In couchersation 🛋 with Storme Toolis – Actor

Hello my darlings welcome back to People of Theatre! Today, I’m really excited to have the chance to talk to Storme Toolis! – Hello! – Welcome! Thank you very much for being here with People of Theatre and let’s
start with “Off-Stage”! I asked you what’s your hobby,
you said “reading”! Of course, very nice, intellectual; the queen of all the
hobbies, I guess. What have been you reading very recently then? – The most
recent thing that I’ve read is “East is East” which is a play by Ayub Khan Din
and I’m reading it for two reasons: firstly, because I like reading plays and
secondly because it’s a book that I am doing with my lovely year A class because
my other job is… I’m an English teacher. – Right, we’re going to talk
about that later on. – So that’s why I’m reading it. It’s play about a
family of British Pakistanis in the ‘70s and about all the different
social and cultural norms that are associated to that kind of identity. – So, let’s move on then to “Staging it’, and
we talk about “Redefining Juliet”. I think the first question that I really
wanted to ask you was: Who’s Juliet written for? – Anybody that wants to do it, I guess.
I don’t know. I would argue that she’s written for
anybody, any person of any gender with any sort of inclination that feels that
they can relate to the part. I think that’s the answer to that
question. The part was originally written for a
fourteen-year-old boy if we’re talking about Elizabethan times but we’re in
2019 now, so Juliet is written for anybody that wants to take her in. – Tell me a
little bit about the show. How did the idea come about? – It came about
about five, six years ago when I had dreams of playing Juliet on stage which
I’ve now done, but I wanted to do that from when I first read the play
when I was school school-girl really. It came from that very selfish idea and
then I kind of broadened it and thought who else might want to do
this, because obviously there’s me applying to be Juliet and in a
mainstream casting industry it wouldn’t necessarily happen, and I
thought I can’t be the only person that feels like this, who else might feel like
this. So, who else might feel marginalized and then I started looking
at the other sort of women that you wouldn’t necessarily see as the
conventional Juliet on stage. – It’s not a show that’s about
disabled people, it’s a show that Is about diversity in general and
about how everybody wants to be having a voice on stage and the theatre
industry today. – It’s about people who want to feel
validated and people who want to feel sexy and desirable and whatever
that means to them. For me, when I was growing up Juliet was
like this kind of… I wanted to feel like she felt, and that’s the
kind of people who want to feel wanted and loved and desired and
gorgeous and all those things and I think especially in the world that we
live in now, with physical appearance and kind of the image of the perfect body
and the image of the way that things are is so like constantly pushed at us,
there aren’t a lot of times when Juliet can be different. And, I’m not trying
to make a big statement and say Juliet needs to always be disabled. I’m saying
there are other ways to look at this. You can look at this as in why if you are
five or six dress sizes bigger why is that sharp for
you as well. So, it’s more about womanhood and
desirability and femininity more than just disability. – Yes, and in fact in
the show that I’ve seen in 2019, there were three actors a disabled actor and
transgender actor and a deaf actor, just to show the diversity of all the the
people who want to be on stage playing Juliet and just being as sexy and
beautiful as what the character is. – Yeah. There’ve been a lot of other ones.
We’ve had people who are dwarf, we’ve had people who are of a larger size, we’ve had people who identify as
trans, we’ve had people who are disabled, people who are deaf who might
look completely fine but you might not necessarily notice. It’s about broadening
the kind of horizon of who gets seen in a desirable way and that comes
from the stage really. – And it really I really goes beyond the
lines themselves. The night when I came to see “Redefining Juliet” at the Barbican, I
was together with a friend of mine from Italy who was visiting me that night from
Rome and she doesn’t speak any English at all. And after the show, she told me: “I actually I understood everything. I don’t
know how, because I don’t speak English at all and I can’t
understand Shakespearean English but I understood all the show.
