Ella Watson-Russell on JUTE Theatre Company's Soph and The Real World
SHE may be relatively new to town, but Northern Territory import Ella Watson-Russell is making her mark felt on the Far North's vibrant theatre scene, writes Denise Carter.
Darwin-born actress Ella Watson-Russell is the star of JUTE's upcoming play, Soph and The Real World, and she loves her role and her new life in Cairns.
Having spent time in Sydney and Melbourne, Ella wanted not only an acting career but to enjoy being part of a creative community.
"I'm a tropics and a northern girl," she says, in explanation, whilst on a break from rehearsals at JUTE Theatre.
"I moved to Cairns 18 months ago.
"I didn't want to move to Melbourne and Sydney, a big city with everything that goes with it, and I love the hot weather."
Ella's slight but muscled figure is a result of avid cross-fit workouts, which she says she enjoys as a kind of meditative process, helping her tune out any stressencircling her mind.
"I have never been into fitness but I had reached a crossroads, and then I started doing it," Ella says.
"On a personal level, it helps me stay fit and strong, and emotionally and mentally fit and stable. It is a good grounding so I can take flights of fancy."
It's just as well Ella has such a strong grounding because her stage life as the character and title role Soph in the JUTE play couldn't be more out of control.
Soph is a woman at the edge of a precipice in her world sticky-taped together with distractions such as drinking.
She hides an inner pain that surfaces when a dramatic event happens that she cannot ignore, and spectres appear to show the journey she must make.
"Soph is a musician and a composer," Ella says.
"She has a relationship, and I suppose where the play opens things are beginning to happen that she has no control over.
"She is having strange experiences and she is wondering, 'am I going out of my mind'."
Unlike her character, Ella says she is not a musician and music is not her forte.
"I can hardly sing a note," she says. "So I needed a little bit of musical work. Fortunately I had a great sound designer, Steven Grant, who makes the magic happen."
Ella describes the role as emotionally demanding and says it can be both emotionally and physically draining. It is, however, she says, an actor's dream to play such a complex character.
Cairns audiences may remember Ella's great performance in Finegan Kruckemeyer's At Sea, Staring Up in 2012, a play in which she was a harried woman in love with two men, who drives at night to calm her nerves, and for her role in Studio Shorts in 2011.
While she has been involved in directing and writing previously, Ella's main focus is still on acting, and she has performed in films, voiceovers and ads, but mostly in theatre, where she enjoys the thrill of live performance.
"It is wonderful to immerse myself in a world for a while and to create magic on stage," Ella says.
Beginning acting early in life, Ella joined youth theatre in Darwin at 11, then performed in high school and she has never let go of her dream since.
"When I was 23, I got a place at the Victoria College of Arts in Melbourne and I lived there for a couple of years," she says.
"I have been working since I graduated in 2005."
When I ask what acting means to Ella, she laughs at first. "Being poor," she says.
The reality of being a working actor means Ella has to work at another job (executive assistant) for about half a year and then enjoy her true passion for the other half, but she believes it is worth it.
"I feel incredibly privileged when I do get to act," she says.
"There is an exchange in theatre between yourself and a live audience it is such a special and powerful exchange of beliefs.
"It doesn't compare with anything else, to be in the moment. It's the closest thing to spirituality for me."
See JUTE Theatre Company's Soph and The Real World at Centre of Contemporary Arts, 96 Abbott St, Cairns, from March 8-23. Tickets are $20-$35, from jute.com.au or 4050 9444. Pick up a copy of Thursday's edition of Hit for your Theatre Thursday discount voucher.
NEW CAIRNS.COM.AU COMMENT POLICY
We welcome your comments on this story. Comments are submitted for possible publication on the condition that they may be edited. Comments submitted without a full name and suburb/location will not be considered for publication. Please read our full comment policy and publication guidelines.
Share this article
Loving Cairns: Darwin-born Ella Watson-Russell is a welcome addition to the local theatre and arts community.