Actor Maureen Hibbert: ‘My first job taught me not to compare myself to others’
My degree course at Middlesex was very supportive of students seeking creative opportunities outside the curriculum. Before graduating, three fellow students and I bought The Stage and decided to try out for auditions. I was drawn to Pan Project because of its multicultural ensemble and its use of physical theatre.
Group auditions can be intimidating – this one certainly was for me because I wasn’t expecting it. But once I became immersed in the creative process, I started to enjoy myself.
I was offered the job and considered taking a year out from my degree. My personal tutor advised me to maximise the experience: continuing as a student, but also starting my professional acting career under the banner of ‘independent studies’. Rehearsals with the company led to a three-month tour in southern India. We returned to the UK for a small national tour. My written dissertation was submitted in a vintage suitcase lined with blue Indian silk, with a selection of audio and photograph materials, Mahabharata comics and [for me] the quintessential perfume of India: cones of sandalwood.
Looking back at that experience now, I remember initially comparing myself to others who came from drama schools rather than polytechnics. With hindsight, I would have curbed any thought of being less than others by remembering that I had been equally successful at the audition. That ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ attitude still carries me today.
I also learned that children under seven are the sternest critics. If they request a toilet break during your performance, you’re doing a really bad job – and it starts a chain reaction and they all want to leave the room. The key is to be centred in your creative power and be invested in the world created and recreated at every performance. The response reflected back to you is commensurate with your level of belief in yourself and the creative process.
CV Maureen Hibbert
Training: Middlesex Polytechnic
Theatre includes: Ragamuffin, A Jamaican Airman Forsees His Death, The Coup, The Big Life, Hamlet, Rosmersholm
TV includes: The Buddha of Suburbia, The Sculptress, State of Play
Other credits: Notting Hill, The Fever, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Agent: Pulse Artist Management
Maureen Hibbert is in Rosmersholm at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre until July 20. She was talking to John Byrne
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