This week for Throwback Thursday we spoke to Holly Dale Spencer, whose career had its beginnings at the Birmingham Hippodrome, aged 8, through to playing Mrs Wormwood in Matilda the musical, Holly also works as a mindfulness coach helping people through the pandemic.

Holly Dale Spencer
Holly Dale Spencer

1) What was your first ever show that you did as a kid, and what was it that got you into the theatre world?

The first show I ever did was when I was four years old, for my first dancing school- Walsall Academy. My first professional show was the Nutcracker at the Birmingham Hippodrome for the Birmingham Royal Ballet when I was about eight.

I naturally fell into theatre because of my family- my mom an ex-dancer, my Dad a drummer and stand-up comic, my sister a singer/dancer and my brother a child actor. I grew up surrounded by music and laughter. Mom and Dad brought me up on MGM musicals and I always LOVED watching the Royal Variety Show on TV as a kid.

Holly Dale Spencer
Holly Dale Spencer

2) What is your process each night when you get into character for a show?

For me, my process for getting ready for a show each night is mostly about getting out of my own way. Reassuring myself that I’ve done the work, I know what I’m doing and that I’m capable and ready to go on stage and deliver. I have a tendency to over analyse, overthink and to be hard on myself, so to get ready I really have to let go.

3) How have you kept a creative in lockdown?

During the summer I started taking Acting Class online at MC2 Studios- a fantastic studio for professional actors. I love the class so much, have grown and learnt so much there over the last 5 months and look forward to having that creative buzz each week. I’ve also started singing lessons with the wonderful Julie Gossage at Vocal Balance this year, who is nothing less than a miracle-worker!

I’ve been writing a few different things and for a while, a group of my friends and I were reading plays together each week over Zoom.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a workshop of a new musical- ‘The Attic’ by the fabulous Estee Stimler, at the Union Theatre. In addition, I’ve sung through and recorded some further new material at Goldsmith’s for  Estee and Adam Pennington’s new musical called ‘Dear George’.

I presented a read-through of Daniel Robinson’s heartbreaking but hilarious new play ‘Panto’, also at the Union theatre earlier this year.

Blink and you’ll miss it but I have a little voice-over featuring on Fizz and Gingers’ exciting new feature film Infinitum: Subject Unknown, which has just been released here and in the US.

4) You are also a mindfulness coach, tell us about how you got into mindfulness and the work that you do.

I decided to take this time, during the global ‘Pause’ to address my mental health. I have suffered from anxiety since I was a child. I have been meditating on and off for a few years but this year I really made it a daily practice. I revisited the Mindfulness literature I’ve read over the last few years and felt I had new incentive to truly engage with it on a deeper level- after experiencing depression last year and a few solid years of extreme emotional yo-yo-ing/Stress. Mindfulness helped me so much and the changes have been so noticeable that I wanted to share it with others. So I took a course in the Summer in teaching it. I now run One-to-One online sessions and weekly group classes in Mindfulness. It’s changed my life and I very much hope it continues to have the positive impact that it seems to have had so far on those who I’m sharing it with.

5) Have you got any mindful tips that help you when you’re auditioning or preparing for a show?

My mindful advice for someone preparing for an audition or a show would be…

Your breath is your friend. Its always there for you.

Remember you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are not facts.

Try giving that negative voice in your head a name. It speaks a lot of untruths. If you give it a humorous name this can be quite fun =)

You don’t need to grip tight to reach your goals. Allow some space. Sometimes all we really need to do is let go.

Holly Dale Spencer
Holly Dale Spencer as Mrs Wormwood in Matilda.

6) What is one of your best/funniest memories on stage?

I can’t share what it was that happened…but something happened on stage once that was so funny I temporarily lost my voice for the next scene because I’d laughed so hard I’d had an off-stage coughing fit- Whoops!

7) What three things can we always find in your dressing room? I.e Lucky charms…things that help you on stage…blue m&ms..
My dressing room place is always colourful- flowery make-up towel, my own mug, any cards I’ve received or even just little post-it notes people might have left me will most probably be pinned up. I’ll always have a pillow and a blanket as I love to SLEEP- even if that means under the dressing room table. Dressing gown, slippers and very possibly a comedy cuddly toy. I really do like to move in! Ginger tea, honey and GIN-GINS.

8) What is your favourite Cast Album to listen to right now?

I honestly don’t listen to Cast recordings very much. (I know!). But when I sing in the shower its usually old school Rogers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irvin Berlin. However, I also adore and am so proud to be a part of the Original London Cast Recording of American Psycho by Duncan Sheik…which is an entirely different kettle of eighties fish. So my taste in musicals is definitely eclectic.

9) If your life were a musical what would it be called, and why?

If my life were a musical it would be called ‘Me against I’ because I am my own worst enemy! That may sound dark but don’t worry, it would definitely be a comedy!

10) What advice would you give to all the new graduates – both 2020 and upcoming 2021 grads?

My advice for new graduates would be… get to know yourself. Spend time with yourself. Make sure your goals are truly aligned with who you are, rather than just what you think you should be doing. Always come back to your WHY. Look after and nurture your social connections- especially those true friends who love you unconditionally and let you be yourself. You’ll need them. Don’t grip too hard or force anything. Have patience. Things take time to unfold, so let them. Work hard but look after yourself. A quote I love that’s really helped me is “Workaholism is a block, not a building block”. Also, “There is no one alive who is you-er than you”.

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