ill’ - the show must go on. Be prepared to make sacrifices!
The hardest thing of all is that nowadays so many people want to be performers (or to be famous) so there is already a huge amount of competition before you even start.
To see Krissi in The Bogus Woman click here
Scott is the Unity's Digital Officer.