In the pre-school animated series Milo, Eleanor Stollery voices the regular role of Lark, and the show has been shortlisted at this year’s Broadcast Awards for Best Pre-School Programme. In 2019, Eleanor made her professional stage debut at The Old Vic, where she played Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, and she has since gone on to play the character in 2020 and 2021. At just under four years old, Eleanor was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour which has left her visually impaired, and her journey is shared online to her website Eleanor’s Voice to raise awareness. Speaking with Eleanor, she talks about voicing the role of Lark in Milo, making her professional stage debut as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol and her website Eleanor’s Voice.
You voice the role of Lark in the pre-school series Milo, can you tell us about the show and your character?
Each episode explores the world of a different vocation in a fun but educational way. Lark is chirpy, funny, giggly and knows a lot but is not a know-it-all. Lark enjoys being with her two friends – Milo and Lofty – and when they get it wrong, and she gets it right, she does so with a big smile of friendship.
What do you enjoy most about working on Milo?
I love going to the recording studio, because I get to transform myself from Eleanor to Lark each time I visit! Working on Milo I have been really lucky to have worked with and learn from some of the best people in the business.
How do you find the experience voicing a role for a TV series?
It’s fun voicing a character that younger children will enjoy and learn from. I like the way I can use my voice differently to express different emotions and meanings.
Can you tell us how it felt finding out Milo has been shortlisted for Best Pre-School Programme at this year’s Broadcast Awards?
I was excited to learn that the show has been shortlisted for an award. It would be amazing if it wins. I’d like to walk on a red carpet one day!
In 2019, you made your professional stage debut as Tiny Tim at The Old Vic in A Christmas Carol, how was this?
My first year at The Old Vic was probably the most amazing experience of my life so far. I worked alongside some wonderfully talented people who have since stayed in touch with me and my family. I was lucky that this was my first production because it felt like we became one big family. I was also very lucky to have met Daniel Radcliffe who was in the building at the same time as I was, rehearsing for his production. I was really nervous before my first performance playing Tiny Tim, but once I was on that stage the feeling was amazing.
You’ve gone on to play the character in 2020 and 2021, what is your favourite aspect of playing Tiny Tim?
Even though Tiny Tim is quite a small part of the production, he’s definitely an integral one and changes Scrooge for the better, I love the emotion that my part brings to the audience.
What was it like being part of the cast in each production and how was it performing during the pandemic?
Each year was a very different experience for me. In 2019, it was my first time on stage and I was only eight years old. In 2020, the biggest difference for me was not having the warmth of an audience around me in the auditorium because we were performing to camera, socially distanced, and in 2021, we still had quite strict COVID rules, so the experience wasn’t as family-like as it was in 2019, but it was so lovely being back performing in front of a live audience, nothing can replace that immediate reaction.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
Since I was very young I have always loved singing and performing different characters and voices in front of my family. The ladies that used to look after me at my local creche still remember me making them laugh with my silly acting and voices. I have attended a few local drama clubs and have always really enjoyed those experiences. To be able to do this professionally is a dream come true for me.
Do you have any favourite films, TV or theatre shows?
I’m a massive Harry Potter fan, I love the audiobooks and Stephen Fry’s voice. I have watched all the Harry Potter films (they all have audio description), but not all films are accessible to me. If I was to pick a favourite of mine more recently it would be School of Rock with Jack Black. Theatre is often very difficult to access for visually impaired people, there needs to be more Audio Described performances, as they are so few and far between, sometimes only once a year. A favourite of mine which I have only been able to experience once so far is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like making things, small things, especially out of air dry clay or LEGO. I like to draw but it isn’t very easy for me with my visual impairment. I like messing about with braille, making up stories, and I love my cat Phoebe.
What was it like appearing on CBeebies for YolanDa’s Band Jam?
This was my first time working in front of a camera with a director, cameraman and sound engineer, they were all so nice to work with. I was just being myself at a music festival, we spent the weekend in Liverpool and I got to meet lots of people I had only ever listened to on children’s TV. It was a really fun experience and I would like to do more work on screen.
You were diagnosed with a brain tumour, how is the experience balancing acting alongside receiving treatment?
I have been in treatment for a very long time and will continue to be, to try and keep my brain tumours under control. Some of the treatment I’ve had has made me lose my hair and be very sick. My first and second year at The Old Vic was particularly tough as the chemotherapy made me feel awful, but acting was a huge distraction, kept me going and made me feel very happy. During my voice recording for Milo, I had to have a short break for major neurosurgery, and knowing that I had the recording to go back to, working with some really lovely people, gave me something else to think about at what was a really tough time for me.
As a visually impaired actor, how do you find working on projects and do you have a process of learning scripts?
I have quite a good memory, that helps me a lot with scripts. I can also read and write braille, as I have had to learn that at school, so I can keep up with the work my classmates are set in print. At both The Old Vic and Milo, my colleagues have been very understanding and have adapted really well to working with a visually impaired person.
Can you tell us about your website Eleanor’s Voice?
When I was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of almost four, and lost my eyesight, my mummy and daddy decided to share my story to raise awareness and try to help others in a similar situation. Now that I’m a little older I understand that it really has helped people, and that makes me happy. Also, every time we update my story, I get to decide what we share and what we don’t share about my journey.
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