Artwork for Eleanor Barkla on playing Ella
Eleanor Barkla. Photo: Tiffany Garvie


Eleanor Barkla on playing Ella

Actor Eleanor Barkla discusses her character, Ella, in I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed.

Actor Eleanor Barkla discusses her character, Ella, in I Wanna Be Yours by Zia Ahmed.

What excites you most about working on I Wanna Be Yours?

What excites me most about working on this show is – and it's a corny answer – is the love. It’s such a beautiful love story. And it explores the boundaries and the struggles around that. But ultimately, it's two people who deeply love each other and want to love each other. And I love love.

What is your role in the play? Who is your character and where do they come from?

I play Ella, a girl in her twenties. She's from Yorkshire in England, from a little town called Hebden Bridge. She's currently living in South London trying to make a career for herself as an actor and working three jobs to try and make it all come together. She's really struggling with missing her hometown as well and not knowing where she should be. What drives her in this play is essentially her career and what she wants to do, but also a real sense of needing to be home, missing home and missing family and also her love for Haseeb. So she's pulled in a lot of different directions and we see her ebbing and flowing a lot throughout the show.

How have you been approaching the script at this early stage?

Because there are so many different times, places and vignettes throughout the show, in the early stages of the rehearsal process we've all been sitting down together as a team and looking at where are we and when are we. So when we get up on the floor in a rehearsal space, we're all on the same page and we feel comfortable in saying we're at Ella's house or it's Valentine's Day. It allows us to move forward together confidently, so it feels really cohesive.

I_Wanna_Be_Yours_phTGarvie_3583_O_E.jpgOz Malik & Eleanor Barkla. Photo: Tiffany Garvie

How have you been working with the creative team to help you prepare for the role?

To prepare for the role, we have had a lot of incredible experts coming in and helping us in different areas. We've been working with our amazing Voice & Dialect Coach Geraldine Cook-Dafner. She takes us through exercises not only for our own vocal health and performance ability, but also for our accent work. Luckily, Geraldine is from the UK, so she's come with a lot of expertise about how a Yorkshire accent might sound. It's very particular, so we've been working with her on things such as tongue placement, where we put our voice in our mouths and little rhythms and tunings that you might not think about otherwise.

Because it's a really close, intimate show and there's only two people in the cast we've been working with an incredible Intimacy Coordinator Isabella Vadiveloo. She has spoken to us about ‘brave spaces’ and boundaries and creating a conversation that's really open and safe, which means that actors can feel confident in declaring or articulating their boundaries. It creates a more open, expressive workplace. And that's felt really incredible to be so supported by Melbourne Theatre Company in that way, as well.

I_Wanna_Be_Yours_phTGarvie_1858_E.jpg Eleanor Barkla & Oz Malik. Photo: Tiffany Garvie

How do you embody your character?

Ella is very specific in a lot of ways. For me it starts with her voice. Her accent is so specific to place, specifically Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire. Learning that has allowed the movement to follow. She's got a singsong, lyrical and easy way about her, both in her accent and the dialogue as well. That has flowed onto her posture and her movement and the way she moves through the world.

It's also important to notice the movement differences between Ella and Haseeb. Haseeb comes from a culture and a family that he says is quite restricted, whereas Ella talks about coming from a family that's very warm and expressive. So I think denoting those differences has been really helpful as well. She hugs, touches and talks with her hands, but it all started from the voice and place and flowed through the rest of it.

Can you describe your acting pathway?

I started acting at school. I was textbook ‘drama kid’. I was in VCAA’s Top Acts and I loved it so much. I then took a year off school, travelled around, and when I got back I auditioned for and got into Federation University’s Arts Academy in Ballarat. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Acting. From there I was really lucky. I did some performances and an agent approached me and I've been working with him. He's so supportive and played a big part in getting this role as Ella for me. So I've been extremely lucky.

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