Tag Archives: Amanda Fleming

Amanda Fleming on concussion and stitches and the serial killer Countess

Amanda: Originally, we were going to talk about The Countess

So I arranged to chat via Skype with my namesake but non-relation actress Amanda Fleming in Manchester. She has not been heard of in this blog since May 2015.

We were going to talk about her play The Countess, which we last talked about in February 2015.

But we got sidetracked…


JOHN: So, your vampire Countess woman…

AMANDA: She wasn’t a vampire; she was a serial killer.

JOHN: Well, she was Countess Dracula, in the Hammer horror film.

AMANDA: Yes. Ingrid Pitt. She’s still alive, isn’t she?

JOHN: Of course; she is one of the undead.

AMANDA: No, Ingrid Pitt… Well, the… I… Oh… Someone here wants to say hello… (A WHITE CAT APPEARS ON SKYPE AND SNIFFS THE SCREEN)… I have two cats now. This is Misty.

JOHN: Hello Misty. Lovely pink ears. Not the cat, of course. You.

AMANDA: Pink ears. But no earlobes.

JOHN: You or the cat?

AMANDA: Me… Look.

JOHN: No earlobes.You must be Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

AMANDA: What?

JOHN: From the James Bond films… You have no earlobes.

AMANDA: The Plantagenets didn’t have earlobes.

JOHN: You are a Plantagenet?

AMANDA: According to ancestry.com I am.

JOHN: Related to whom? Not Richard III, I hope.

AMANDA: Edward I… Longshanks.

JOHN: The Hammer of the Scots? I am Scottish. I am shocked and saddened.

AMANDA: Well, I have my Celtic side. My bloodline from about 1500 upwards is a bastardisation of the Tudors and the Plantagenets and then they married into Irish aristocracy from Wexford.

Forget the Planagenets and James Bond – clock the pink ears

JOHN: Accidents of birth.

AMANDA: I had an accident.

JOHN: You had an accident?

AMANDA: I had an accident. A window fell on me on 5th May this year. I finished work and went to the theatre pub where we were doing a show to do a bit of work on the synopsis. I was sitting in the beer garden, typing away on my laptop computer. I had had literally two sips out of a glass of Chardoney and I heard this crack and the edge of a pane of glass from an upstairs window hit me on the head.

JOHN: The pane or the frame?

AMANDA: The whole section of the middle part of the glass.

JOHN: It hit you flat or the edge hit you?

AMANDA: The edge. Luckily it was not two floors above me or I would have had time to look up and I would have been a goner. It was excruciating pain. I didn’t even know it had cut all down my face. The shock.

Apparently there was an improvisation performance going on upstairs and there was only a very thin wood panelling covering the window and blacking out the room and a guy bumped into the wood panelling. That loosened the centre part of the window which broke loose and fell down on me – about this size.

JOHN: Bloody hell! That’s about what? Two feet wide?

AMANDA: The circular centre with a jagged edge broke loose and fell and just thank God the jagged edge didn’t hit me or I would be dead. It hit the corner of my skull and slit down off the side of my face and that is why I have a big gash there.

JOHN: It was mostly impact damage?

AMANDA: Yes. It smashed on the floor. The police who came said: “Amanda, you’re very lucky. It would have been a lot worse if it had smashed on your head.”

You know when you bang your head sometimes? You come up too quickly and you hit your head on something? Imagine that, but five times more painful. I thought a piece of metal had hit me on the head. I didn’t realise it was glass. I got up and went: “Oh! What was… Aaaargghh!” and then it all went Boooofff! – There was blood everywhere.

The guys in the beer garden were going: “Shit!! Shit!!!” and all running round.

Amanda Fleming’s head cut – in May 2018

I had no idea of the extent of it. There was a 9 cm gash and I had to have two lots of stitches. I had them under, because it had cut an artery – That was why were was so much blood. Apparently I had lost half my body weight in blood by the time I got to the hospital.

It was a surreal experience, because I was talking and trying to crack jokes, but I could hear my voice slurring.

JOHN: Because of the impact; because of the concussion.