For me, it was clear from the start to the end.” I think that’s
because it was really so powerful, it really went beyond the play itself. – Yeah. We never have just done the play. We always interweave the play with stories of
the people that are in the play. So the point of it is that it’s
Juliet’s journey as a character but also our journeys as performers playing
Juliet. So it’s about what can we bring, and every single time we do the show
it’s different. Every single time we have a different group of Juliets, we have a
different idea behind it. Every single creative process is different for the show, because normally when you employ a bunch of actors, you
say: right, we would like you to play this character; we are also
asking actors to bring part of themselves in this show, and it is quite
difficult because you don’t necessarily want to expose
that part of yourself. If you’re being asked to play a character you might not
necessarily want to talk about a time when you have felt unworthy or loved or
something, but the point of the show is to bring these stories and interweave
them with Shakespeare and show just how easy actually is to do those things. – In the production where you play Juliet, there was also a sex moment with Romeo I
believe. Why was that particularly important for you. – I selfishly in all the renditions that I’ve done, I always did
that scene because I just wanted to, because I
thought that it’s very important that disability particularly and sexuality
and sex and the way that disability perceives those things: relationships
sexuality, gender identity, whatever else, it’s so important that we realise that
disabled people have sex lives too, you know?! We are biologically completely the same, and a lot of the time we do it pretty well. We
do a lot better, you know, because if you’re proud of what you got you
show what your mama gave you then if you’re having fun, it doesn’t matter. I think as I got older as well, I used
to be quite sort of scared of talking about things like this, because I thought: Oh God!
What are people going to think? Because it’s a big subject but
now, it’s so important to talk about disability and sex because disabled
people have sex too! Because we’re human and sex is fun! – So much fun! – Why would you not have fun? Sex is fun! I am very lucky. I have a pretty normal,
healthy sex life, I’m fine. I’ve had relationships I’m in a
relationship now. There’s no difference between me and another woman. I’ve seen myself as unworthy or unlovable I used to; in a lot of ways, which is what “Redefining Juliet” helped me do, and also a lot of other stuff that we do, but you know, love is important you know, it’s important to be loved, it’s fundamental, it’s a human right! And there is no reason why
disability, why people feel uncomfortable, especially also working in education,
I’ve had people ask me questions about my credibility as an educator
because something that I’ve done, I’ve spoken about sex online, this is a disabled
person but you think about what teenagers are watching now. Teenagers are watching so much worse than that. Pornography is so accessible. If I go and talk about, you
know, something in an open, candid and responsible way within the boundaries of
my job, what I am showing them it’s a positive thing, I’m showing them how to
embrace themselves. I’m saying: don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed! – It’s your
identity, it’s 100% yourself. – Yeah, of course! – I think young
people to see sex and disability is a positive thing. I made “Redefining Juliet”
for young teenage girls. The show I made was for young teenage girls. I made it
for 14, 15, 16 year-old girls who look at themselves on Instagram and think that
they’re not good enough. That’s the whole point of the show. There’s no other
reason I did it. – How did you cast for the show? How was the casting process? – Well,
the casting process is different every time. The casting process this time was very
rushed and last minute, but the casting process usually involves us doing a very
open advert on “Spotlight” and saying you can’t apply for this role if you are
blonde under five foot three skinny and slim and you’d look conventionally like
a junior would look you are not going to be auditioned. So, we have to put
very specific instructions because if you advert for Juliet, they’re just gonna send… so, we always things like bigger than a
size 12, or small, or deaf, or disabled, or LGBTQ+,
or just have a wheelchair, or whatever you would like to bring to it. We’ve had
50, 60 people turn up for the audition. – WOW, that’s a good number! – Yeah! So, when we were auditioning for the
documentary we had so many people because people realize that they don’t
usually get seen for this type of job. – It was an opportunity. – Yeah, we just make it very open. We
say: look if you want to do this come and show us what you can do. We give them a
Shakespeare speech right to look at, usually we say not Juliet, you can bring
anything but you’re not allowed to do Juliet, and we usually sometimes have
a Romeo with us that maybe reads the lines with them and we can see
their chemistry if they have a connection. That’s how we cast normally. – You know sometimes the industry says: we don’t have you know disabled actors in our productions or people of
other gender identities because there’s no talent and we can’t really cast them. It’s a lie. – People always pass the baton from one person to another person to someone else. It’s s the director’s fault, it’s the producer’s fault, it’s the writer’s fault. It’s everyone’s responsibility. And, there are people that are talented. There is talent.
