Human Story Theatre: Gaye Poole and Amy Enticknap
The driving force behind Human Story Theatre is a friendship between former nurse and encyclopaedia salesperson and now actor/writer, Gaye Poole, and actor, voiceover artist and medical role-player, Amy Enticknap. Their unique bond and their shared concerns over community healthcare have been pivotal in the creation of Human Story Theatre. The plays that they have created, whilst being entertaining in their own right, have strong healthcare messages addressing important and contemporary social health issues.
Gaye grew up in Surrey and trained as a general and psychiatric nurse after school. She worked as a nurse for 7 years but it was a difficult time as she has a super-sensitive streak and felt personally responsible if patients didn’t respond to treatments. After leaving nursing, Gaye travelled widely for many years taking various jobs even becoming encyclopaedia salesperson of the year for a company in Australia. Saving her earnings enabled her to do what she had always wanted to do which was to become involved with acting. She enrolled on a short part-time drama course in Australia and on completing the course her tutor advised her to apply to the East 15 Acting School in London. Whilst on the course in London she did agency Marie Curie nursing at the weekends to make ends meet. She felt more at ease with this type of nursing as it wasn’t so much a matter of curing patients rather one of making them comfortable towards the end of their lives. It was watching people die that inspired Gaye to write her first play entitled Women On The Edge, which she also acted in, and which was performed at The Gate Theatre in London. She dabbled with cabaret and even had an opportunity with to appear on a Channel 4 chat show but unfortunately this didn’t work out. At this promising point in her acting career Gaye met her first husband and gave up acting for the more reliable income of working for an estate agent. She hated it. Subsequently, after splitting from her partner, she resumed her partnership with drama by setting up an inclusive youth theatre company called WILD which gave children with learning disabilities the opportunity to experience theatre. She also resumed acting, encouraged by a new, and current, husband, in between the parent duties of bringing up her two sons. For extra income she chose to take medical role-play jobs as they could be fitted into the week around childcare. And it was whilst working in role-play at Churchill Hospital in Oxford that Gaye and Amy met.
Amy grew up in Thame and from a young age she had always had a love of acting. After school Amy did a degree in Drama and Theatre Studies at Roehampton University, subsequently training as an actor at the Oxford School of Drama in Woodstock. Amy is a multi-tasker. She has been self-employed actor for over 17 years and has many strands to her business. One string to her bow is to be a medical role-player where she acts the part of a patient for medical students to question and ‘diagnose’. The purpose is to give students the opportunity to learn doctor patient communication skills. Amy can play the role of angry patient, a patient with a sensitive issue or a patient that is about to receive bad news. It’s a varied role that Amy enjoys and which she does at medical schools in Oxford and London. She also works at Buckingham Medical School where she manages a team of actors who teach and facilitate communication skills such as non-verbal communication and voice-projection to first-year medical students. Wearing yet another hat, Amy also works as a voiceover artist often being cast as a 10 year old or a witch. For example, she has recorded 38 episodes of the children’s story Winnie The Witch written by Valerie Thomas and has played Gracie the Grasshopper in another educational series. After a marriage break-down Amy took some time out: doing charity work in Zimbabwe, travelling around twelve countries in East & Southern Africa and she also climbed Kilimanjaro by herself reaching the peak despite severe altitude sickness.
Both Gaye and Amy have had strong independent approaches to their careers. Gaye has ‘done it her way’ by writing her own material and producing her own plays rather than having to audition for parts in other people’s productions. Similarly, Amy has carved out her own niche through self-employment and found her way without having to face the audition decisions of others. Their friendship and independent spirits led to the creation of Human Story Theatre.
Gaye and Amy met whilst working as role-players at Churchill’s Hospital in Oxford. The two realised they had common interests in theatre and creating their own productions and that both were also keen to do something to promote health and social care in the community. It was this shared ethos that prompted them to create Human Story Theatre. One of their first productions was Connie’s Colander which is a play about retired teacher, Connie, and her daughter, Emily and explores the impact of Connie’s Alzheimer’s on their lives. As well as the strong health and social care messages integral to the play, Gaye and Amy also organise a post-show question and answer session with a dementia specialist. The aim here is to explore issues with the play itself and then to provide correct medical answers, to any issues raised, afterwards. They presented Connie’s Colander in pop up shows playing in front of small audiences often in libraries or schools. Gaye and Amy attach great importance to the after-show information sessions and to them they are as important as the performance itself. The experts for these sessions are found locally such that wherever the performance is shown the experts on hand afterwards can provide information specific to that location. For Gaye and Amy this is key and gives them a feeling of being in contact with real people and of addressing real issues.