Meet the star of Crystal's Vardo Shannon Nolan

28 November 2018
Shannon Nolan

Travellers’ Times #YTT caught up with Shannon Nolan the star of the highly acclaimed play Crystal's Vardo  to find out more about how the performance is raising awareness and changing perceptions among young people and adults across the UK. The 19 year old actress has trained with the British Theatre Academy and  has a strong and empowering message for other Young Travellers attempting to break into the world of acting. 

How did you first become involved in Crystal's Vardo?

Liz an education lady told me there was a performance called Crystal's Vardo showing nearby, I had never heard of it at the time. So I went to watch the play and while I listened I felt connected to the lead character Crystal.  She is a young Traveller girl who had been bullied and has gone through a rough patch in her life. She has been hurt and has a distrust in country people.

It had an impact on me through Crystal's character because it took me back to when I was young, I use to be called names and was told to go back to my caravan and called p*key but I felt I dealt with it in a different way. I perceived this as a misconception so, I made an agreement with my teachers to go to school part time and to college with a group of Travelling girls for the other time.

This way I was spending a convenient amount of time with both ethnicities. At college we decided to create a poem about our experiences with a poet Joelle Taylor called the ballad of Bird McCarthy about a young Traveller girl who had been bullied and had emotionally barricaded herself in with all of this hurt which eventually leads to her downfall and she commits suicide. 

We tried to put a strong message across to raise awareness of what bullying can actually do to Irish Traveller young people. We created and performed the poem in a West End theatre, it’s about standing up and making a difference and that’s what I want to do. I felt that Crystal related not only to me, but the Ballad of Bird McCarthy and to so many other young Travelling girls.

I am from the same background as Crystal and I know how she is feeling and where she’s coming from. After watching the play Liz introduced me to Suzanna Woodward the writer and director who later got in touch with me to set up an audition to see me act.

For my audition I performed a monologue that I have to admit wasn’t pre- prepared it was a monologue from the Two  Gentlemen of Verona   (a play by Shakespeare) I played Julia.  Afterwards I got a call back saying that I got the part and that’s how I came about doing this!

That’s brilliant have you always been interested in acting?

Yes, I’ve always been interested since as far as I can remember, the first thing I remember wanting to be an actor, when I watch movies I think one day I could be as good as that.

Who’s your favourite actor?

I have plenty of favourite actors but I have to give credit where its due. Leonardo DiCaprio is impressive. And not because of his looks but because of his approach to acting, he is what you call in control of his acting. I like his techniques every time he brings something new to every character he plays and Angelina Jolie like in Girl interrupted she definitely pulls that one off; it’s very interesting how actors apply different techniques. It's about having a presence and building a connection with the audience.

Is that your favourite film or do you have a different one?

No its only one of my favourites, see if you know me then you know I’m a bit of a film magnet so I can’t really choose just one film there’s so many great ones like the Great GatsbyLondon has Fallen and The Mechanic. There are loads of great films that I could list but I would have you hear all day honestly.

But I can say my favourite types of film or plays would be centred around action, tragedies and comedies, historic and feminist genres where there is women empowerment, a voice perhaps or if it raises awareness to make changes. I’m interested in those films too.

So what are your ambitions’ for the future?  Was Crystal's Vardo the first time you performed on stage?

No actually I’ve worked alongside people like Ramin Karimloo and Preeya Kalidas in theatres but only as an ensemble. My ambitions have always been to pursue a career in acting; my biggest aim is to make a difference. I want to paint a picture for the audience to understand a different perspective so they can take a message home with them. I want to make a difference and change people’s points of view about how they look at different situations. I'm very zealous about what I want to do and achieve, I always try to give my best.

Suzanna has been really helpful and is helping me put together a CV and a demo show reel to represent myself and I’m on the lookout for an agent.

What’s the feeling for you when you are performing on stage?

The first thing people assume is that it must be scary standing in front of all these people on stage but that hasn't been in my experience at all, there's something special about it, about having a presence and being able to paint a picture and put a play together for an audience to understand and take with them a message.

