My musings


Remembering Shakespeare • LAMDA days…

  |   My musings

Remembering Shakespeare.

As we remember Shakespeare 400 years after his death. It got me thinking about the place (LAMDA) that fuelled my passion and enabled my practice of this incredible playwright’s work. One of the best this country has produced. But little did I know I would have a secret love affair with the bards work, especially considering how we were introduced!!!…. Apologises in advance if I digress.

ShakespeareI learnt to truly value Shakespeare post Secondary School English classes. Having memories of a class full of teenagers painfully reciting empty words. Wednesdays after lunch was when our fate would be sealed. It was roughly 5 lines a person ( not per part) until we had completed a few scenes. I remember desperately trying to work out what my 5 lines would be so I could rehearse them in my head beforehand. The anxiety was palpable…. all sweaty palms, dry mouths and hearts beating like a steel band!! There was an inevitability of impending doom. Agony over, an attempted discussion would take place about what we had read. I say discussion, I mean the teacher would talk at us about what those empty words actually meant. In my mind there was very little correlation between what was being read and the supposed story……. I became intrigued…. mmmm “curiouser and curiouser”…. They say curiosity killed the cat, in this case the cat got the cream! Inadvertently this was a blessing. I proceeded to get a copy of Romeo and Juliet and read it…really read it. I became less afraid of the language. Anything I didn’t understand I would try and look up (in a dictionary), we didn’t have the internet. It took ages, but finally I began to understand. But more importantly, relate too and enjoy, immensely. From then on I endeavoured to read one play every six months or so.

Then came to auditioning for Drama schools…. they ALL required that you have a Shakespeare piece as well as a modern monologue. Although I was familiar with the bard, it was still a daunting prospect nonetheless. I had never worked on one of his wonderful characters or even said the words out loud in front of anyone, at least not with meaning. Performing before a panel of adjudicators? Me, the kid from Wembley who had little to no experience? Oh well, this was what I wanted to do with my life so I got to work! In my bedroom alone, I would rehearse and rehearse sometimes in front of a mirror… a little off putting I must admit. “Trust the words” Karen, “trust the structure, the story, the character, be in the moment and add some heart”. That’s all I could do.

Success!! I got into LAMDA, where I trained for 3 years. LAMDA afforded me the time to get it wrong, the space to explore the language, the structure, the rhythm (iambic pentameter). The expertise of incredible teachers who taught technique, breathing ( almost essential for some of Shakespeare’s long yet concise thoughts). Physical awareness skills, dramatic analysis the list goes on. To top it off, a brilliant bunch of like minded creatives… my contemporaries, particularly my year learning along with me. But mostly it gave me the confidence to feel the fear and do it anyway!!

I was lucky enough to attend a birthday celebration recently for one of my favourite teachers Rodney Cottier at LAMDA’s new home. It was Rodney’s love of Shakespeare that led to an even deeper appreciation for me. In my 3rd year he directed the production of Pericles where I played Gower, usually played by a man!!( photos above). One of Shakespeare’s lesser performed plays. It’s packed to the brim of all the exciting, riveting ingredients a viewer/listener is interested in now. Hollywood Blockbuster material!! Through Rodney’s text/background classes in my first and second year, I got to grips with the realness and depth of the characters in Shakespeare’s plays. The very fact that Shakespeare is for everyone, regardless of ones background.

That’s the rather amazing thing about Shakespeare…the timeless quality to his plays. 400 years of  his plays being performed, in many forms and we are still entertained by them. Regardless of the subject matter one can always relate because they ALL deal with the human condition. Times change but we fundamentely stay the same. Shakespeare was the spring board to be fearless in my approach to many different styles of writing by countless playwrights from numerous periods of time. A lot of which have been influenced by Shakespeare.

In my very first blog entitled “A glance back”, I talked about the fact I had very little photographic evidence/memories of my theatrical beginnings. Well I wanted to share my recent findings with you. I forgot these photos existed! They make me smile….


We were oh so young….Weirdly I haven’t done a huge amount of Shakespeare professionally not because I didn’t want too, it’s just the way things have panned out. But I would love to do more. Maybe marrying my love of film/TV and Shakespeare and doing a film version of one of his plays? Hopefully I will, at least I’ve put it out there to the universe….

