MY STORY Charlotte Randle and the voice of sanity
Charlotte Randle's is a familiar face on television and stage, with the thriller mini-series The Trials of Jimmy Rose, roles in RSC productions and appearances on the London stage, but Covid-19 and the lockdowns have closed theatres in what has been a mad and painful year for performers. It has prompted a career diversion for Charlotte and her new venture is as the voice on the audiobook, Glyn K Green’s Jung for Kittens.
The first lockdown came a year ago. What were you doing when it struck?
I was just coming to the end of the winter season at the RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon playing Constance in King John. Some of my colleagues who were due to perform The Whip on that Monday in March, almost a year ago to the day, were called to the Swan stage before the show and told to leave the building there and then. We were allowed back in to collect our things from the dressing rooms later in the week but apart from that, the theatre was abandoned with our costumes ready to wear, our props set and our bottles of water strategically placed backstage.
What should have been happening next?
I feel very lucky to have had only three of our 97 performances of King John left to play out. The incoming summer company, who had been rehearsing The Winter’s Tale and Europeana for weeks, didn’t even make it into the theatre for tech. It was very frustrating for them.
How did you react?
In all honesty, part of me was relieved as the news and fear of the virus was starting to take hold and theatres seem to be a place where people come to cough! In the days leading up to the closure, the audiences were thinning out as people were making choices to stay at home. There was a feeling of uncertainty and tension in the air.
But then when all the theatres started closing their doors and turning audiences away there was a sense of shock and disbelief mixed with a hopeful certainty that it would all blow over in a couple of weeks and we’d get back to “normal”. As time went on I suppose confusion set in, fear for the future….the collective feeling of anguish the whole country was experiencing, mixed up with huge uncertainty and anxiety about what will be left of our business when we come through to the other side. None of us ever thought the theatres would still be dark a year on.
How did you discover audiobooks, and had it ever occurred to you before to diversify in that way?
Lockdown has affected us all in so many ways, but one thing that happened to me is that I could no longer read a book. As in, keep the concentration. So I turned to audiobooks for the first time and was hooked by my first pick which was Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. I stayed on in Stratford for the first lockdown so it was amazing to be read to on headphones whilst walking through the churchyard and streets in which it was set. I now have a monthly subscription and devour book after book. I’ve just finished Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart which was heartbreakingly brilliant.
I had always thought it would be a fun thing to do but had never really pursued the idea, always having the impression it was a bit of a closed shop. Starting to listen to lots of books during the summer again ignited my interest.
The audiobook we can hear you reading, Glyn K Green’s Jung for Kittens, is published by Showborough Books. How did your association come about?
A friend contacted me in the autumn asking if I would be interested in reading a book his mother had written with a view to possibly voicing the audiobook. His call came the day after I had been talking about how much I’d like to do one, so it was a strange moment of synchronicity! I really loved the book and happily the author, Glyn K Green, thought my voice suited the project so we went from there.
What is involved – are you directed, can you read from home and if so does this help the performance or not?
I had some wonderful conversations over Zoom with Glyn before the recording, to make certain I was fulfilling her vision. She describes Jung For Kittens as magical realism and a fairy-tale for adults… we follow the fortunes of a disaffected man in his 30s who embarks on a journey of self-discovery with the help of the theories of Carl Jung and a small white kitten. It’s full of warmth and humour, just like the author herself.
I was able to record in a studio as you are isolated in a sound booth with the engineer on the other side of a thick pane of glass. It’s the perfect social distancing environment.
How different is reading from acting - your last role was as Constance in King John at Stratford-upon-Avon - would you like to do more, and is voice-over work something you might pursue after the pandemic crisis?
I hugely enjoyed the process. To be clear, Jung For Kittens is not a children’s book although there were lots of magical characters to create as well as very involved Jungian theory! I relished the experience, it draws on all the skills required for performance and I’d love to do more.
What else have you been doing in the pandemic year, and how has your family responded?
It hasn’t been an easy year for anyone but my family have all been OK, thank you for asking! My teenage son got pretty frustrated at times so it’s fantastic that schools are now back. My sister is director of Central London Samaritans so it has been a hugely busy time there, and looks to continue to be. I’ve managed to keep myself busy with bits of coaching, keeping fit with lots of online Zumba, and Marie Kondoing my flat!
I also have a role in Danny Boyle’s TV show about the Sex Pistols, called Pistol. That’s very exciting to be involved in.
How damaging financially have the lockdowns been for you, and what lessons have you learned from the experience?
I was really lucky to have had a good long stint at the RSC just before lockdown and the TV job coming up. Between those and the SEISS grants I’m financially OK but as I say, I am lucky. There are so many in my profession who have struggled intensely over this year and I have read that there are many actors for whom this pandemic has meant the end of their careers. It’s so sad.
I think I’m still processing what I’ve learnt from this year, but one thing has to be to never take anything for granted again. To appreciate and have gratitude for what we have when we have it. Like the joy of sharing experiences in a roomful of people. I really miss theatre. And dancing!
Theatres will, we hope, be able to reopen from May 17. Do you already have plans?
That’s amazing news, I hope it happens. The day the theatres shut last year I had been offered a wonderful job at The Globe in London, which was withdrawn the following day as all the shows were cancelled. It would be fantastic to spend this summer doing what I was meant to be doing last summer, but no word yet. Fingers crossed!