When I’m on stage I'm a different person or so I’ve been told; I think because I've taken a step out of my comfort zone and out of reality, so I tend to feel more confident. sort of like I have got a purpose to build a strong connection between me and the audience in order to deliver a message to gain a reaction and change their perspectives on particular situations.  I think is incredible and extremely vital, and yes it puts me under pressure but I stand up and I do it. It's a beautiful feeling it makes me feel privileged to perform on stage in front of an audience 

How long have you been involved in Crystal's Vardo as the star of the show?

This is my first year; I’ve done 5 shows so far and a tour which has been exciting because I like travelling. We have been to Scotland to perform in the hub in Edinburgh, Liverpool, Brighton and Ealing. In Scotland we toured in June and July, I enjoyed meeting new people and making new connections.

 

Shannon Nolan performing in Crystals Vardo
Shannon Nolan performing in Crystals Vardo

What was your favourite part performing in Crystals Vardo?

Probably the ending scene because it  brings Crystal back to her family where she feels safe and contented with the community, it's where she finds home again. Also she introduces her new friends she’s made on her journey showing you can trust outsiders and communicate with them. I think it’s all about stepping outside of your comfort zone with acting so for Travellers they think they have something to loose when in actual fact I think it’s nice coming together at the end and sends a strong message.

This shows that Suzanna - our director and writer has taken a profound look at building a strong message that raises awareness presented through initial issues, this play also teaches about heritage. Hence Crystal is a powerful character presented through a cultural and societal background.  Also, bringing the actors and audience together demonstrates that Travellers are just normal people like you and they shouldn’t have to be bullied and miss out on education and go through these patches because of this.

How do the young people react to you when you’re performing?

They really enjoy it and get excited, after one performance a child asked me, are you really Crystal? That for me means it’s a job well done!  When I have performed in schools the children understand and get the message and the teachers are interested and eager to find out more at the end and make the children aware of things. 

What advice would you give to other young people interested in acting? 

So the biggest thing for most Traveller Girls is stepping out of there comfort zones, like I said they may think they have something to loose but in actual fact they have something to gain. Obviously we all have a reputation to protect and morals, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't be independent and pursue a career.

On that note, I would say if you’re really interested in this career path you need to take action and remember that the world around us is evolving people are changing, so don't wait for anybody to tell you can do it. Get out there don’t barricade yourself in with boundaries, Stand out, have faith in yourself and be yourself. Anything good is never easy, failing is learning. All you have to do is stay driven and surround yourself with the right people.

Director and writer of Crystal's Vardo, Suzanna King told Travellers' Times: “I think Shannon is amazing and a great inspiration to young people in her community. She is always incredibly professional, full of passion and energy. I think she has a great career ahead of her and I’m looking forward to working with her on more performances of Crystal’s Vardo".

Travellers’ Times #YTT wishes Shannon the best of luck in her future acting career and looks forward to hearing and seeing more of her!

If you would like to get in touch with Shannon Nolan you can contact her through her professional online website at https://shannonnolan.weebly.com/

If you would like to book a performance or just have a chat about the possibility please contact Suzanna King suzanna@gypsy-traveller.org or 07825 003072

What audiences have said about the play:

‘What a powerful aid to understanding the rich heritage of Gypsy, Roma & Traveller people, and a shocking reminder of the prejudice and persecution they have suffered through the ages – prejudice they sadly still face today….thank you to Friends Families and Travellers and to everyone behind this amazing, inspiring production’ - Mayor of Brighton & Hove

‘The performance was fab…children and staff loved it’ - Traveller Education, Blanau-Gwent

‘Loved the way the story was told, and thought the characterisations were brilliant!’ - St Andrews Church Youth partnership, North Somerset

‘Informative, creative and entertaining  ... well presented, costumes very authentic to the times’ - Tuxford Academy, Notts

‘They did us proud’ - Traveller from site in North Somerset

‘Traveller children at our school loved the fact you knew ‘their words’ and it will be something they will always remember’ - Teacher, North Crescent Primary, Essex

‘I enjoyed the intimate close-up performance … educational, entertaining and thought provoking! I foresee the potential to use this play for raising awareness within the police’ - Herts Police