The talented Brummie actress, Amy Booth-Steel, is currently starring in the RSC’s adaptation of the Magician’s Elephant
Amy Booth-Steel is thrilled to be back in the Midlands close to family and friends who are planning a trip en masse – all 18 of them – to see the Magician’s Elephant. After the last couple of years of uncertainty and closures, theatre is thriving and Amy is relishing returning to the stage. “It’s sort of like the old days – so nice to see people’s faces,” she says.
The Magician’s Elephant was set to open last year but due to restrictions was postponed. Now in full swing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, it’s packed with welcome escapism and wonderment and at its heart, stunning music by Marc Teitler and Nancy Harris. On our first trip back to the theatre after lockdown, it had us in tears and giggles in equal measure. It’s moving, funny and inventively staged and while the whole cast shone, it was Amy playing a role of narrator that brought the show together – a constant gently leading the audience through the production like an old friend.
IN THE KNOW
Having originally workshopped the show a couple of years ago, Amy felt she really wanted to be involved. She recalls: “It’s so beautiful and magical and I knew I wanted to be part of it. The show feels even more relevant now – ultimately it’s about a town (Baltese) suffering and being there for one another as a community.”
Amy’s character wasn’t in the 2009 book by Kate DiCamillo, but the show’s creators felt a narrator role that could build a relationship with the audience would be a good idea. It really works. As an audience member Amy makes you feel part of a secret, in the know.
Obviously putting on a show like this was never straight forward, but with today’s Covid guidance, it’s a lot. Socially distanced masked rehearsals, hand sanitiser, daily lateral flow tests, twice weekly PCRs and a Covid monitor at every session to ensure everything’s tip-top. Thankfully it’s worked so far with no Covid dramas.
There are understudies and understudies of understudies, but that’s not unusual, just sensible with a winter production running through flu season. Amy’s not fazed by the extra precautions. She says: “I’m just very grateful to be back. The industry has suffered so much during the pandemic.”
Like most actors, lockdown was tough for Amy as theatres were shut and projects ended abruptly. She remembers: “I was working on the National Theatre pantomime. It closed after just three shows. Lots of people said it was a perfect opportunity to write, but I couldn’t. The panic and worry was too much.” Living in a ‘teeny’ flat, Amy and her flatmates watched a lot of Netflix, walked and took up gardening. Didn’t we all?
Amy’s writing again now (we could tell you but we’d have to kill you.) If you were lucky enough to see one woman show Honest Amy, you’ll know she’s pretty talented on that front. Honest Amy was spawned in 2019 when some of Amy’s online videos went viral catching the eye of Kathy Burke, (yes Kathy Burke!), who, in a nutshell, got involved and directed the show taking it to Edinburgh Festival and beyond.
Amy says: “It was absolutely nuts. It happened organically. I just put a few videos online and people liked them. I didn’t know what to expect from Edinburgh, but it was wonderful.” We’re keen to see what happens next.