Fingers crossed! I’ll keep you posted!

NB I had to take photos of the photos…

Photos by the incredible John Haynes.

A couple of snaps from Rodney’s Birthday bash.



Karen xx

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Taking the time

  |   My musings

Taking the time…..

Just before Christmas I embarked upon a Hot Yoga challenge to try and complete 20 consecutive days of Yoga. This was accompanied by an unintentional “detox” of sorts.  It was the perfect thing for me at the time.  I had a lot of parties and events to go to. Which can all become a bit exhausting even before Christmas itself. What better way to manage it all, then a test of this kind. All events attended without a sip of festive merriment and being at home, in bed by 10.30! Gosh….I’m so rock ‘n’ roll!! I was asked at one of these events “who does a detox in December?” To which I replied “I do, it’s something for me“.  It doesn’t sound like much of a trial and in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t, in fact it was an absolute joy. Most of the classes I attended were at 6.30am which meant getting up at 5.30. Weirdly this is my favourite time to practice!  I hadn’t realised I was a morning person (yep, at my age), one would have thought I’d have noticed that fact by now….maybe I’ve changed. Which kind of brings me to the point of this post….. without this experience, this is just one of the things I might not have discovered about myself. More on that later.

We generally in our busy lives tend to prioritise a number of ‘things’ above ourselves. Whether it be the important things like parenthood, relationships (with our partners, friends or family) our jobs or simple things like housework etc. We often opt to put ourselves and time with ourselves on the back burner. It might not be a deliberate thing. I get that…or at least I DID get that. I was one of the aforementioned. I’m not advocating selfishness…in fact quite the opposite. I’m making the case for being the best, well balanced, emotionally and spiritually nourished you, that you can be. And I’m a firm believer now in taking the time, really taking the time….and space to recharge. Somehow time spent just for us can leave us with a sense of guilt. Indulgent? No!


A beautiful Sunrise over Alexandra Palace after an early morning yoga practice.

What I have found is without that alone time to regroup, to be with yourself for a little while, things can actually become counterproductive. I have known this for a very long time and for some reason…kept ignoring it. My unconscious mantra would be “I have to get this done or that done, there just isn’t enough time in the day or nnneexxxtttt!”. But counterintuitively by not taking the time… those oh so important things (some of which are legitimately so ) don’t actually get done properly.  With the busy lives we live things can become stressful, we can become irritable over the need to complete the ‘things’ and onto the next, which in turn escalates the stress.It all mounts up.

Committing to taking the time regularly, we approach daily situations with clarity and vigour! We exsist in a society where everything moves at such a pace. Or at least that was the case with me, an endless cycle. I had a conversation with someone recently, she spoke about the fact that she would finish one thing then it would be straight onto the next. Leaving her no time to process anything. It was at this point I felt compelled to write about my experience of taking that time. For some of you, I may be “preaching to the choir”… if so, good for you! But for those of you like me who found it difficult to regularly take the time to yourself for yourself. Please try! Something that doesn’t detract from being with you and doesn’t  take up too much brain power. Something physical? getting out of ones head and into your body is ALWAYS a good thing.  I can’t tell you the difference taking the time has made to my life…sounds dramatic but it really has.

Why not give yoga a try?….. If you’re in North London check out Yogacentric a hot yoga/pilates studio in Crouch End.

Do whatever it is that brings you peace…

Something that’s for you that you enjoy, is most definetly time well spent!

Karen xx

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Hello world • A glance back….

  |   My musings

Hello World!!

This is my very first blog post!!!

Firstly, a huge thank you for stopping by and having a read. Secondly apologises for those who visited my previous site only to find one front page and a series of the dreaded 404’s (“this page does not exist”) for almost a year. Finally, I managed to get my act together and a grasp of the constantly evolving technology to do this. Yay!!

This blog is an opportunity for me to air my thoughts and feelings about things in more than the 140 characters on Twitter! The subjects, people and things that inspire and move me. I will share with you my view of the world…Also the things I hold dear for one reason or another. Basically my ramblings, which I hope you’ll find interesting…. look I’ve started already!!