AMANDA: Yeah. I tried to do yoga breathing to keep myself calm, because I could feel myself… you know… the adrenaline. I was telling everyone else: “It’s OK! It’s OK, yes…” Crack a joke, crack a joke, crack a joke. But, inside, I was thinking: KEEP ALERT! KEEP ALERT! KEEP ALERT!

JOHN: You were trying to crack jokes?

AMANDA: I think it’s just a kind of survival instinct thing with me. To not think about what is actually happening.

By the time I got in, the surgeon realised the secondary artery – not the main carotid artery – the one next to it that goes down – had been sliced and that was why I had lost so much blood. So he had to do two lots of stitches: one lot to secure underneath and then on the top of the head as well.

There was a lot of work I had to cancel. I had about £2,500 of work booked in for the next six weeks and I had to cancel it all.

For the first couple of weeks afterwards, I was just numb everywhere. Now, near where the scar is, it’s like a weird kind of tingling. And, if I touch the right side of my head here, I feel it on the left side. It’s the weirdest thing ever.

JOHN: I was hit by a truck in 1991 and the back of my head hit the corner – the edge – of a low brick wall as I fell – My brain wasn’t even remotely right for about nine months with concussion coming and going. You must have had problems with the concussion.

AMANDA: It was weird. I had never had concussion before. I have noticed some of my words I have to think about a bit more now. And, when I’m typing fast, some of the letters go wrong… not all of them… just like, for example, if I mean to type WEAR it sometimes comes out as WAER.

As directed and produced by Amanda – The Countess in Salford, Manchester

JOHN: It hasn’t affected your acting?

AMANDA: Well, I think I’m going to go fully into directing now. It has changed my life – the way I look at my life now. Definitely.

JOHN: You look up a lot more?

AMANDA: Don’t even get me started on that… That’s still an anxiety I’m trying to get over… When I see scaffolding ahead of me, I have to cross the road.

JOHN: But it’s changed your life more fundamentally?

AMANDA: Yes. I used to over-think things all the time. Things I could not really do anything about. It would frustrate me and get me angry and make me bitter about things. But, since this happened – even though lots of negative stuff came with it – the sensations and shooting pains and things – on a personal level, it has made me realise that, right now I should be doing everything to enjoy myself and do what I love rather than worrying about what could have been or what people think or whatever.

JOHN: And why has that happened? Because you could have been killed?

AMANDA: That’s it, yes.

JOHN: Why have you decided not to act?

AMANDA: I haven’t decided I’m not going to act – if something comes up in films or commercials or voice-over or whatever, I will still do it, but I’m not going to act in theatre any more: I’m going to direct theatre and I’m getting a strong passion for film-making and directing.

JOHN: Why?

AMANDA: I think because I have more scope and creativity there. When you’re an actor, you only have a specific area where you can create. Having been in acting for like 30 years, I can bring my actor’s side to directing. You are in charge of your own creativity.

JOHN: Anyway, we are supposed to be talking about your Countess woman thing.

The Countess was a success in Todmorden’s Gothic church

AMANDA: I wanted to make it historical but with a supernatural twist. We put it on for three performances at Todmorden, because they have an amazing Gothic church there. Ideally, we would like to tour round the country in those types of venues. We did two performances in Manchester last month, because people who saw it in Todmorden told people in Manchester and there was a demand… It sold out in Manchester.

We cant afford to stage it in Edinburgh, but we are trying to get the funding together to take it to the festivals at what they call The Three Bs – Brighton, Buxton and Bath. But we would like to tour it round rural venues like barns and village halls.

JOHN: Or castles?

AMANDA: We’d like to! We are going to get a video – a 60 second ‘taster’ – and press pack together.

JOHN: Sounds like it has movie potential, too.

AMANDA: Yes. Or maybe an amazing Gothic opera.

JOHN: And it’s the Countess Dracula woman?

AMANDA: Well, she wasn’t a vampire, though some sources say she was somehow distantly related to Vlad the Impaler.

JOHN: Blood relatives.

AMANDA: Maybe. Might not be true. 

JOHN: But she was for real.

