July 25 2014 Latest news:

An aspiring Norwich actress has spoken of how her dream of a career on the stage helped her recover from a long illness.

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Now the former Thorpe St Andrew School pupil is heading to London to follow her ambition and is fundraising for her drama school fees.

Nineteen-year-old Joy Cruickshank, who lives in the Aylsham Road area, first started acting when she was four, playing the Rat Queen in The Nutcracker for one of her first roles, and she described her love of performance as her “light at the end of the tunnel” as she coped with years of illness and depression, which started when she was 14.

Miss Cruickshank said she found it hard to go into details of her health problems, but she said: “My teenage years were pretty difficult. I ended up in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and then Addenbrooke’s. I was physically and mentally exhausted really and I am still recovering.”

She added: “Acting has always been what makes me happy and when I was really ill I did not have the energy to act at all or do any performances. That really upset me and I realised I needed to get better so I could pursue acting as a career. It has really been what saved me. It was the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Last November she returned to the stage, starting rehearsals for a Sewell Barn Theatre production of Les Misérables in which she played Eponine. Since then she has performed in a number of shows with the company including You Never Can Tell, and The Comedy of Errors.

She has played Hoddle in Livewire Opera Company’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, been in shows with Norfolk Youth Music Theatre, and appeared in a couple of short films with Dr Sarcastic Pictures.

“In the last year I have really been trying to do as much as possible,” she said. “At first I really struggled to get any energy, but as each show goes on I have been feeling like my energy levels have increased. Each show is a stepping stone. It is all I have ever wanted, and it feels like everything is coming together.”

This weekend she is heading off to a two-week acting course with the National Youth Theatre in Manchester. In September she is moving to London to study a part-time foundation acting course at the Academy of Live Recorded Arts, with the goals of securing a place on a drama degree and, further into the future, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company.

While she intends to work full-time to fund her studies, Miss Cruickshank is also putting her efforts into fundraising because, as well as living costs in London, tuition fees for the course will be £1,895, and a degree course even more. She recently organised a fundraising gig at The Bicycle Shop, in St Benedicts Street, and has set up a fundraising blog where she is also documenting her career progress.

Miss Cruickshank’s blog is at http://joy-agirlwithagoal.blogspot.co.uk/

Do you know a rising star who is soon to appear in the West End or on TV? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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