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Guest Blog: Guildhall Drama Student Hope Kenna on Going Solo During Lockdown

The third-year actor on responding to lockdown isolation with a self-penned show

Guest Blog: Guildhall Drama Student Hope Kenna on Going Solo During Lockdown

It's been tricky during lockdown for drama students who must figure out a way to create in isolation at that precise time when they would normally be working communally. Undaunted, London's Guildhall School of Music & Drama has responded to the challenge by encouraging a series of self-devised digital dramas to keep the artistic juices flowing, as final year acting student Hope Kenna explains of her self-penned little finger below.

Non-collaborative motivation in isolation: say that quickly! Or to put it another way, have you ever tried wrapping aluminium tin foil around your feet to keep them warm but silent, whilst filming on location in your shed at minus eight degrees? I have.

That was just one of a multitude of character-building challenges that I "enjoyed", so to speak, last month whilst completing a solo project at home, during lockdown.

I am Hope Kenna, a third-year actor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. The project, Pieces of Us, required each of us to create, perform and direct a short piece of around 15 minutes, which will be available to watch on demand for free from 8 until 22 March on the school website. The aim was to provide a kaleidoscopic series of stand-alone solo performances created over lockdown, which would in turn offer a snapshot of the diverse range of stories, artistry and lived experience that exists within the Guildhall community. The project has replaced this term's big productions which, due to the pandemic, have had to be postponed until the summer.

Guest Blog: Guildhall Drama Student Hope Kenna on Going Solo During Lockdown
Hope Kenna
Photo c. Dave Buttle

Having foolishly overlooked the sense in selecting housemates on their videography skills and ability to be quiet, I faced the additional challenges of filming and editing myself, too, although remote support was always available from my collaborators and Guildhall staff. Sharing a small house with three others was my greatest concern; I really was not sure where or when I would be able to film.

Spurred on by receipt of a decent torch and a sleeping bag, I persevered. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, snow. Not just a scattering, but a significant dollop which meant that I had no choice but to delay shooting for a couple of days. And the clock was ticking.

We rarely get snow, and I love nothing better than a good snowball fight and a bit of tobogganing, so the prospect of missing out on all the fun to spend hours on my own in the shed was not a happy one. But trying to draw upon the spirit of a young Spielberg, I toughened up, layered up, and set up - in the shed!

My original plan had been to develop a piece around a teenager who, having been sectioned, has just been interviewed in connection with a very serious offence, but circumstances meant that I had to make some changes.

Fortunately, I had the support of the incredible dramaturg Jude Christian, who is overseeing the Pieces of Us project. Her inspiring words of encouragement during our weekly 1-1 consultations empowered me to find a way of retaining my original theme of a spirited teenager's life being interrupted by a critical mental health crisis.

My piece, entitled little finger, tells of June, a spirited teenage girl who has dropped through every safety net. Having suffered a major trauma, she confronts a mental health crisis, family breakdown and anger at a world which has failed her. But she is no victim. Instead, June is fierce, independent and, despite outward appearances, has an incredible capacity to love and be loved. She also has moves that could clear any dance floor!

The timing of my meetings with Jude miraculously seemed to fall in sync with my weekly pattern of hitting an obstacle which would spin me into a creative brick wall. Her incredible ability to suggest an endless list of potential solutions never failed to re-charge and inspire.

My intention was to embrace this opportunity to create something which would revolve around what is most important to me: my concern for the inadequate support available for the mental health epidemic of my generation, and my passion for comedy and dance.

I thought that writing for myself would be far easier than writing a full script - after all, who knows your voice better than you? Wrong. I quickly learnt that being both writer, performer, and a perfectionist, meant that the editing never stopped and there are only so many hours of daylight! I had to learn to draw the line, which for me was an important part of the learning curve. A deadline is a deadline.

If you get the chance please do head over to the Guildhall website and take a look, I think (and hope) you'll like little finger ...

little finger is part of Pieces of Us at Guildhall School, available to watch from Monday 8 March, 7:30pm until 22 March. A separate devised piece, The Drowned World, is on view until 10 March.

Hope Kenna on Instagram and Spotlight

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