AMANDA: Yes. Countess Elizabeth Báthory. She was a Hungarian aristocrat in the 1500s who murdered at least 650 people – 90% women plus some men – probably more than 650, but those were only the bodies they found. 

JOHN: 650 is going it some… Was there a ‘trigger’?

AMANDA: She started by knocking off peasant girls and bathing in their blood. She didn’t want to grow old. Blood is kind of soft and moisturising – it’s the plasma in it. She must have thought: Ooooh! It makes yer skin go really soft! That was the trigger.

The Countess – by Amanda Fleming – “Historical but with a supernatural twist”

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Improbability factor of L.A. actress and a man at the Edinburgh Fringe, London

Charlie Wood(Underbelly), William Burdett-Coutts (Assembly), Ed Bartlam (Underbelly), Karen Koren (Gilded Balloon), Kath Maitland (Edinburgh Fringe), Anthony Alderson (Pleasance)

(L-R) Big 4 Fringe venue owners Charlie Wood (Underbelly), William Burdett-Coutts (Assembly), Ed Bartlam (Underbelly), Karen Koren (Gilded Balloon), Kath Maitland (Edinburgh Fringe) and Anthony Alderson (Pleasance)

Tonight, I am going to a London Fortean Society lecture by David J Hand on The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles and Rare Events Happen Every Day.

Well, one happened last night when I went to the ‘Big Four’ venues’ Edinburgh Fringe launch at the Udderbelly on London’s South Bank.

I was with Rochdale-born, L.A.-based actress and producer Amanda Fleming (no relation). She was off getting drinks (that is what producers do) when I was accosted by two people – a man and woman.

“Where are you from?” they asked me.

It turned out they meant: “What do you do?”

They were theatre producer Jude Merrill and writer/performer Saikat Ahamed, plugging their new Edinburgh Fringe production Strictly Balti.

“We were told,” said Jude, “that the important thing to do to get publicity was to find bloggers.”

“That’s only,” I said, “because no-one knows what’s going on in the media now and people are clutching at any and every unknown straw.”

Strange results from a decision in Birmingham

Strange results from a parental decision in Birmingham, UK

Strictly Balti tells the true story of how Saikat Ahamed’s Bangladeshi parents in Birmingham – a family of lawyers, doctors and suchlike respectable professionals – did not want him to become an actor so persuaded him to take dancing lessons. The result was that he decided he wanted to become an actor.

At this point, Amanda Fleming (no relation) came back with drinks.

I introduced her to them.

They had a little chat.

Saint Ahamed, Jude Merrill and Amanda Fleming last night

Saikat Ahamed, Jude Merrill & Amanda Fleming (no relation)

Then Saikat Ahamed said to Amanda Fleming (no relation): “Have I met you?”

There was a pause.

“Did you stay in my house?” he asked.

I looked at Amanda Fleming (no relation).

I saw the sudden realisation on her face.

“Good God!” she said.

“I had a house in Ilford,” Saikat told me.

“You did?” I asked. “I was partly brought up in Ilford. Your house wasn’t 39 Mitcham Road was it?” I asked.

“No,” he replied.

“That’s a pity,” I said. “I would have been an even better coincidence.”

“I was doing a pantomime,” said Amanda Fleming (no relation).

“Oh no you weren’t,” I said.

“Oh yes I was,” said Amanda Fleming (no relation).

From Birmingham, Ilford, Rochdale and London to this

From Birmingham, Ilford, Rochdale and Los Angeles to Edinburgh Fringe London launch

“We had a mutual friend, Lee,” said Saikat Ahamed. “You weren’t staying there long.”

“It was only,” said Amanda Fleming (no relation), “like two or three weeks, during rehearsal time.”

They had not seen each other for around 15 years and then only for a few weeks and he had accosted me randomly as I passed at an Edinburgh Fringe press launch to which Amanda Fleming (no relation) had also come. As she was temporarily not in L.A.

Tonight, I will be paying special attention to The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles and Rare Events Happen Every Day.

Who knows what may happen?

There is a trailer for Strictly Balti on youTube.

