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The Voice of Experience - Barbara Houseman

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Barbara is expert in all areas of text and voice and has worked with stars of stage and screen for years.

“I first became aware of Barbara Houseman’s work…when I was performing with the RSC… I have worked with Barbara as a director and an actor. In both cases she was an enormous inspiration.”

- Kenneth Brannagh

Barbara Houseman

Occupaton: Voice, text, acting coach, theatre director and solignment Practitioner

Career highlight thus far?

Working on Donmar All Female Trilogy. Working with wonderful actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Jessie Buckley, Lenny Henry, Cush Jumbo, Jude Law, Clive Owen and Daniel Radcliffe

Can you tell us about a difficultly you’ve faced in your career and how you managed to overcome it both literally and mentally?

Lack of confidence and self belief and a fear of taking risks as a director. It’s been a long journey - learning to value myself an understand that creativity involves mess and it’s better to risk and fail than it is not to risk. I now think of all the people I admire and how any ‘failures’ they may have had do not make me think any the less of them. This gives me courage to go for my dreams.

How long have you been doing what you do?

Over 40 years. Obviously, there’s been a great deal of variety and growth in that time.

How did you start doing your job?

I trained as a teacher at the Central School (it wasn’t Royal then!!) I realised that I wasn’t cut out to teach in schools and started working freelance as a voice coach, then trained as a director and have combined the two in various ways over the years.

How did you turn that job into a career?

It turned itself into a career. I remember I started with two clients - a Japanese businessman and an Icelandic actor and somehow it grew from there.

Why do you do what you do?

I love the art of acting and I have huge respect for actors. I love enabling people to find their voice - inner and outer - and become the best actor they can be. Also, I love freeing actors from their heads and from the tyranny of methods that overcomplicate the acting process.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Enabling actors to be the best they can be. Also, continually exploring and growing creatively and healing the blocks that stop my full potential and then sharing my journey with others.

What is the hardest part of your job?

I’m not sure there is a hard part really. Everything is a lesson and leads to growth. I’ve struggled in the past with not always being recognised for the work I’ve done but I’ve realised that the real answer is learning to fully recognise my own worth rather than needing recognition from others.

What would you say has made you so successful in your career?

I care. I’m honest with myself. I strive to be as fair as possible and I’m curious to learn from everyone I work with. I have always seen every person I’ve worked with as a unique human and looked at how I can work with them in a way that suits them.

Since the start of your career, what changes have you noticed in the industry and how do you feel about them?

Less chances to work in theatre or earn a good living from it unless you’re very successful. There was much more regional theatre when I started. Also, mounting fringe shows was much less expensive and it was much easier to form your own theatre company. Also, actors didn’t start their careers carryin a huge debt from their training.

What is your hope for the industry moving forward?

That actors are treated with greater respect. That directors are beWer trained. Many directors have wonderful vision and staging abilities but I still think there’s a lack of understanding about how actors work and how to enable them.

If you could speak to your younger self at the start of your career, what advice would you give them?

Be on your own side. Believe in your self. Be brave. Take risks. Know you’re enough. Those people who love you will still love you if you fail.

What would be your greatest advice to actors in general?

Don’t expect to connect to a character and the situations the character from the first

reading. It takes time and imagination.

Don’t work out what you’re going to do in your head - it will always be stilted. You have to do your preparation and then turn up in rehearsal, on stage or on set and be totally present and focussed on the situation and characters and let your actions/ words arise from there. There is no such thing as acting, we are simply reacting to the actions of the other character/s.

What would be your advice to actors trying to make an introduction with yourself or others in your field?

Be patient - give the person at least a week to respond to your email, text, phone call. Be respeccul but also be brave. Reach out and ask. If they say “no” you’re no worse off than if you haven’t asked.

What are the common mis-steps actors make when approaching you?

1) Expecting me to help them with an audition that’s the next day when I’ve never worked with them before. I will always do my best to find time for regular clients but it’s ridiculous and disrespeccul for someone who’s never worked with me to expect me to find time at short notice.
2) Failing to do their research before they contact me. In other words emailing me and asking me what my experience is. In this day and age we can always google people.

How can actors get in touch with you or find out more about you or what you do?

or you can find retreats I run at
What question would you wish I’d asked you here and what would be your answer?

I’m not sure. Perhaps “What do I think makes a good actor?” For me it’s vulnerability and imagination, a willingness to relinquish control and trust, to be open to all parts of themself so they can use their full richness of their own experience.
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