There isn’t talent in the same level that there should be. We don’t
have a set of disabled actors that we go to for example if we are looking for
a femme fatale to play. We don’t have a disabled equivalent of Keira Knightley,
even though I tried! A lot of people say I look like her, which is quite good. But we don’t have a kind of
level of talent pool that is the same, but we’re working on it, you know! – Fab! I guess we can move on to Q&A spritz with Storme Toolis! – We are not actually having an Aperol
Spritz today, we are having… – Just squash, peach squash. – Which I have never had
before, which sounds ridiculous, I think! But, let’s have a taste! I love it! It’s really “peach”. – Yeah, it’s just a squash! – I didn’t know the squash word. I just asked: what’s squash? – It’s like diluted juice. – I don’t think we have these things
in Italy. We’re backwards over there! You’ve now actually decided to
sort of abandon your career as an actor? – I wouldn’t say I’ve abandoned. I’ve taken a hiatus.
I am halfway through training to be a an English teacher. Throughout the time I was an actor, I always went back to education
like as my other job. I always worked in schools and in the back of my head, I always knew that
I would quite like to be a teacher because I think it’s really important for school
children to see disabled role models and also for teachers, for
staff, for people in 2019 to see teachers that challenge the perception
of what it means to be a teacher, and I also selfishly just want to know when my pay check is coming in at the end of the month. – Fair enough. – I have rent to pay, so I want to pay my rent. Being an actor, the
hustle is hard and I think it’s important for me to have a career as well.
So that’s why I’ve decided… even acting is a career but I wanted to
have another – Option. – Another option, so that’s one thing
at the minute. – Greta! First question done! Do you think you’re an activist? – I don’t really like the idea of being an activist because it’s one of the reasons that I left the industry, because I felt like because I was disabled and I was getting to a certain point where I was expected to be
an advocate and some people live that like that, and some people like to talk
about those things in a very open and public and frank way and document their
struggle. But I’m just not one of those people I’ve never been one of
those people. I do it quietly and I do it by just doing what I want to do. I would like to say that
I’m not really but I’ll go with a quiet activist. – I like that, a discreet activist. – Yeah, discreet. I think, yeah! – In 2019,
nobody would ever sort of darken the skin of a white actor to play Othello
but still there are many non-disabled actors who play disabled characters… – I sincerely and firmly believe that disabilities should be played by
disability. I also understand that we don’t currently have a level of performer that we can just pull out of
the air and put into a disabled role. And also theatre and cinema is about making
money, if you put a famous person’s name on those seats, they will sell. That is the nuts and bolts of what it is about. I don’t necessarily morally agree with it.
