An interview with rising star actress, performer & lush lass Katie Powell…

It’s been a little while since I interviewed anyone from the theatre sector….so when I met actress Katie Powell in 2019 and found out, she started off her career in Live Theatre Newcastle Youth Theatre, I thought she’d make an interesting subject and added to my “must interview list” – yep I actually have one such list. As someone who REALLY champions the impact and importance of Youth Theatre opportunities for young people, it’s really LUSH to meet folks who have used it as a spring board and actually pursuing a paid acting/performing career in the North East. Katie is also walking, talking proof that there are PAID acting jobs in the North East (truth bomb alert) and that also, there are opportunities for folks to make their own “companies” and devise work….. just takes proper GRAFT, passion and overcoming a “worrit” or two….

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Melva (Katie) – Mortal Fools – Photocredit Jason Thompson

However Youth Theatre opportunities are not always about a career in performing and often are a channel for creative expression, developing communication skills, developing confidence, a safe space to make sense of the world and their identity, socialising with like minded folks, not to mention a place to experience devising, performing, tech, lighting, set design, directing etc. But for some like North East based actress Katie Powell, it was the start of her adventurer into performing….
I met Katie, face to face, during the read through before the recent 2019 tour of Melva  – a Mortal Fools‘ theatre show and touring theatre schools package, for 7 – 11 years old and their families. Melva tells the story of a 10-year-old girl (played by Katie) whose struggles with anxiety, or ‘worrits’ as she knows them, keep her from leaving the house. Her Grandpa has grown so worried about her that he fakes his own disappearance in the hope that it will compel Melva to leave the house and overcome her ‘bad worrits’. What follows is a funny and poignant adventure for them both, where each learn how their ‘worrits’ affect them and new ways to tackle them separately and together.
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Melva (Katie) – Mortal Fools – Photocredit Jason Thompson
So, I thought ahead of Melva, storming into 2020 for a school’s tour in partnership with Children’s North East and having a public outing at the wonderful Gosforth Civic Theatre Wed 4 & Thu 5 March 7pm (get your tickets HERE), I thought I’d catch up with Katie for an interview as I work my way through my “must interview list”….
So step forward Katie Powell – a star on the rise with really good energy…. she also manages to pull off wellies like no other….
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Katie Powell
So well hello, for my fellow Culture Vultures – who are you? 
I’m Katie Powell. I’m 26. I’m an actor and theatre maker from Washington – Sunderland but now living in Newcastle.
Tell me about your journey into theatre making? Are you a trained actor?
I went to Gateshead College and did a BTEC in Performing Arts from aged 16 to 18. I was also a member of Live Youth Theatre and Northern Stage’s Young Company around the same time.
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Katie Powell
Tell me about your mortal fools involvement with Melva?
I rehearsed and performed Melva in a pop-up venue on Prudhoe high street over Christmas 2017 during the first iteration of it, when it was directed by Anna Ryder. When Mortal Fools, got the successful Arts Council Funding, I re-rehearsed and toured Melva in Northumberland in Autumn 2019 as well as participating in the delivery of school’s workshops afterwards with pupils.
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Melva (Katie)- Mortal Fools – Photocredit Jason Thompson
Why did you audition for the part of Melva?
I auditioned for the part because I love children’s theatre; some of the best theatre I’ve ever seen was made for children and when it’s done right it can be life changing. I thought the team working on Melva were lovely, talented people that I really wanted to work with and learn from.
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Melva (Katie) & Feggis (Eilish Stout-Cairns) – Mortal Fools – Photocredit Jason Thompson
Tell me about your Melva character?
Melva is kind, brave and clever. In the beginning she’s very nervous and it makes her grumpy. She soon learns she is resourceful, capable and the world outside isn’t all bad.
My type of gal…. What do you think about your new animated/graphic designed version of Melva designed by Swaddle Creative in the promotional materials and school resources? I work with Laura Swaddle a lot and she does a lot of the graphic design for Mortal Fools– I think she’s really NAILED IT….
It’s brilliant. I’ve always wanted to see myself as a cartoon. The animations and graphics really add another dimension; they frame the show beautifully.
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Melva designed by Laura Swaddle – Swaddle Creative
You were part of Melva in its 2017 form and now in the new version in 2019 – from your perception, what’s different?
I feel like the whole show has matured a little bit. We’re all a bit older and a bit wiser. We know which bits worked and which bits didn’t so much. We know how brilliant the story is and the impact it can have. We now have a renewed confidence and pride in sharing it.
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Melva (Katie)- Mortal Fools – Photocredit Jason Thompson
What were you like as a younger person (Melva’s age)?
When I was 10 (11 tomorrow) I was quite similar to Melva. I felt very anxious about what people thought of me, but at the same time I thought I was the cleverest person who ever lived. Not much has changed.
