As well as creating her own work – with shows including Hotter and Fitter – Ell Potter also narrates audio books. She tells Giverny Masso about the latest book she has narrated for Audible, The Well of Loneliness…
Tell me about The Well of Loneliness?
It’s a seminal queer text. It was written in the 1920s by Radclyffe Hall, who was a queer woman herself, and it’s one of the first depictions of a lesbian protagonist who isn’t painted as some kind of deviant. People in society see her that way, but she’s a fully rounded character who also happens to be a lesbian. It’s obviously ahead of its time, because there was a huge uproar when it was published. It continues to be relevant because unfortunately quite a lot of what she’s talking about – people coming out and being rejected by their families – still happens. As a queer woman today, I read what Radcliffe Hall was writing in the 1920s and I think: ‘Wow, it wasn’t that long ago that so much demonising of queer women was happening.’
How did you get into audio drama?
While I was training at LAMDA we did an open day with Audible and looked at all their facilities, which was really cool. My first audio job was while I was still at drama school. I was really lucky that Audible asked me to audition for Winter Dark, which was an international crime thriller book. That was huge amounts of fun. Then I did the follow up – Winter Rising. Audible have really given me a helping hand in getting me my first professional job.
What are your top tips for doing audio drama?
Loving reading is helpful. That’s not necessarily true of all acting jobs, because reading a play and being in a play is very different to inhabiting an entire book. And being able to spend lots of time alone. I fell in love with theatre growing up because you spend months preparing for a production and the people you’re with become your family. With audio books it’s almost the opposite, because you are in a room for five or so days with just you and the director. It was a very different process, so you have to be okay with being alone. I like the two extremes. It’s nice to have both.
Tell me about the first theatre show you made?
Hotter is a two-woman show that I do with my best friend and ex-girlfriend Mary Higgins. We first started making the show when we were together and then broke up. It’s made up of interviews with women and trans people aged 11 to 97. The thread running through it is of our relationship and how we broke up and came to terms with our queerness and relationships with our bodies through each other. Our second show – Fitter – did a similar thing but with cis men, trans men and masculine presenting people.
What else have you been working on during lockdown?
Mary and I have been experimenting with audio, so we have an audio drama coming out. It’s called Lem N Ginge and is basically a queer fairy tale partially inspired by the works of Angela Carter. It’s hard to find the good things about lockdown, but one is that we’ve had to think outside the box and audio is one of the only things that’s still happening in a vaguely similar way to before. I’ve never written for audio before, but taking our skills as theatremakers and trying them out in a different way is freeing. We’ve also started work on our third show so have been interviewing people remotely for that, because all our shows start with interviews.
Training: Postgraduate drama, LAMDA (2017-19)
First professional role: Hotter, Edinburgh Festival Fringe (2017)
Agent: Kat Buckle at Curtis Brown (writing)