I think it’s wrong. I think we should be nurturing disabled talent every
opportunity that we have and we are doing that! But, I also don’t lose sleep
over it because part of it is just what the entertainment industry is and
kind of always will be; because the industry is founded on physical looks
and things that people can do. That’s what being an actor kind of is to do with. So, yeah, It, one-hundred percent in the camp of disability should be played by people who are disabled but the reality is sometimes quite different. – Your favorite onstage moment? Do you have one? – I think probably the
end of the 2016 Juliet when people were throwing roses at us and I just knew that we did the right thing. I knew that they understood what we were trying
to do and they weren’t: “ Oh look at these poor people. They don’t get to
play Juliet. This is so sad. Where do we make it better?” They understood the
point of the show and once they understood the point of it, they were on
the bus. – What’s your favourite theatre venue? – The globe probably. – Beautiful! – Oh definitely the Sam Wanamaker. Because I think that’s just magical! – I’m a volunteer at the globe and I love that place! I really enjoy it. Do you use social media at all? – No. – Why is that? – It started off to a bad breakup. I quit it after after a long breakup, and then I never went back. – Were you stalking? – No! No! It wasn’t like that. It was for two reasons: for one reason it
was because of a bad breakup, and the other reason was because I just got
bored of it, and I just quit. I was going into teaching and being a
teacher and being on social media is risky in itself because you know you’re
not allowed to really… you kind of need to be careful on what you post, on what you
say and why you’re affiliated with because you know your job is at stake; and also because it’s really good to have space and that stuff doesn’t
really help me. It could help your mental well-being
not being on social media. – What’s your favourite place in London? – Uh that’s hard… Probably anywhere that I could have afternoon tea. I‘m a massive tea drinker. So, somewhere really
fancy like the Savoy or something. – Now, a tricky question. I love this
question! if you had a chance to take me on a date, where would you take me? – Oh ok…that’s a weird question! – That’s a weird question, I know! – Well, I really don’t know… Probably to watch a show or something. – Well done, yeah. I would love that! I love musicals as well, that’s another one
of the things that I love. I love musical theatre and so probably
like to watch “Wicked” or something. – Oh I love “Wicked”! It’s one of my very fauvorite shows! Let’s go! – Yeah, something just fun. A nice fun thing. – Great! I’m in! Now, let’s get more political for the end of the interview! Brexit! Here we are. I’m
sorry, darling, I really need to ask you this question. – I don’t know what’s going on with that! I don’t know what you wanna ask me, because I don’t really know! – Because nobody
knows what’s going! So, imagine that the camera is a brexiter, what would you tell them? I would tell them that I’m fine because I have an Irish
passport and I don’t know what else is going on. – Good luck! – Have a nice day! – I love it. I love it! Great! Now to end with, a question
that I think you and the rest of the cast cast have asked to each other
during the rehearsals. I saw that in the documentary, I think. Would you change a thing that makes you different? – No! Why? No. Of course not! I stand by the answer that I said before, I’ll watch the interview at some point, and
probably thinking that I don’t like the way that my hands move or whatever instinctive things about me . But absolutely not. Because if I did,
I wouldn’t be Storme Toolis. That’s not to say that it’s not hard. That’s
not to say that I have days when I maybe would say, you know, you’re alright. But on the whole, I’m on this earth for a reason. I’m doing this for reason. So, no. I think I feel more comfortable with myself, the older I get. – And now, the Proust Questionnaire! – What’s that one? – Very easy questions for easy answers! Let’s find out who Storme really is! What’s your idea of perfect happiness? – Comfort, art, food and tea. – What is your greatest fear? – To die alone, I think it’ s my greatest fear. – Which historical figure do you most identify with? – The one that I have an
obsession with, I love the Tudors. I’ve always had a bit of
a thing for Anne Boleyn. I don’t know why. – She was such a strong woman actually. Combative! – And she knew how to get
her men to do what she wanted them to do. And, I’m like… yeah, that’s good for me! – The very last one, what is your motto? – It’s actually tattooed on my hand. – Oh wow let’s have a look! – It says: “nevertheless she persisted” That’s my motto. – Oh that’s very beautiful. “Nevertheless she persisted” Love it! Yeah, that’s my motto, I think. I got it a couple of years ago. – It’s a very good one. – “Nevertheless she persisted”, I think it’s my motto. – Great!
We come to the end of the interview! Storme, thank you very much! – That was fun! Thank you! – Great! Thank you very much! And you guys. thanks a lot for watching me. Please, do get in touch!
And, remember to like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, and love me on Instagram! And subscribe to my YouTube channel! And, visit my website: Till next time! People of Theatre from stalls to stage! – Thank you ver much! – That was really good! That was really fun! – Thank you!

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