Amy Sutton trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and has toured nationally as an actor and internationally as a storyteller. Amy has featured in Hat Trick’s podcast ‘Seancecast’, BBC Radio 4 comedy ‘Almost Like Being in Love’, and The Boleyn Brothers. She helped found and performs with Bard & Troubadour, a family theatre company based in West Sussex.
Amy created the role of Ashley in the original stage production of ‘Protect & Survive’ and has voiced a number of monologues for roles The Other 1% Channel. Amy hosted the live show The Other 1%: What is a Ghost as well as playing several characters in live show of Morai: The Coonian Ghost for TBC Audio.
TO1%: When did you know you first wanted to be an actor?
AS: When I was eight. I was sent to this ‘make a play in a week’ style summer holiday club, and I came out of that going, “I’m gonna be a professional actor!” From there I joined local theatre clubs and signed up for every school play. Acting was always my favourite thing to do.
TO1%: What was your first professional gig?
AS: Hard to say…my first gig out of drama school was on a Theatre In Education tour, taking historical shows into different primary schools. We had to learn ten different scripts and did anywhere between eight and twelve performances a week (I particularly liked being both Queen Elizabeth I and a Victorian urchin in the space of a morning). But in terms of the first show I got paid to act in, I think that was before I went to drama school. My friends and I had created a comedy show for our Drama A Levels, and we wanted to show it to more than just our classmates. I used the money I’d saved from summer work to hire the studio space at the Brighton Dome and put it on again, and we sold enough tickets to make a small profit! I don’t know if it counts as a ‘professional’ gig, but we felt like absolute kings at the time.
TO1%: Some people practice in front of a mirror, some people think that’s really artificial? What’s your take?
AS: It depends on what you’re doing. I know my face can do really weird things sometimes, so I might occasionally check that I’m not accidentally gurning while I’m reading a line! But I would use it just as a reference point. I’d only drill a performance in front of a mirror if you’re doing something where the physicality is important, like dancing. Then I think a mirror is essential. Certainly for stuff like audio, it doesn’t matter what you look like or what your face is doing – that’s one of the reasons why I love doing it, because the imagination is given more space to play.
TO1%: How did you get involved with The Other 1%
AS: In 2016 Simon got in touch with me asking if I’d be interested to come and record for a few roles in a series called ‘Extraordinary Tales’. These were original audio stories with a dark twist to them – a sign of things to come! I was then asked back to record for the wonderful ‘Boleyn Brothers’ because Simon needed an actor with a good French accent. When ‘The Other 1%’ came into existence, as well as playing characters in some of the stories, Simon asked me to be the host voice too. It’s one of my favourite voices to do!
TO1%: If you could play any film, tv, stage or literary character, who would it be and why?
AS: I’d love to be the lead in a sci-fi film or series. I mean, who wouldn’t? You get to be badass and have fun action sequences and tell interesting stories, and your costumes are awesome and you’re probably pretending you’re in outer space. Best. Job. Ever.
TO1%: Do you practice your craft when you’re ‘resting’ and how?
AS: Are you kidding? I spend all my time between jobs sleeping and eating vegan chocolate! Alright, that’s not strictly true. I’m really lucky to have lots of close friends (and a partner) who act as well, so I’m always around people willing to read a scene or devise something when we’re at a loose end. In lockdown I was part of some brilliant play-reading groups. And I run a regular storytelling night locally, so I know at least once a month I’m going to be performing to an audience, and there’s nothing like a job to keep you focused.
TO1%: How much of your acting would you say is craft and how much instinct?
AS: I’m definitely more craft than instinct. When I was at drama school we used to say people had a tendency either to be ‘jumpers’ or ‘builders’ – that they would jump straight into something and go with the feeling of it, or they would take the time to meticulously build their performance. Ideally you want to be able to do both, but I was definitely a builder when I was training. The craft of acting is reliable – it takes time to learn and maintain, but once it’s muscle memory, it won’t let you down, even on your worst day. But instinct is what you bring uniquely to a role, and that’s where you can make a performance really sparkle. For that you have to trust yourself, and know yourself quite well, and I don’t think I trusted myself very much when I was young, which was why I really focused on the craft. I’ve definitely got better at being more instinctual as I’ve got older.
TO1%: In the States Method Acting is often seen as the Holy Grail, how do you feel about that?