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Actress Amanda Fleming: Hollywood reality and dreams of Gothic nightmares

No prizes for guessing where Amanda and I met

No prizes for guessing where Amanda and I met last week…

The last time I blogged about my actress/film-producing namesake Amanda Fleming was in October last year when she had just produced and directed short film What a Drag.

What a Drag has now been accepted into 15 international film festivals this year, including Cannes.

Amanda was at Cannes last year too – as an actress and facilitator representing a 26-minute short she acted in: Titans of Newark.

After Cannes this year, she is probably returning to Los Angeles.

“I want to set up a Theatre In Education company over there,” she told me.

“What other projects are in the pipeline?”

Amanda directed and produced What a Drag!

Amanda Fleming directed What a Drag!

“When I go back to the States, I’m going to put on The Countess, the one-hour show about Countess Báthory. I was thinking about doing it as a movie, but then I thought: D’y’know, I might put that aside and stage it at the Los Angeles Fringe. Because I want to do something a little more gritty. I was going to do a 10 or 15 minute comedy horror film to begin with – The Fingernail That Never Grew – a sort-of Carry On spoofy Hammer.”

“You seem partial to a bit of Gothic horror,” I said. “You must have interesting dreams.”

“I’ve always had very vivid dreams since I was a very young child and, when I was 18, I started writing them down. Now I’ve got about 280 written down. Some are just a typical dream mishmash of what’s happened in your day and your brain is sorting it out. But there are others that, when you read through them, it sounds like a really, really good storyline. Some are supernatural; some are emotional.”

“Next week,” I told her, “I’m going to some Dream event, but I almost never remember my dreams. I wish I did. Can you string your dreams together to make a single narrative?”

“Yes,” said Amanda. “Or it could be a feature-length film of short Gothic horror stories.

The double cross dresser and the drag queen

What a Drag! – at Cannes and 14 other international festivals

“Not all the buyers at Cannes are looking for feature-length movies. Some are looking for short films to put on their TV channels between the main shows.

“Last year, Titans of Newark got picked up in Germany and I think China.”

“Would you prefer,” I asked her, “to make an anthology of your dreams rather than a single narrative?”

“If it was a single narrative,” laughed Amanda, “people might think: Is this person off her head? Some the stuff: you’d think I was on drugs.”

“Non-naturalism is perfect for a film, though,” I suggested. “If you’re in the area of bizarre, surreal horror anyway, then the more visually ridiculous the better.”

“I had a recurring dream,” said Amanda, “of a black panther in a tree. It was always round a corner. I had to try and go round – it was like a forest – a little cottage on the side. And I had to go round there and every single time – even though the panther would disappear – I would know it was there and then I could see its eyes and then the full body would appear and it wouldn’t let me pass until, one day, he did.

Not bad for a young girl from Rochdale

Not bad progress for a girl from Rochdale

“And another dream was about a white house on a hill. That was one of the most terrifying dreams I’ve ever had. It was a recurring one and the fear I used to feel from dreaming that dream was unbearable at times. It would wake me up.”

“You couldn’t,” I asked, “get to the white house on the hill?”

“I got closer each time I had the dream,” explained Amanda. “Each time I used to see, when I got closer and looked up at the house, the silhouette of a woman in the house, looking out of the window.”

“Sounds a bit Psycho-ish,” I said.

“You know those old Victorian houses,” asked Amanda, “where they used to have a huge greenhouse? – like a big hothouse and the lady of the house would go in there and water her plants – it was beautiful, domed, but long – and the main bedroom, which was hers, there was a door which went onto a balcony overlooking this huge hothouse. But I didn’t get to that point until just before the dreams stopped.

“Eventually, when I finally managed to pluck up the courage to open the door, I walked out onto the balcony and it was almost like an invisible force was trying to push me over it.

“The next time I dreamt that same dream, I went back onto the balcony again and I felt a strangulation round my neck. Then, the next time, there was the strangulation AND I felt like I was being pushed over the balcony. But, as I was seeing this happen in my dream, I also saw there was a rope hanging above the balcony and I realised whoever I was dreaming about had been murdered and hung there.

