Taking a crafty cat nap at work is usually frowned on, but not for Elizabeth Carter who is here in Norwich this Christmas as Sleeping Beauty in the Theatre Royal panto.
Not that Elizabeth gets to spend much time snoozing on stage. “I only fall asleep for the interval,” she confided.
Here she speaks to Judy Foster about how she got into theatre.
So what started you out on an acting career?
I fell in love with theatre when I was about 15, which is quite late for most actresses. I just had an amazing drama teacher when I was doing my GCSEs and fell in love with it, and I ended up going to the theatre a lot. I then went on to study Music and Drama at Leeds University and they had a spin off drama school called Bretton Hall and I trained there. When I left drama school I got a lovely agent who supported me for the first few years. Then I got a lot of experience working with different theatre companies and I did some radio dramas and started doing panto, and then moved into musical theatre. I first played Laura in Dreamboats and Petticoats about six years ago. That was my first big musical really and then I worked for Bill Kenwright for six years and returned to the role for the tenth anniversary this year which was when I came to Norwich.
What attracted you to a career in the world of performance?
I think it is the beauty of telling stories and the effect it has on the audience. It can move us and make us think about things, make us laugh, and help us forget about the world if we want to. You can just come into this room and be entertained, and I found that amazing and I just wanted to be a part of that. I have loved losing myself in different characters and enjoyed playing opposite other actors. You get to be in a moment and react to it – it is quite spontaneous. I loved singing as well. I didn’t marry the two together until I did Dreamboats. I had done a lot of straight plays and singing had been separate, so it’s is nice to bring it all together.
You’ve been in panto before – what sort of other roles have you played?
I have played Wendy in Peter Pan, I have played Jasmine in Aladdin. But this is my first time as Sleeping Beauty, so I am very excited.
So tell us about the setting of the show?
Our show starts in the 1900s. I love wearing the period costumes as I have never worn anything like that before so that is fun. Halfway through the show, Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger and then we whizz forward 100 years to when she wakes up in the present day, so there is a good variety in the show of costumes, sets and music.
Which elements of panto do you most enjoy?
I love the opportunity to play with the audience. You don’t often get to do that in a show as you have that fourth wall there, whereas in panto you get to play with them too. I love the spontaneity of pantomime. You never know what is going to happen. I love the humour and the comedy and whenever I do a panto, I always feel like I am part of Christmas. I love kids as well and seeing their faces in the audience. I have a niece and nephew who are four and seven who are coming to watch.
What do you like about the city of Norwich?
I love Norwich. I love all of the unique little shops and boutiques that Norwich has to offer. I have been on tour for six years and I get to go to a lot of different towns. I really feel like Norwich has its own special stores and the market is really pretty and has lots of different stuff. It’s so nice to be here for Christmas, and I love to see Norwich with all the festive decorations up. It’s beautiful.
You don’t just work as an actor, as you also have your own show. Tell us a bit about that?
It is called Between Us. I have been writing it for about three years. I started writing it because I wanted to do something creative. I was at a time of my life where I was becoming aware of how influenced I was by certain things and being a woman of this generation, I wanted to speak out a little bit about that. It was a play at first and then I got an amazing composer and lyricist on board. We had a preview last May in London which went well at the Mermaid Theatre, and I am hoping to take it out next year. It is my story in my late twenties and what I was searching for in my idea of fulfilment. I was looking at relationships and work, and my friends were very similar. It is my character, Elizabeth, and a friend called Steph who is career driven and who has everything she wants like the perfect house but she isn’t happy and can’t understand why. There is also a character called Vicky who has just split up and her fiancée has just left her for a friend. She is on a husband hunt and is hilarious because she will do anything to find the perfect husband. It just follows their stories. There is a lot of humour in there and a lot of challenging questions for women. It is definitely not a serious piece. It is good fun. My story personally on that journey was when I was looking for this search for fulfilment and started asking questions about faith. During that journey, I had an encounter which changed my life and that was with Christ and so I have become a Christian. That story does feature in the show, but it is very much about women and what we are looking for.
And where do you see yourself going in the future?
I think at the moment I just want to get Between Us out there. I would love to do some film and TV work. I am looking forward to exploring that. I just want to get work out there that I am proud of.
Sleeping Beauty opens here on 13 December. Buy tickets now at Norwich Theatre Royal.