AS: Method Acting can be really useful, but it’s not the only thing out there. I think a lot of people, when they think of Method Acting, imagine actors like Daniel Day Lewis who supposedly stay in character even when they’re off-set, but that’s a very extreme interpretation of what Method Acting is. I think the most important thing as an actor is to try lots of different acting methods, and keep as many to hand as work for you. Method Acting can be really useful for creating a great screen performance, for example, but it might not be the best way to build a character for a pantomime, and as a working actor you often get called upon to create very different roles in very different projects.
TO1%: Do you ever find you start to become the characters you play when you’re off stage or off set? Has anyone ever noticed?
AS: There’s definitely a bit of character bleed when you’re working with a role for a long time – it’s not so much that I ‘become’ that character, but any traits that I and the character share tend to get heightened. If my character is very outgoing, I’ll become more social, and if they’re very shy I become more introverted. And certainly your speech patterns can change if you’re playing something with a very different voice from you. If I’m doing a run of a Shakespeare show I often end up speaking and thinking in iambic pentameter!
TO1%: It’s a hard one, but if you had to choose and could only do pre-recorded OR live performance for the rest of your life, which would it be and why?
AS: Definitely live. Being able to connect with your audience in that moment of performance means that every show is unique – the audience becomes a brand new cast member each time, and the energy that they bring affects how you tell that story. Even during lockdown, when we couldn’t be in the same spaces as our audiences, streaming live still has some of that same energy, which pre-recorded just doesn’t give me in the same way.
TO1%: What’s your trick for learning lines?
AS: I have to print out my script. Then I go through it three times. First, I go through and highlight all of my lines. Then, I go through and highlight all of my cues in a different colour. Then, I start from the end and work backwards, marking out the beginnings and ends of the sentences in my dialogue, and underlining any important or tricky words. From that point on, I kind of have a working map of the script in my head, and I can ‘flick through’ it in my mind during rehearsal. I don’t know why, but that’s what works for me!
TO1%: Do you read your reviews and at what stage in a run of a play?
AS: Oh, definitely – as soon as I know about them. It’s good to know what people have to say about your work, and even better to be able to share it if you agree with what they’re saying! But I don’t let it affect what I do in the show. At the end of the day, a reviewer is one person, and I’ve been to shows that changed my life that were panned by reviewers. If the director wants to change things based on reviews, that’s their call. My job is to work with everyone else in that show to tell the story we’ve agreed to tell as best as we can, with the understanding that not everyone is going to get, or love, what we do – but for those that do, it’s going to be really special.
TO1%: Do you have any superstitions other than not whistling in the stage wings and calling that Shakespeare play The Scottish Play?
AS: I always forget about the whistling one! I’m an absent-minded whistler, and I have been told off more than once by other actors for whistling while we’re setting up a show. I do call the Scots Play ‘Maccers’ out of habit now, and I always smile to see a moth fluttering under the stage lights – that’s meant to be a visit from a resident theatre ghost who is enjoying the performance. Beyond that, if I’m doing a stage show I will always pack my show pants – not because they’re lucky, but because I’ve had my share of costume malfunctions, and the last thing you want if everything goes wrong on stage is for Joan of Arc to flash a pair of bright pink knickers to the audience!
TO1%: If you could have a masterclass from one director and one actor who would they be?
AS: Director – Patty Jenkins of ‘Monster’ and ‘Wonder Woman’. She is an absolute powerhouse – she often writes the films that she directs, and has not been afraid to walk away from big projects to keep her creative vision intact. I’d love to have the chance to pick her brains, not only over screen technique, but over working in the business itself.
Actor – Judi Dench. She’s done so much over her career, and is unarguably a national treasure – what a wealth of knowledge to tap into!
TO1%: If you become a superstar, will you demand specific bottled water and go on a paleo diet?
AS: I would never make such demands of my stage management team – they are the glue that holds every production together, and you undervalue at your peril. But when I become super famous, I will take every opportunity to dress up in utterly ridiculous and fabulous outfits (and I wouldn’t say no to a personal trainer).
Based on the South Coast of England, THE OTHER 1% was created by award-winning producer SIMON MOORHEAD, whose production company TBC AUDIO creates and distributes original, full-cast audiobooks with the aim of promoting local actors and writers to a global audience.