“That dream was terrifying because it was recurring. I was so scared of going back to the house every single time. I still remember how it looked. There was a narrow road with a brook running beside and I remember a small pub and a grove with trees and then you could see the white house on the hill.

“And I’ve been writing poetry since I was 12. I’ve got all those – over 500 poems. I’d like to put them all together with dates at the top and collect them in a book. If it makes money, that’s OK; if not, that’s not an issue.

“There’s an old saying: You try and you fail and you try and you fail, but the only true failure is when you stop trying.”

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My LA-based namesake from Rochdale double-cross-dresses with a drag queen

Amanda Fleming at Soho Theatre this week

Amanda Fleming at Soho Theatre this week

When I last chatted to L.A. based but Rochdale-brought-up actress Amanda Fleming (no relation) it was as an actress in the 26-minute short Titans of Newark. Now she has produced and directed her own short film.

“It’s called What a Drag,” she told me at London’s Soho Theatre this week.

“How did it start off?” I asked.

“David Carlisle, a friend of mine, does a lot of personal dressing for people.”

“Personal dressing?”

“He’s a stylist.”

“Ah.”

“But he also has this pseudonym Candy Floss – a drag queen character – I’ve seen him go out as Candy Floss and…”

“You mean he performs as Candy Floss?” I asked. “He doesn’t meander the streets in drag?”

“Well, he dresses up and he gets paid to make an appearance every now and then. We used to talk about Oh, let’s do a webisode – some banter between a drag queen and a drag king – a female dressing up as a man.”

“So you were going to dress up as Burlington Bertie or whatever?”

“I was originally. But another friend of mine, Cherry Blossom, is a drag queen.”

At this point, if I were capable of raising a Roger Moore eyebrow, I would have done.

“I know,” laughed Amanda, “my whole life is full of drag queens. But they both came down to London from Manchester in drag to see me for Gay Pride and…”

“They came down in drag?” I asked.

A still from the final version of the short film What A Drag

A still from the final version of the short film What A Drag

“Yes. When they came down, I thought we should do a short 10-minute film, documentary-style, about these two characters. But then I thought Do you know what would be really great? If it was a proper 25-minute documentary – but a comedy version – a mocku-docu-drama. You know how you get these reality TV shows now where they’re supposed to be real but aren’t?

“So we discussed doing a spoof documentary where they are asked about their lives, but there are flashbacks to their past – little drama clips in between – that shows the reality was the complete opposite of what they’re actually saying.”

“With you directing?” I asked.

“Yes,” replied Amanda. “I like Mike Leigh films. He and Quentin Tarantino are two of the directors I really like.”

“That’s a bit of a…” I started to say.

“I am a bit eclectic,” Amanda explained.

“If they did each other’s films,” I suggested, “that would be very interesting. I would pay to see Mike Leigh’s Pulp Fiction and Quentin Tarantino’s Abigail’s Party.

“Yes,” said Amanda, trying to get back to the subject. “Mike Leigh gets actors to improvise scenes from basic bullet-points…”

“Perhaps Mike Leigh should create Queens With Machine Guns,” I suggested.

The very feminine Amanda - she had to double cross dress

The very feminine Amanda – she had to double cross dress

“So,” said Amanda, forcing the conversation back on track, “I got together the basic outline – the beginning, the middle and the end – and then the important thing was to get the right questions which would provoke outrageous answers and good improvised scenes. We did all that and then, right at the last minute, the guy who was playing Cherry Blossom got taken into hospital. So I had to stand in for him.”

“As a drag act?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Amanda. “But it changed from being two drag queens to being a drag queen and a cross dresser.”

“So,” I checked, “you were a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman?”

The double cross dresser and the drag queen

Spot the woman: the double cross dresser and the drag queen

“Yes,” said Amanda. “We did one scene and played it back and we were pissing ourselves laughing because it looked so wrong. When you watch it, you don’t really know it’s me. It’s really dodgy.”

“Dodgy in what way?” I asked.

