Preoccupations: Sigrid Thornton
This article originally appeared in IF Magazine #146 (April-May 2012).
I was living in London as a child from about the age of seven and I joined a theatre club, which still exists today – the Unicorn Theatre Club – and the concept of this club is to introduce children to theatre and the joy of theatre. It certainly hooked me in.
I think my late grandmother used to say I was starting to announce that I was going to be an actress from about the age of seven but I do remember things like ‘astronaut’ and ‘ballerina’ – that must have been before seven. When I returned to Australia I was about 9 or 10. I think when a person has to adjust to a new culture, there’s an element of performance involved in fitting in and I think that, and the experience of wrapping my tongue around all the different English dialects, was what I enjoyed. I just found that really fun and I got a kick out of it and I think I caught the bug.
When I got back to Australia, I joined a drama workshop right away and just kind of drove it through from that period on. I started with theatre workshops – drama classes – and I was in living in Brisbane at the time. I was born in Canberra, raised in Brisbane and various other countries in the interim. But when I returned to Australia (when I was about 10) I joined the Twelfth Night Theatre in Brisbane – which still exists today. They conducted quite serious, if you like, drama classes – if you can call drama classes for children serious. They weren’t tap dancing classes, let’s put it that way. We really did cover quite a lot of terrain in those classes: mime, improvisation and voicework etc. and that was the basis of my formal training.
Through Twelfth Night I auditioned for Crawfords Productions who were producing Australian television and in those days they used to seek ‘new talent’ interstate. They were Melbourne-based but they used to go to all of the different states and auditions and I just rocked up to the audition which was being held at my theatre and I got a job very soon afterwards at about the age of 13.
I did the whole gamut of the Crawfords Productions dramas that were available to me at the time and I trained up that way – it was extremely good training. My first professional job was on a show called Homicide. I think I learned every line of the script – I learnt my own lines, everybody else’s and all of the large print. As you can imagine, I took it more seriously than I think I was supposed to do.
I played a young girl called Erica who got killed at the end of the show – she has a tragic end. And then the director recommended me to another director to play a child psychopath in a show called Division 4. I was given a lot of interesting challenges even at that rather early age and it was a very thorough training – I was kind of thrown into the deep end. So I was taking little bits of time off here and there to fly to Melbourne to do a couple of those jobs every year for the rest of my school career.
Then after a stint at University – which didn’t last very long – I moved to Sydney and then to Melbourne to pursue a professional career. I didn’t actually get an agent until I finished school – until I left home as a matter of fact. Before that I worked without an agent and it had been my ambition to go to University but I found that in the middle of my first year, I continually favoured acting jobs over my student life, so I decided I’d better learn in the field rather than learn the theory. I decided to learn through practice and I think it served me well.
The life has been good for me – I’ve been very fortunate and it is something that I find continuously stimulating.