Sounds like me as a mini too…..Why should people come and see the show at Gosforth Civic Theatre Wed 4 & 5 March 2020? Or why should schools book the show?
Melva is about children’s mental health. We show the children how to take good care of themselves and talk about it. And what could be more important than that? Melva herself is funny, cheeky, brave, vulnerable and clever. The children will leave having gone on a great adventure and having been firmly reassured they’re not alone.
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Melva (Katie)- Mortal Fools – Photocredit Jason Thompson
As well as being the lead character in Melva, you’re also leading on some workshops – how have young people been responding to Melva?
It’s been really lovely to meet the children after they’ve seen the show. I love answering their questions and seeing how much information they’ve absorbed and how exciting the day has been for them. Also, their banter is brilliant.
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Melva (Katie)- Mortal Fools – Photocredit Jason Thompson
What are “worrits” and what are yours?
Worrits to me are little worms of anxiety that wriggle in your tummy and sometimes go up to your head where they can grow bigger and take over if you don’t take care. I have loads of worrits. I often worry that I’m not good enough at playing Melva or that the children in this school won’t like me.
The core team of Melva is so lush – does it feel like a family? The giggles you have with Stan/Gideon seems to continue off stage?
Going to work with the Melva team everyday has been the best part of the job. Absolutely everyone is lovely, enthusiastic and hard working. We have lots of laughs. Stan/Gideon picked me up before 7am most mornings on the tour so we had plenty of half asleep, coffee fuelled hysterics.
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Melva (Katie) & Gideon (Stan Hodgson) – Mortal Fools – Photocredit Jason Thompson
So onto the rest of your work….tell me about Your Aunt Fanny? What is it?
Your Aunt Fanny is an all-female theatre company made up of 7 women (sometimes 5, sometimes 6) from the North East. In the last 18 months we’ve written an hour long comedy sketch show “Minge Unhinged” and taken it on a summer tour. We have just finished “Bonnie and Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular”, a full length alternative Christmas show in collaboration with another local theatre company – Bonnie and the Bonnettes – and commissioned by Live Theatre.
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Katie in Your Aunt Fanny for Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular
How did Your Aunt Fanny unite and first start?
We formed in 2013 and performed as part of Live Youth Theatre for 2 years. We reformed in Autumn 2018 because we are all best friends and Your Aunt Fanny was the most fun any of us had ever had on stage. At this point we started to write our own material and realised we had lots to say and lots of experiences we needed to laugh about.
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Katie Powell in Love Spell (a short film)
AND super excitingly, you’ve just filmed a little something for Channel four – tell us more?
Channel 4 commissioned one of our sketches to be filmed for their social media platforms. This was with a project called North East Comedy Hot House in collaboration with Northern Film and Media. We’re really proud of our sketch and hopefully it’ll be up soon so you can all see it!
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Filming for Love Spell (a film short)
You’ve collaborated with Bonnie and the Bonnettes for some Christmas shenanigans – are more collaborations planned?
Minge Unhinged is going to Vault Festival in London in February in association with Northern Stage. We are performing as part of a double bill with the Bonnies newest show “And She”.
Aside from that, we 100% plan to work together again in the future; working together was joyful from start to finish. We realised almost immediately we have the same approach to theatre making. They’re also just lush people.
You’ve just announce an Aunt Fanny show in 2020 – tell my fellow Culture Vultures more?
We are in the process of making a brand new, hour long, comedy sketch show to take to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2020 with previews at Live Theatre in July. We pitch our shows as “a night on the town with your wildest, oldest, filthiest friend”; some of our comedy is clever, some of it is bizarre, some scary, poignant, empowering, uplifting – but overall you’ll leave having had an absolute hoot.
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Katie Powell in Sketch character
What’s next for Katie in 2020? What’s next for Aunt Fanny in 2020?
In February Your Aunt Fanny are taking “Minge Unhinged” to Vault Festival. Then I’m back touring Melva (woo!) with 2 performances open to the public at Gosforth Civic Theatre in March. Then from June I’ll be back with the Fannies making our new show.
I have also just finished a short film called “Love Spell” which was funded by the BFI and will come out in 2020. If anyone wants to hire me for a lovely acting job in between these dates I wouldn’t say no. Or otherwise I’ll be answering phones in an office (which I do actually quite enjoy and gives me great writing material). I also hope to go on a lovely sunny holiday.
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Katie Powell on stage
Well thank you Katie – a lass on the rise in the North East; excited to see your next Your Aunt Fanny show….. follow Your Aunt Fanny on social to keep up to date with their shows and you catch catch Melva at Gosforth Civic Theatre on 4 & 5 March 2020 and tickets are available from HERE.

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