“Dodgy as in funny. Quirky. The thing is that one of the characters is oblivious to a lot of the insults which the other character is throwing at her and it’s not until towards the end you suddenly realise it has started to sink in and they end up in this massive…”

“Has it got a twist at the end?” I asked.

"It could turn into a full-length feature or TV comedy series,”

“It could turn into a full-length feature or TV comedy series,”

“Of a type,” said Amanda. “Some people we showed it to loved it; some people didn’t. We are going to do a mini-screening in Manchester and then hit the international film festivals with it. We are going to try to get it into Cannes next year. I got Titans of Newark in there last year, so I know some of the organisers.”

“It is a very good elevator pitch,” I said. “A drag queen improvises with a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman.”

“It could turn into a full-length feature or a TV comedy series,” said Amanda.

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I meet my namesake Amanda Fleming, an LA actress who found her rock band father after 16 Sudden years in Rochdale

Last Wednesday, I got an e-mail. It read:

Hi John

I have a film, Titans of Newark. Being a fellow Fleming, I was wondering if you could do me the honour and help with creating a buzz about it. I play the goddess Hera and it is on at the Short Film Corner during the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Amanda Fleming

Amanda Fleming in the award-winning Titans of Newark

Amanda Fleming in award-winning short Titans of Newark

I looked at the film trailer on YouTube and I met Amanda at the National Film Theatre yesterday, but we barely talked about the film.

“My mum was very young when she had me,” said Amanda. “She was just turned 18. I was conceived in the summer of 1969. What can I say? He was in a band. She was a bit of a hippie. Apparently my father was in his early 20s and in a rock band which had a one-hit wonder. About four years later, my mother ended up marrying someone else. I was brought up by my grandparents in Rochdale; they legally adopted me, so my aunties became my sisters.

“By the time I was 16, I was sick and tired of asking my mother who my real father was. I think, at various times, she told me his name was Bob, James and lots of other names and eventually I said: I’m not speaking to you ever again unless you tell me the truth. She told me he was called Ian but not his surname and she told me: He’s red-haired like you.

“So, one day, I decided Right! I’m going to find out who he is. I set off at five in the morning. I knew he was called Ian, had red hair, looked a bit like me and lived somewhere in Sudden, which is an area of Rochdale.

“I was only 16. I didn’t realise how big Sudden was. I got there about six in the morning. There are about 150 streets. I started on one side of Sudden and the first street I came to was called (Amanda told me the name of the street).

“I knocked on a door and, by this time, it was seven in the morning. It was a young couple. Luckily they were getting up for work. I said I’m looking for my real father and I told them He’s called Ian, he’s got red hair, he was in a band and he lives somewhere in Sudden.

“They said: Sorry. He’s not here. We haven’t been here very long in this street. So I spent the entire day knocking on ten doors in every street.

“By about 6.30 at night, I was distraught. I thought: I’m never going to find him. What am I doing? What am I thinking of? I started crying. I was about to give up and there was an Old People’s Home that’s shut down since and I saw there was a small pathway to another street and I thought: I wonder if I’ve been on that street? And it was the street I’d first gone to. But it was the other end of that street and I was about to give up but I thought I’ll try one more time and I knocked on a door and an old couple opened it.

“I was crying.

“They said: Hello. You alright, then?

“I said: I’ve spent all day – cry, cry – Nobody knows who he is – cry. cry – My father.

Oh sweetheart, they said. What’s his last name?

“I said: I don’t know. All I know is he was in a band, he’s got red hair, he’s called Ian and…

Oh, that’s Ian and his brother Alan, they said. They’re not living there any more, but his parents are still there at No 16.

“So I ran to No 16, banged on the door and this old lady came out. She looked right at me and said: You’re Amanda, aren’t you?

“Apparently my aunts had taken me at 18 months old to say: Hey! You need to tell your son he has a daughter. He was away on a three-year tour with his band in Europe. He was doing really well and so he didn’t know anything about it and they wanted to keep it quiet because they didn’t want it to interfere with his life. But they’d matured since then and they were a lot more laid back and relaxed, so they said: Come on in.

