Lucy Edkins on being a Clean Break Member Artist — Clean Break



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Lucy Edkins in front of a blue wall

Lucy Edkins on being a Clean Break Member Artist

Interview with Lucy Edkins, Clean Break Member Artist

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a painter, actor and writer. I also have a part-time job as a Peer Support Worker for Connected Communities with Haringey Council. I’ve always enjoyed creating art and writing, even as a child. I've done other things in between, but I always come back to creative ventures.

How did your relationship with Clean Break begin?

It started in the mid-1990s. My mum was an actress and she knew about Clean Break. I had a criminal record and I responded to a call-out for an acting role, but they were more interested in me as a stage manager at the time. I went on to do quite a bit of stage management work with Clean Break, and got my equity card through that.

Can you tell our readers what being a Member of Clean Break offers?

Clean Break is a safe environment for women coming out of a vulnerable situation, or women who are still vulnerable because of what they've been through. They are really good at supporting women who need help. They were good at working with me to help me progress creatively. You don’t need to see yourself working in creative industries to take advantage of what Clean Break offers, you can just be using creative skills for your own reasons. You might decide it will help your confidence more generally in speaking up in things like job interviews. Their courses are beneficial for all sorts of reasons.

As a Member Artist, I can check in with Clean Break’s offers whenever I want. I’m on email lists about things that are going on that might interest me, like performances relevant to Members, castings, courses, or visiting speakers. They may also suggest things specific to you. I’m currently doing a year-long script writing course, supported by a bursary from Clean Break. Importantly, Member Artists can also participate in overall decision-making along with Members, staff and visiting artists. I was asked to participate in a workshop focussed on drawing up an anti-racism plan, for instance, and to attend an away-day to help the company reflect and move forward in difficult times.

We heard you performed in Typical Girls at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last year, can you tell us a bit more about this?

I played what was mainly a supporting role to the main character. My character, Geordie, was described by the writer as being a mother figure to the other women in the unit. I played electric guitar and sang one of the songs, which was fun (and challenging!) It was a seven-woman play based on HMP Send’s PIPEs unit [Psychologically Informed Planned Environment]. It was about a woman coming into the unit to teach us music from The Slits, who got us to form a band. This was the third professional play I’ve acted in with Clean Break.

Which role have you most enjoyed playing?

Inside Bitch was in a way the most exciting as it was a devised* piece working with performance artist Deborah Pearson and writer Stacey Gregg. It was their concept, and they brought myself and three other Member Artists to workshop the ideas over a couple of years. With their overall vision, we helped to pull it together into a piece of theatre drawing on our life experiences. We performed it at the Royal Court Theatre in London. It felt like it was challenging stereotypes whilst being entertaining. The title came from one of the Member Artists during a workshop.

All the Clean Break plays I've performed in have involved new writing and been enthusiastically received by audiences in high profile venues.

An image from Inside Bitch, three characters are on stage with a trolley full of 'Inside Bitch' merchandise,

Ali Wright // Inside Bitch 2019

How do you prepare for a performance?

Focussing on the moment is the best way to be in the character and be alert to the other actors. I try and get any distractions out of my head. I can be quite shy– I think a lot of actors are. Sometimes I get a bit of stage fright, especially if there’s somebody in the audience who I relate strongly to, that can take me on a train of thought away from the part. Not so much now, though.

Has being an artist with Clean Break changed you in any way?

When they thought of me for Inside Bitch that was a real breakthrough for me. I hated auditions, and this audition process was just chatting about what I’d feel comfortable doing on stage. After that experience, I got a lot better at doing auditions.

My next play, [BLANK] was a co-production between the Donmar Warehouse and Clean Break, who supported Members through the audition process. This led to me getting an agent. He put me forward for a role in an episode of The Serpent Queen, which I got - it aired on Starz UK in September this year.

If our readers were interested in joining Clean Break how would they go about it?

They can come along to the centre in Kentish Town or get in touch. If you're interested in theatre and you think you could do with the support Clean Break offers, it would be a good place to go. If you've come from a prison environment or are at risk of entering a prison environment due to challenges you’re facing like homelessness, addiction, domestic violence or mental ill health, you could join Clean Break.

Our magazine theme is connections, how do you feel this relates to your time with Clean Break?

I've stayed connected with Clean Break in one way or another since 1994, which is pretty impressive. They are people I can always check in with for work and opportunities.

My connection with Clean Break has been its strongest over the past few years, particularly with the people I've worked with more recently. I’ve kept in touch with company members of the three plays I’ve worked on, and sometimes we can help each other out a bit, or support each other’s work.

*A devised piece, is a play that has been developed collaboratively, often with the whole of the creative team

This interview was first published in Women in Prison's magazine. Read the full magazine here.

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