Acting barefoot: what's it like to go from stage acting to voice acting?

Cate Nunn’s acting range spans from Shakespearean villains to kangaroos. But what was it like to move from the stage to the microphone, to play Mildred Falconer in Oblivity? Cate shares her experiences here…

One of the things I was most excited about when I got cast in Oblivity (as well how much I loved the script – but sshhh! Don’t tell Rob that, he’ll get a big head!) was the chance to do my first bit of voice-only acting.

I’ve been acting on stage whenever I can, ever since I got the part of a kangaroo in a school play about Captain Cook at the age of 6 (I actually wanted to be a polar bear, because they were my favourite animals, but never mind).

I had a solo bit hopping across the stage to signal we’d reached Australia. My sister looked much cuter as a penguin, but there were loads of those, and I was the really important kangaroo because without me no-one would know where we were, would they?!

(No, I’ve got no idea where Falconer’s feelings about the Munchkin Mayor come from. Why do you ask?)

Since then I’ve had a stab at space robots, Southern belles, Shakespearean villains, and for a really long spell in my early 20s, elderly women who died before the end of the show. But I’d never done any audio work at all.

At first, all the prep seemed the same. I read the scripts, chatted to Rob and the other Persephone crew members about our characters, imagined myself looking super dashing in an eye-patch like a one-eyed Zoe from Firefly, and generally got to know Mildred Falconer a little bit.

Barefoot and without a costume

Fast forward a few weeks, and I’m standing in my bare feet (don’t know why I do that) behind a microphone in a recording studio, and I realise – it’s not the same at all.

All my acting before this had had a few things in common. We’d have a bit of costume, some kind of stage area, and an audience. A couple of hundred (or a couple of dozen… or… at least always a couple) people watching you, and that crazed adrenaline rush you get in response.

And I didn’t miss the shaky knees or waves of nausea that always hit me 30 seconds before I step on stage – but… suddenly it was just us. Half a dozen people in a little room outside Oxford, months away from anyone actually hearing what we were doing. And worst of all: I couldn’t use my face to act!

We were working on the scenes from episode 4 (Friends and Nemeses) where Commanders Mink and Falconer snipe at each other when I realised: I could visualise exactly how I’d sit if we were doing this scene on stage. I knew what facial expressions I’d be doing. But I didn’t feel like any of that was coming out in my voice. Because it’d never occurred to me – you’re not just telling the audience things with your face and your body language when you act on stage, you’re telling your voice stuff as well. If I’m slouching or scowling, it’s physically changing my voice.

Whereas, as a total voice novice, I’d been standing scrupulously still behind the mic, trying not to let my voice got lost, accidentally doing my best impression of one of those uptight 1940s newscasters!

Loosen up - and lose the perfectionism…

Added to that was the pressure of knowing that once your line is out of your mouth, it’s in the can, preserved forever exactly how you said it that one time. When you’re on stage, once it’s out, it’s gone. And while sometimes, mid-speech on stage, my brain will start thinking “why did you say it like that? That’s not right! That’s not how you rehearsed it!” while my mouth is still going – at least once it’s out, it’s done, and the audience is already moving on to the next exciting thing. (Unless you’ve done something really weird, at least!)

But with audio recording, my perfectionist side was agonising at every line that wasn’t exactly how I wanted it to sound. Which obviously doesn’t help with worrying you’re coming across as stiff and wooden!

Since then I’ve tried to loosen up (physically and mentally!) behind the microphone. I’ve learned it really helps me to make as much eye contact with other characters I’m talking to as I can. And Rob and Joe are very forgiving when I still have to ask for the odd do-over during pick-ups just because I hated how my voice came out!

I still have loads to learn, but that’s just one of the exciting things about working on Oblivity.

That, and being part of the nicest damn crew in the Sys’!

Want some cool stuff? If you can back a second season of Oblivity by helping us meet our crowdfunding target before Thursday 17 October, we’ll send you some fantastic rewards! Find out more here!

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