Industry Insiders: Top Tips for Making Your Own Work

Welcome back to our Industry Insiders: Top Tips from Industry Professionals series.

Here at The Courtyard, we’re so fortunate to be surrounded by incredibly talented people who specialise in a diverse range of disciplines. From set designers, directors, technical operators and performers to musicians, writers, choreographers and teachers – we approached some of the fantastic practitioners for our Industry Insiders series that we work with to share their top tips for people who are looking to succeed in the arts.

Let us introduce you to Madeleine MacMahon.

Industry Insiders: Top Tips from Madeleine MacMahon image - a woman with short hair smiling

Madi is an actress, singer, stand-up and cabaret performer.

Hereford based audiences will recognise her from her roles in Courtyard Pantomimes (Tink, Octavia, Berontha) and in Feral Productions’ latest projects Hush Now and Feral Tales.

Other credits include: Into The Woods (Jack’s Mother) The Cockpit Theatre, The Tempest (Sebastianne) Creation Theatre, A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) (Sally) Silent Uproar & Tour and Kings (Caz) Smoke & Oakum / New Diorama Theatre.

Madi recently won the Max Turner Comedy Prize 2021 for new comedians and was longlisted for a Funny Women 2020 Award.

You can read more about Madi here on her website.


Here are Madi’s top tips for those looking at creating their own work.



Woman wearing a white shirt with her hand across her heart

Make something honest. I don’t mean you can’t lie. Oh god, lie all you like. Make up people and characters and places and dialogue or anything. What I mean is, start with an idea that means something to you. A story you want to tell, or an idea that moves or angers you (anger is a good place to start, actually!). Because if you’re emotionally invested, you’re going to find it easier to revisit the idea and want to make it better.



Person wearing a yellow jumper writing on a notepad

Writing doesn’t always mean writing down. It can, if you like. But not every chef follows recipes. Sure, Shakespeare had someone write it all down eventually, but he didn’t have voice notes! I ‘wrote’ an hour long in my cabaret in my head by thinking about it when I went running. I didn’t know that was allowed. It is.



Two women sit across the table from one another. There is paper, pens and a pair of glasses on the table

Nod and smile (or don’t) and know that some people will always give their opinion when it hasn’t been asked for (they’re also the “Not a question really, more of a comment…” people at a Q & A). Let the secretary in your head be in charge of filtering out what’s useful. If you’re not sure, ask yourself what that person’s experience is. Do you think they’re your target audience? Do you value their opinion? If yes, maybe store it for when you’re feeling ready to hear it. If not, turn up at their job in a few weeks time with some helpful suggestions on their productivity in the workplace. I’m joking (I’m not).



Hands holding a mobile phone, on the phone the TikTok app is open

Work doesn’t have to feel like it. Netflix counts as research. Tiktok is full of people making amazing, creative stuff. Watch things and be inspired. And tell people if you like what they make. Suffering for your art is very Dickensian. You don’t need to be hunched over a typewriter at 3am to be creative.



A camera is set up to film a woman who is blurred in the background

Don’t wait for something to be perfect. It never will be. Book a space, or record a bit, or ‘write it down’ and show it to someone. Every brilliant thing that exists went through stages of development that started with someone sharing an idea. All the things you love will have had people encourage and nudge them along the way. It it’s live, try and record it, so that once you’ve had a few days of saying “Wasn’t it fabulous!”, you can watch it back to see what worked and what you want to tweak. This helps me massively.



A woman wearing a yellow jumper giving herself a hug

That is all!