As part of our Meet the Makers of ‘I Am Baba’ Series, we got to know the cast and crew a bit more. This time it’s singer: Fiona Browne.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, where you are from ?
I’m from Rathfarnham in Dublin and grew up the eldest of 5 girls. My mum was an actress/drama teacher and my dad owned a betting shop. Our house was noisy, colourful and full of emotion as you can imagine!
Could you tell us a little about your journey into the arts and how it all happened for you?
I discovered drama aged 8, when my mum decided myself and my sister should try it out. I remember walking down steps into a magically musty-smelling basement on Harcourt Street, into a room full of kids all wearing crazy shoes! One guy had wooden clogs from Amsterdam, another girl had sparkly red stilletoes. I knew straight away that I had found my tribe. Drama opened up a whole other world for me. It was especially a lifeline during my secondary school years where I felt I didn’t fit in at all. I lived for Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons spent in that musty basement with the legendary Betty Ann Norton. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to go there. I caught the bug, and by the time I left school I knew that performing was what I wanted to do. I applied to Trinity and was lucky enough to get on to their degree course in Drama and Theatre Studies.
Where do you find creative inspiration, have you any particular idols, role models?
As I’m getting older I’m finding creative inspiration everywhere. In the most ordinary, everyday things. I attended a workshop with writer Pom Boyd recently who said that our creativity is like a river running alongside us. I love this image which makes creativity feel easy and close by. When I was younger I imagined a creative life to be a lofty, out of reach notion. I’ve learned it’s everywhere, all we have to do is be still and listen for it. I’m a founder member of M.A.M (Mothers Artists Makers) and am now finding my creative work is becoming more politically charged as a result. We aim to campaign for family friendly practice within the theatre industry, and to help women become visible again after taking ‘time off’ to have children. Much of what I feel moved to write and perform now is infused with these ideas. My role models are my mother, who has accompanied me many times on my creative journeys, my sister Amy who is a brilliant actress and writer, and the amazing Mothers Artists Makers I have met over the past year. Never have I been so artistically and intellectually stimulated!
If you hadn’t been in ‘showbusiness’, what would you have done?
I might have run a B&b for artists! I used to imagine myself as a theatrical landlady. Either that or something with food/hospitality. I love hosting basically.
What is your role in I am Baba?
I am one of three female singer/performers.
What do you find most interesting about early-years theatre?
To me it feels like a natural extension of how I played with and sang to my children when they were babies. Having babies helped me to rediscover my playful side. They are so aware of subtle changes in atmosphere, and responsive to stimuli. I’m looking forward to creating a special atmosphere for babies and their parents to enjoy together. I imagine the babies will be the true leaders of what happens in each performance, and I’m kind of looking forward to embracing this unpredictability!
Do you remember your first visit to the theatre, can you describe it for us?
The experience that stands out for me was the first time I saw my mum perform at The Dublin Shakespeare Society in a basement (again!) on North Great George’s Street. She was playing Maisie Madigan in ‘Juno and The Paycock’. I remember they had real sausages cooking on a gas fire. I remember the smells, the laughter and the sense of danger in the air. I really felt I was in tenement Dublin during the civil war. It was intoxicating to step into another world. I remember feeling ‘I want to do this!’
What was your favourite TV programme as a child?
Fame of course! Leg warmers, full length mirrors and dance routines, every drama kid’s dream.
I AM BABA is commissioned under Exploring and Thinking: A Collaborative Framework for Early Childhood Arts in the Dublin region. Exploring and Thinking is an initiative generated in partnership by Fingal County Council, Dublin City Council, South Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. It is funded under the Arts Council’s Invitation to Collaboration.