“I was really shocked. I thought: I’ve actually found them!

“They got on the phone to my dad and he came down and I think he must have asked me about 25 times: So, how are you? That’s all he seemed to ask me.

Amanda at the NFT in London yesterday

Amanda at the National Film Theatre in London yesterday

“And, when I found my dad, that was my excuse to go fully into entertainment. He was an entertainer. So I went to Oldham Theatre Workshop and went to drama school. After that, I did a lot of theatre, a lot of Rep, worked for the Cambridge Shakespeare Company and a lot of other things.

“Independent film was just starting to pick up in the early 1990s so I did that and I also did corporates and bits on TV and radio and worked for a company called Absolute Murder that did improv theatre murder mysteries. Then I started up my own theatre company DeProfundis Productions.”

“Why DeProfundis?” I asked.

“I thought it was a good name for a company which is new writing, semi-Gothic productions with maybe a bit of sci-fi mixed in there. I grew up loving Hammer House of Horror and I loved the idea of bringing Gothic theatre to the public. So I wrote an hour-long semi-Gothic interpretation of Elizabeth Báthory‘s story.”

“She’s the one who bathed in virgins’ blood…” I said.

“Yes,” said Amanda, “she was reputed to have murdered 650 people over 30 years.”

“So you learned about improvising murders,” I said, “and then you wrote about a woman mass murderer. That’s rather scary.”

“Yes,” laughed Amanda, “but I also used to do touring pantomimes all the time. I loved it. It’s the meat-and-potatoes of theatre training. And then someone said: Have thou ever thought of doing comedy adult pantos? So, in 2005, I set up Carry-on-Antics Pantomimes.

Amanda - Oh yes it is! - in a saucy panto

Amanda – Oh yes it is! – in a saucy Carry On type UK panto

“My dad said he was proud of me for doing that but he didn’t come to see any of the shows because he said: I don’t want to see you in that way. There was no nudity. It was just tongue-in-cheek, very slapstick, very Carry On. It wasn’t that rude. I arranged a six-week tour; five shows a week. We did Big Dick Whittington with his pussy and, the next year, Little Red Romping Hood and Hot Cinders. It was pure comedy.”

Amanda went to Los Angeles in 2007.

Amanda with red hair in 2011

Amanda with red hair in 2011

“I got a three-year visa and I was only going to use it to go over for the pilot season, which is January 10th to round about April – three months of intense auditions for episodes in up-and-coming productions and for new characters in already-running productions.

“Then I was going to come back to the UK, because I was supposed to be getting booked to arrange a third year of pantos – a 10-week tour. But that year – 2007 – the recession hit and only three of the venues re-booked. So I stayed in the US and signed with a US agent and, for the first six months, it was mostly getting my face known.”

“What’s your pitch?” I asked. “I’m the new Helen Mirren?”

Amanda with blonde hair in 2009

Amanda with blonde hair in 2009

“Someone did say,” laughed Amanda, “that I’m a younger Helen Mirren mixed with Meryl Streep… but then someone also said I was like Bette Midler!”

“This Titans of Newark film,” I said, “which we haven’t talked about. It  was filmed in 2012?”

“The latter end, yes,” said Amanda. “It was edited up to the beginning of 2013, then went round all the festivals. The budget on Titans of Newark was quite low – it was done as a student project – but it’s been winning awards at lots of film festivals. And now I’m going over to Cannes in May to plug it even more.”

“As a kid, did you want to perform or be famous?” I asked. “They’re different.”

Not bad for a young girl from Rochdale

Not bad for a young girl from Rochdale…

“When you first leave drama school,” said Amanda. “you’re all Ooh! I’m going to be famous! but it doesn’t work like that. It’s a lot of hard work and plugging yourself. You gotta do a lot of PR and get your face in as many places as possible. Now I’d rather people come to me and say I really respect you as an actor and as a business person and entrepreneur. I’d rather have that sort of pat on the back than celebrity. Though, of course, if opportunity knocks – Great!”

The 26-minute Titans of Newark movie is viewable online.

Always a pleasure to meet a Fleming.

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