Loose Canons: Hayley Sproull

Loose Canons is a series where we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. This week's loose canon: actor and theatre-maker Hayley Sproull

Posted on

Loose Canons is a series where we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

Hayley Sproull is a Wellington-based actor, writer and avid harmoniser. When she isn't travelling the world with her marching drill team, she can be found sneaking into various rehearsal spaces to make theatre, like the award-winning Miss Fletcher Sings the Blues, You Make Me Feel Like a Nautral Woman, or Milky Bits, which she made with her theatre husbands Chris Parker and Leon Wadham. 

Her latest theatre offering, Vanilla Miraka, spawned from the disconnect she felt with her Māori heritage. From the perspective of a light-skinned Māori with no clue what's happening on the marae, Vanilla Miraka uses stand-up, song and sketch to ask 'where do I fit within my own culture?' and it'll have you dropping reo bombs faster than you can say 'where's the wharepaku?'


I tell people I’ve been to India a lot. “When I was in India…” can often be heard leaving my lips.

The truth is, I went to New Delhi, which most people will tell you is far from the ‘Indian Experience’ that comes to mind when you think of India. “New Delhi isn’t REAL India.” I guess this would be true, if you imagine someone saying they’ve been to New Zealand, when they really went to Auckland.  I climbed no mountain, I found no God. But somehow India has found its way into many of my stories, influenced so many of the experiences I seek and continually calls me back.

In New Zealand, it’s too easy for me to avoid the vulnerability and anxiety that comes with engaging in another culture. In India, it is not possible. You’re slapped in the face with it, hard, and you can do nothing but abandon yourself to its chaos and beauty. I love diving headfirst into different cultures around the world, trying to understand them, to honour them, to experience them whole-heartedly. Encountering my own culture… I find much more difficult. 

Daniel Kitson

When I first saw Daniel Kitson, it was the one and only moment I have watched a piece of work and thought ‘that’s the closest thing to what I want to do I’ve ever seen.’ Not stand-up comedy, not theatre – long-winded, hilarious story-telling that was both visually and aurally surprising. I don’t want to be a comedian, or an actor or a musician. I want to be whatever Daniel Kitson is. A funny person with an audience?


I live for the music of Queen. It brings me life. I’ve been listening to Queen since I was a tiny stupid baby, starting from the Greatest Hits we all know and love, and working my way through the deepest, darkest back catalogues that have never made the radio. John’s fat, smooth bass brings my hair on end, and Roger’s rusty tenor and head-banging drum fills make my breath short. I weep often about Freddie, and Brian’s harmonic guitar skills make me slur. You don’t listen to Queen, you experience it. The drama, the climaxes, the humour, the romance; it’s everything an audience should receive from any kind of performative or creative experience. I’d love to create art that makes people weep, scream, lose their breath and want to do it all over again the moment it’s finished. Long live the music of Queen. Please: do yourself a favour and dig deeper than Bohemian Rhapsody. There are riches to be found and it is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s Late is a good place to start.


Look, I wanted to avoid putting this here because it’s so… earnest. But I can’t escape the influence my family has had on the creator I’ve become, including the privileges my father (a clown posing as a finance company business owner) and mother (a singing, dancing fashionista posing as a home renovator) provided me with (I’m talking private school, piano lessons, three meals a day and a curfew that both let me explore and kept me alive).

Despite being a white, loving, middle-class family from Eastbourne, the Sproulls have grown into a pack of wild, endorphin-seeking creatives who claim every year as the ‘Year of The Sproulls’.  When we’re together, we think deep, we laugh loud and we work out how to eliminate anything that is inhibiting happiness. My brother (a musician and wordsmith who moonlights as an audio engineer) and I have blessed our parents with the pleasure of two artists as children. But it’s as a quartet that we are the strongest, as we share the weight that the pursuit of happiness brings.

Being a Shit Actress

It was about halfway through drama school that I realised I wasn’t a very good actress, and it was like, ‘Oh shit, I’m in too deep.’ I loved entertaining people, I loved making people laugh, and I thought I loved acting. But I would thrive offstage, and then they’d hand me a script from Hedda Gabler and I would be appalling. Not one to go back, I pretended I wasn’t shit for a couple more years, buying myself some time to work out how to make sure nobody else noticed. 

I did this by making work for myself to perform. I was good at speaking my own words offstage, so if I spoke my own words onstage, nobody would notice I wasn’t acting. They’d think what I was doing was, in fact, ‘good acting’. People liked it when I said my own words onstage, so I just kept making. And that’s why I make lots of shows – so that nobody notices I’m shit.

Nah, I won’t hate on Hayley too hard. I think that through doing this, through feeling like I had to make work to work at all, I lost all my ‘bad actor’ anxiety. Which has made me a much better actor, because in my own work, I could show people I was silly, I was funny, I could play the piano, I could move, I could talk fast, I could talk slow - rather than showing them I was Hedda Gabler… which no one ever did - or ever will – believe.

Vanilla Miraka
is on at the Basement Theatre
20-24 September