Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Article excerpt

Cathy Tyson is a stage, film and television actor who came to prominence via the film Mona Lisa, for which she received Bafta and Golden Globe nominations. In 2013 she completed a degree in English and drama at Brunel University London and will return there on 4 November to star in She Called Me Mother, a play written by Michelle Inniss, her friend and co-founder of their theatre production company, Pitch Lake Productions

Where were you born?

In Kingston upon Thames.

How has this shaped you?

Not at all, because I moved to Liverpool [and that city] shaped me. Three generations of my family come from Dingle; it's part of my family heritage. I went back and visited that neighbourhood last year; I stayed there for two months, and that was really healing - laying ghosts to rest. It was quite racist when I was growing up, and I had attitudes to people living there who called me and my mum names. It was good to go back and not harbour too much resentment any more.

Society affords greater esteem to science degrees than those in arts subjects, and particularly in drama. Should acting be given greater status in higher education?

I love science now, after playing Marie Curie [in Alan Alda's play Radiance]. I've got no "us versus them" [mentality] regarding the STEM subjects because I'm a fully paid-up member! This is what acting can do. People undervalue and underestimate what it takes to be an actor. The interpersonal skills involved are valuable. Business owners have said that young people in schools now are academically qualified but can't hold a conversation. Acting offers all these things.

What were your reasons for taking up a degree in your forties?

I just felt jaded. I wasn't getting great parts in acting; they were drying up in my late thirties and early forties. I thought, 'I've got to do something - I'm losing the will to live!' I always liked to study...I needed to kick-start my passion and desire.

What was it like to be an undergraduate when most of your fellow students were 18 or 19?

It was good, but fearful. I felt really self-conscious. The drama students were very gregarious and loud, and the English students were introverted; it was a nice mix. I thought the talent in both areas was amazing and I was so uplifted by the balance of young people and the commitment to their studies. …

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