Anyway, here goes.

During the rebuilding of this site, I have to say I found it to be a really interesting, enjoyable and cathartic process.

As I collected all the material from my career over the years it brought back some incredible memories. Looking at the various jobs, the people I worked with and I’ll even go as far as to say, how I felt at the time. It was a bit of a research project, one that I have learnt from and has left me feeling rather positive.

I can remember feeling at the end of every job (as regular as clock work) “you’re never going to work again!”. I think I shared these thoughts with a lot of actors….that sense of insecurity. Clearly a misplaced negative thought process, that offered more harm than good. Lesson one…Stop that nonsense!!

Comedy of Errors (RSC) rehearsals taken from the programme. Karen Bryson blog

Comedy of Errors (RSC) rehearsals taken from the programme.

Throughout the rebuild I realised I didn’t really have any images of my early career in Theatre. It wasn’t necessarily the done thing, to seek or take photographs while you were working.  So I went about a quest to find some. I contacted a lot of the photographers who took the photos from the original productions only to remember, that back then, things weren’t done digitally. A few of them came back and said they’d lost the negatives etc… Goodness, how we’ve come a long way in image capturing. We live in a culture now, where we can readily take photos from a smart phone, fairly good quality images to boot.

Shoot to Win image again from the programme.Karen Bryson Blog

I clearly had lots of fun!! Rehearsal shot of the play Shoot to Win, image from programme.

Not to mention the expectation we all have. The presupposition that we chart our lives via photos… pretty much on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I think the ability to take photos whenever we want is rather fascinating, something I welcome with open arms. When you look at the bigger picture (no pun intended) and delve into the history of photography from the days of the Daguerrotypes and Calotypes in the 1800’s. Where the subjects had to hold absolutely still for a fairly long period of time. Now, what we can capture any given moment with spontaneity. Like mid action shots in shows….. It’s something now I will always do  It’s pretty darn incredible. I will be sharing my passion for photography in other posts. Oh look I’m off… I digress….

Lesson two: that which we are afraid of, tackle head on. One of my fears being computer technology. I kid you not I struggled with cutting and pasting shortcuts for years…. really!! And through time and letting go of my negative internal dialogue of “I can’t”. Thinking it was something for the youth; my silly irrational phobia. Well, “I can” and “I did”. The process of learning about myself plus a whole bunch of transferable skills…. what a joy!

The collating of my various reviews (which at the time I didn’t read), thankfully. During one of my first jobs a great theatre actor offered a piece of advice which struck a cord with me. He said he NEVER read his reviews whilst he was doing a show. Whether the reviews were good, bad or indifferent. They are all just opinions. Opinions that potentially have the power to change your convictions, leaving you second guessing yourself. That is something I have held on to from that moment to this. Whilst I gathered past reviews for this site(to of course pick the best ones, lol) there was enough distance. I came across some horrific write ups of some of performances. Which, had I read them at the time would have left me feeling crushed!! lol…

Oh so young and somewhat naïve. My first ever acting headshot on graduating from LAMDA. Photo by Geoff Shields.

Oh so young and somewhat naïve. My first ever acting headshot on graduating from LAMDA. Photo by Geoff Shields.

Lesson three: trust one’s instincts. My instinct to take heed of something that I knew would prove to be invaluable.

This has served as a stark reminder of the amazing people I have met and worked with along the way. I have been fortunate enough to learn from some seriously gifted human beings, whose work I totally respect. The wonderful opportunities I have had to work on some incredible shows. The joy, the pain, the laughter, the tears…. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I would recommend this process or something similar to anyone.  Even if it’s not for a website but the collating of materials from past activities, like a good old fashioned scrapbook. There’s definetly something positive in reflecting on the past, in order to be in the moment, appreciate the present and look forward to the future. It’s a great way to remember your wonderful experiences,what you’ve learnt and how far you’ve come…

One of my favourites quotes……

“If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday”

Pearl S Buck.

I hope I haven’t rambled on. I’m sure, in time I will LEARN to be more concise!

Karen xx










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