Where are they now? with Gigi Downey

We catch up with Gigi, Gold Arts Award achiever who's performed in the West End and is now working in a drama school and getting busy, busy, busy writing new plays and developing her acting skills. 

Hello Gigi. What are you up to in your creative work at the moment?  

I am currently working as a teaching assistant for a school drama department in my gap year. This includes assisting monologue rehearsals, directing production rehearsals (of which the school does a lot), sound, lighting and set design, casting and stage managing the productions. 

I am also working as bar staff at the ADC Theatre in the University of Cambridge and as a steward/duty manager/freelancer for Babylon Arts, where I did all three of my Arts Awards. 

Alongside full-time work, I'm visiting an acting coach to prepare for drama school auditions which has proved to be very rewarding. Because of this, I was asked to replace an actor who had dropped out of the Maddermarket Theatre Norwich's play Beauty and the Beast. I'm playing Lettice, Beauty's sister; a brat but heavily under-appreciated by her father. I just finished playing Annie in Chicago for Cambridge Theatre Company. I'm playing Smiler in the Maddermarket Theatre’s production of Chips with Everything which is for an all female/non-gender conforming cast in June 2020 which is very exciting! 

Creatively I’m writing a lot too, including a one-woman show, a TV series pilot and a mockumentary about the school I’m working in - the staff and kids provide a lot of inspiration!

I also continue to post on Voice - I find it really helps as a safe place to put opinions, thoughts and experiences. You can read more of my work here.  

What are the highlights of your arts career to date?

Performing in the West End for a gala performance was definitely a highlight. I played Macy in the Lazy Ace for the Pauline Quirke Academy. Another highlight has got to be receiving my Gold Arts Award. I worked so hard and discovered I could be actor-musician through it. Two performing highlights were performing in the National Tour of Annie, my first professional production and now Beauty and the Beast as I came in late into the process.

Getting into drama school to a foundation was a highlight as well. Even though I have more auditions to come, at the moment, I’ll be attending the Oxford School of Drama this September which is an incredible thing to be able to write!

What do you hope to be doing in five years time?

To be working consistently as a actor. I've always loved the idea of being in a period costume drama but my dream is to be in rep at the RSC; Shakespeare is a passion of mine, my ideal role being Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing or Mosca in Volpone. I love experimenting with gender-bending characters and modernising old classics. 

I’d also love to develop my writing skills - I'm already beginning to create a TV series featuring predominantly all queer characters, so to progress that to a funding bid stage would be great. 

In 5 years, I would also love to see more diversity in the industry. If this year’s Oscars’ prove anything, it’s that we need to broaden what stories are told and who dictates which ones get the green light.

Which level(s) of Arts Award did you do, and how did you use it to develop your creativity or skills?

I did Bronze, Silver and Gold, completing my Gold in February 2018. Through Arts Award I discovered how much I love writing, adapting scripts and directing. My creativity was nurtured and I felt able to run wild with my ideas whilst keeping to the specifications of the qualification and producing high-quality work. For my Gold Unit 2, I led workshops which culminated in mini radio plays and I uploaded it to YouTube. 

Each award built on the one before and I progressed from my portfolios encompassing all the arts and narrowing it down to performance arts over the years. Before running acting workshops for my Gold, I found it difficult to do public speaking - there is a certain confidence you can have speaking someone else’s words, but it’s rather hard to speak your own!

What advice would you give to young people doing Arts Award who want to follow in your footsteps?

The advice I would give would be to persevere and keep following your gut. There were times I doubted myself and had others doubting me in whether I was too ambitious or had too little time to do what I wanted. I did it and proved them wrong. 

I would also say to explore all the arts. Even though in higher awards I focused on the performing arts, I decided to explore more creative and liberal arts such as photography, history and journalism which I wouldn't have done without Arts Award. 

Something else to keep in mind is to include lots of evidence. Even if you think it doesn’t mean much, leaflets, business cards and photos really do boost your profile. Arts Award was a perfect way to gain a qualification which developed my skills and wasn’t just a CV booster; I am so grateful to my adviser Nathan Jones who really instilled that in the process early on. Take risks, fail gracefully and have a go!

Read more interviews with Arts Award alumi. If you've recently finished your Arts Award and want to let us know what you're up to, drop Nici the Arts Editor an email

Author

Nici West

Nici West Voice Team

Nici is the Arts Editor for Voice. She loves all things books, theatre, music, art, visiting other countries, anything creative, and sometimes attempts to make YouTube videos. Alongside Voice she writes and edits through her own pursuits.You can occasionally find her running marathons dressed as a black dog.

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