Beat The Beast Challenge

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It gives me great pleasure to let you know that I have achieved that first critical breakthrough moment in my drive to try to establish myself in a new career as an actor on stage, film and TV.

Mona And David From Durham
Mona And David From Durham

I remind you:

  • 1. That my treatment team, while supportive of my efforts to establish myself in a new career as an actor because of the brain-training benefits all the line learning and trying to deliver the lines in an engaging and compelling way brings, also made it no secret that statistically it was far more likely that I would succumb to my brain tumour than ever establish myself in a new career as an actor.
  • 2. I am well aware that I do not have the neurological capacity to sustain myself in a large West End Touring Stage Show because I would, by the third week of day after day after day, find my brain would get too tired and overwhelmed by the unrelenting enormity of the task live on stage. While I can, and would love to do shows that are only due to run for a week or two, I will most likely never have the capacity for the big ones.
  • 3. After 73 job applications for low paid and unpaid work I had only heard back from 14 of them of which:
    • a. One hired me for a small training film for the maritime industry on which the filming and production went well.
    • b. Nine applications were rejected on grounds of the cost of my travel down to England to conduct the filming.
    • c. One agreed to pay for my travel down from Edinburgh and only on my arrival at the studio in London realised the cost so asked his cameraman to take the day off to save him the money to pay for my rail fare on the grounds that he could do the filming of me reading the news as a newscaster, after all how hard could It be after it had all been set up by the obliging cameraman. Only after I had done the job and returned home did he realise he had pressed the wrong button and therefore the quality of the tape was unusable.
    • d. Two hired me but then on examination of what neurological dysfunction might actually mean, in the nicest possible way, un-hired me. Two of whom tried to secure the rights to my story while un-hiring me!
  • 4. Without any quality professionally produced material of me acting for film or TV I will never be able to put together a show reel of any quality with which to start to look for an agent and professional paid work.
  • 5. I was really starting to lose heart and start to believe that perhaps my treatment team were right all along. That I will never find enough unpaid low paid work to put together a show reel strong enough to start looking for properly paid work, that would enable me to start to build a career as an actor and with it provide hope, inspiration and encouragement to all those facing seemingly insurmountable odds. That perhaps this was indeed a step and hope too far.
Caroline from Edinburgh
Caroline from Edinburgh


On 12th of December, in response to a job application, I received an invitation to go down to Preston and perform a monologue that they sent to me. I learned the monologue and rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed it on my many line-learning walks in which I find a quiet corner in Edinburgh in which I can drop my inhibitions and really let go and give it my best shot to an audience of bemused seagulls or crows.

Christina Thayers
Christina Thayers

On Saturday 4th January, I travelled down to Preston to attend the audition along with the ten or so other 40-somethings all wanting to be either the General or the Judge. I was one of the first to be called forward for an audition and took my seat in front of the delightful panel of the Producer, Director, Production Coordinator and a Production Assistant. I treated this as any job interview, so attempted to look calm, relaxed but not too relaxed, cool under pressure and a team player eager to please and to learn on the job. It worked, the producer commented on how relaxed I looked but after little small talk it was time to deliver the monologue. I was placed on my mark, I gathered my thoughts and was cued in to deliver. It was a piece that could be delivered in many ways and with no hints from the panel nor script from which to guide oneself, I decided to deliver the monologue in two ways. Firstly, as I would have done as a senior Army Officer and secondly, as I would have done as a judge. The nature of the monologue meant that it was an emotive and emotional piece. In both cases it was a bit like a General or a Judge recounting his emotions in a documentary about a particularly harrowing turn of events. I allowed my emotions to strengthen my delivery and when I finished the panel were suitably impressed and dewy eyed. I started to believe that this was to be my first part in a feature film, a low budget feature film, but a feature film none the less. Then they asked me to perform the same monologue in different ways, one of which was me talking to myself in the bathroom, looking in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. Then another wanted it another way and then another another way and another another way until my head was starting to buzz just a little. I was asked to sit and then the questioning started. A little about how my Army career had clearly leant some realism to the emotion in the monologue but then the serious, less flattering stuff. Tell me a bit more about your neurological issues and how you plan to manage them through long filming days over three weeks? How can you be sure that you can sustain yourself in such circumstances? As I tried to explain what it meant, how it did affect me, how I had combated it and how I was improving day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year and how learning to act turned out to be the most powerful brain training tool in my battle back to neurological fitness, I started to struggle to find the words. The tiredness from the journey from Edinburgh and then straight into an audition and the nerves and the neurological and cognitively draining effects of having to find different ways to do the same monologue each time started to catch up with me. My mouth started to trip over the words, to stammer, to stutter a little. The odd small twitch and flicker started to creep back into my body. I clasped my hands to try to hide it and knew that I had to stop talking. I had done enough. The initial success was melting away I thought. This was off script and I really started to struggle to string proper sentences together. I kept smiling and tried to brush it off and pretend that it was not happening, but knew deep down that these searching questions were my undoing. Eventually they felt that they had seen enough and with smiles and thank yous, it was time to leave. I was gutted. I really didn’t think that there was any way that they could employ me after that. As if to reinforce the point I was invited to go and sit and have a cup of tea with the other auditionees. I wanted to look the team player I am so couldn’t say no, so had to sit sipping tea and doing my best to make polite conversation with my fellow auditionees all of whom seemed to have acres of acting experience and all the confidence in the world. They were charm personified and from all four corners of the country. As I sat with my fuzzy eyes, fuggy hearing and fuzzy brain I was struggling as the cognitive exertion of further conversation started to drag me closer towards a neurological dysfunction. Luckily I had a train to catch so made my excuses and took my leave. I could not be more thankful for the cool winter air and limp sunshine and as I walked in search of sustenance before my train, I started to recover and realise that it was a bit of a disaster. I had demonstrated perhaps, that I could deliver a monologue of this type rather well, but I did not in the slightest bit believe that I had convinced them in any way that I could sustain myself in a film project. I wasn’t entirely convinced after that either.

Back home I started to question myself and doubt my resolve. I started to look for and examine other possibilities. I prayed for guidance and a little reassurance and became a little more unsure as each day with no news passed. I kept physically active and continued with my line-learning walks and brain-training keyboard practice and navigating around walks et al but started to feel sure that I was well and truly barking up the wrong tree. Day after day passed with nothing heard. Day after day until eventually my phone tells me I have a voice message with no missed call or number registered. I listened to the message. It was James, the Producer from the film, asking me to call him back with no number left to call and he sounded very glum indeed, as if he wanted to give me some bad news. I had no way of calling him back so left a message in his Mandy Acting Network folder and on the mobile number of the audition coordinator to ask him to call me again and if I do not answer to leave me a number to call back. Two more days with nothing heard. He clearly was not keen to secure me for his film.

Eventually he called and said that his team loved my audition and asked if I wouldn’t mind being cast as the General for his film? Then he asked some more questions as to how I thought I might manage and this time I seemed to have the answers. I was not going to let him down. He was convinced. I got the part. I have finally found somebody brave enough to trust in me and cast me in his film.

As if that wasn’t good enough I found five more smiles and haven’t stopped smiling since. Not if, but when I deliver what is required of me on film sustained over three weeks of filming, I will finally have the evidence I need to go and start looking for professional paid work.

Laura from Edinburgh
Laura from Edinburgh

I will not let him or myself down.
I will beat this beast, keep smiling and keep eating the tenderstem

Yours aye