Tessa Wood

by Sherif Awad

Tessa Wood

Hello, www.MeetingVenus.com,

This is actress Tessa Wood,

I grew up in a small village in East Yorkshire, England. The nearest city, Hull was about 15 miles away, and it had been nearly flattened by German bombers. It meant there was previous little in the way of culture. It was merely a city trying to rebuild itself.

How I developed a love of acting is a bit of a mystery, but there is one occurrence that stands out for me. I had a gloriously eccentric aunt who loved theatre, and she took to see Margot Fonteyn performing Swan Lake at the one remaining theatre in Hull. I was very, very young, but I was enraptured, and decided then that I would go on the stage. I stayed on at school till 18, and then announced I wanted to attend drama school in London. My parents were utterly horrified, but I’m extremely persistent, and in the end my will prevailed – albeit alongside a withholding of much financial support from my family.

I went to Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and developed a taste for (at the time) rather avant garde performers like Lindsay Kemp and Ken Campbell. I also secretly knew that I preferred film to stage, but this wasn’t encouraged at drama school in the 70s, so I kept quiet. It felt like a naughty secret!

Drama school in the 1970s was still very much geared to the stage – especially to Shakespeare and the classics. I have had one or two very enjoyable experiences of classical theatre, but I remember feeling a little out of place at Guildhall and never felt I quite fitted in.

Soon after I graduated I found myself in the West End production of The Rocky Horror Show, and I truly felt in my element. I absolutely loved it, in fact so much that I remained in the show for two years – first in London, and then going on tour in Germany. It was before the wall came down, and I have weird memories of going through Checkpoint Charlie to the East. I had purple hair at the time, and wore thigh-length boots over skin tight leather trousers! East Germany didn’t know what had hit it!

After Rocky, for several years I carried on touring, doing repertory theatre, a bit of TV, a bit more West End, a lot of commercials, and then without warning … my career started juddering, slowing down, and then virtually stopping. I’d barely been out of work for ten years. I was just past thirty, and I was scared.

Then my parents died, and I felt scared and bleak. I realised the only person that could help me was me. I felt I needed to reinvent myself, so that’s precisely what I did. I tried my hand at being and agent’s assistant, a production assistant, an advertising bod, and a TV PR officer (which I quite enjoyed). But none of these roles made my heart sing because bubbling away inside me was this continuing ache to act.

So at nearly 40 I decided to re-audition for drama school – but this time, not as an actor, but as a voice coach. I was accepted at The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama on their Post Graduate Diploma of Voice Studies course (now an MA). It was very gruelling, and I felt the same imposter syndrome feelings that I’d experienced at Guildhall. Other people told me I was good,but I’m not sure I believed it. Anyway, after graduating, I launched myself into a new career as a voice coach, planning to resurrect my acting career along the way. It didn’t turn out like that. I hadn’t bargained for just how intensely demanding a voice coaching career might be. I got so sucked into it that I became Head of Voice at Drama Studio London for nine years. Looking back, I can honestly say that I enjoyed large chunks of it, and I amazed myself with how far I developed in that new life. BUT, acting never went away, ever!

So in 2011, after nearly two decades away from it, I decided to try to re-enter the profession. This time I was able to keep a little voice coaching private practice going alongside it. The industry had changed beyond all recognition in the intervening 20 years. But in the final quarter or so of my life, I felt more determined than ever. Getting older had given me a new kind of confidence, and a feeling of not caring so much what people thought of me as a performer, because I was going to do it anyway.

Things started slowly for the first 18 months or so, but then it started to take off. In the past ten years I’ve performed at The Almeida Theatre, The Park Theatre, The Old Vic and Bristol Old Vic. I’ve done Restoration comedy at Kings Weston in Bristol, played the Mother in Shelagh Stephenson’s extraordinary play about abuse – Five Kinds of Silence, and most exciting of all has been the kindling of a journey into films. It started with a crazy horror film called Skin in which I endeavour to take over my step-daughter’s body in an attempt to prolong my youth. I received a Best Supporting Actress award for it. I’ve appeared in two of prolific filmmaker Andrew Jones’s films, and last year saw the release on Amazon Prime of Charlie Steeds An English Haunting in which I played my first film lead. That was one of the joys of my life, and I’m happy to say, I’m going to be in Charlie’s next film, The Haunting of Bloody Tower, which has already started filming. I have three other films waiting in the wings until COVID-19 retreats a bit further.

So returning to acting in my late 50s was one of the best decisions of my life. I’m now here for the duration – however long that might be, and providing I can still learn the lines. I can honestly say that life has never felt better.

I’d like to think it might inspire people to pursue their deepest dreams late in life. I don’t know why that unicorn suddenly appeared below. But maybe it’s a sign! 

Many thanks and all good wishes for 2021.

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