Find out about the experience Underground Lights member Debbie had during her time with The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency.
Back in October, several members of our Springboard company, Underground Lights formed a choir for our new musical, The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency.
Debbie was one of the members chosen to be part of the choir. Fellow Underground Lights member Andrea recently chatted to her about her experience being part of the musical and her journey with Underground Lights so far.
How did you first become involved with Underground Lights (UL)?
Tracy, who’s a trustee at UL now, gave me a leaflet about UL and I came along, signed up and became a member. I came along and was as quiet as a little mouse. I was so frightened and lacked in confidence. Emma was there and she put me at ease so much. As each week went on, my confidence just built and built.
We did games, little sketches and our play Werewolf, which was my first performance. I played one of the villagers. Tracy, who I was mainly acting with, was a massive support. I’ve got so much to be grateful for because I thought I wasn’t doing very well, and if it wasn’t for that support I would have thought I wasn’t good enough and walked away. But Emma and Tracy kept me going and I carried on doing it.
What did being a member of Underground Lights mean to you at the time?
It took me about six months to feel more comfortable. I felt more comfortable with the rest of the gang because we were all in the same boat. We all felt comfortable together, we were all going through the same sort of battles in life. That made it easier to work with each other and get along and laugh, and maybe even cry sometimes. There were some bad times, but we’re there for each other and that‘s what’s so wonderful about it.
Tell us about your volunteer role.
Emma approached me and asked me if I wanted to be a volunteer at the Creative Café and I jumped at the chance straight away. I wanted to be there for people. At Shop Front Theatre, I was helping to make teas and welcome people, making sure they were okay when they came in. Sometimes they felt nervous, but I would help them to be comfortable. I love doing that and still check in with every single person in the group.
Tell us about your recent involvement in The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency.
It’s been amazing to be part of The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency. I’m amazed that I was actually part of it. The main cast were amazing, and I was in The Choir with No Name. I was in the soprano section – there were also altos, bass and tenors. Our costumes made us look like we were in the 1970s. I had a small role where I came on stage and shouted at the top of my voice – it was a great experience.
How did that come about?
I got a text from Wes to work with Cardboard Citizens and I could not believe my luck that I’d been chosen. That was back in June. There were about 19 of us. We all went into the Patrick Suite at the Belgrade and sat down. We all had to go round one by one and introduce ourselves. Some people had quite heavy stories to tell about themselves and it was really quite eye opening about what they went through – heart-breaking stories. It brought us closer together and made for a better group to work with.
How did you get the confidence from Underground Lights to join Cardboard Camps back in the summer?
After we performed Werewolf, I went on to play Queen Victoria and loved it. The audience reacted to it wonderfully and I even got a laugh from the audience! It built up my confidence so much. I’d never done comedy acting before so it was all new to me. It was an amazing feeling that people were reacting to me and laughing at a comedy line that I’d said.
I’d been at Underground Lights for six months at that point, and it was all coming together. Becoming a volunteer was a big part of building up my confidence, and I just felt so grateful.
What do you like most about Underground Lights?
UL is zany, comforting, wholesome and safe. It’s like walking out of the wardrobe into Narnia. When you leave and go back into the wide world of Coventry again, I always feel safe, comforted and cared for. I think UL is so amazing – it’s the glue that’s held me together for so long. It’s got me through so many bad times. I was involved in Ruff Tuff because of Emma.
For my mental health, acting has been amazing. You can go through so many emotions in an acting role and you can bring so much of that role into your real life to help with your own mental health.
Tell us about some of your highlights from the City of Culture year so far.
I’m very proud to be from Coventry. I love the city for its diversity. There’s so much going on in the city to improve it at the moment – there was a campaign to raise awareness for homelessness. I also read a poem at the open mic night. It’s all really positive.
What makes you smile every time you remember it?
There have been many moments where Emma has made me laugh. When we were rehearsing Werewolf, she lifted up her hair and points at her ear to say “I can’t hear you”… that had me in stitches. There was also a time when I was crying in a scene and she said “Debbie, you’re crying too loud… can you keep it down?!”