INTERVIEW: George Ure
George Ure talks to Glasgow Theatre Blog about his beginnings as a schoolboy in Lanarkshire to starring in London’s West End.
Can you tell us what inspired you to go on the path from schoolboy in Airdrie to West End star?
My parents took me to the local children’s theatre when I was about 8, purely to give me something to do on a Saturday. I was already studying piano and trumpet by this point so it was my first real experience of drama as such. Needless to say I loved it from the word go and have been at it ever since! I was fortunate to train at some great schools in Scotland, and also had a very supportive team of drama/music teachers at high school, so I was always very well guided.
You went straight from graduating into the West End, that doesn’t happen to many performers; how did your training prepare you for life in one of the biggest shows in the West End?
I certainly count myself as one of the lucky ones. It’s all about timing, and it just so happened that my dream job opened up at exactly the right time. I had the most wonderful three years at drama school, and I don’t think I would have been mentally prepared to go in to a show like Wicked without it. Lots of people are very talented singers, actors, dancers-that’s why they get in to colleges. But we were always given a very honest and realistic view of what to expect from the business, and likewise, what not to. Apart from the stamina of keeping up 8 shows a week, it’s how to deal with being a good company member, how to negotiate different personalities in a group, and how to remain grounded whilst being part of such a phenomenon.
What’s your best memory from your time in Wicked?
I spent three years with the show, so it would be impossible to pick just one. Admittedly, my very first show on 9th June 2008 will stay with me forever. Hearing that overture start then looking out to 2300 people was truly the most exhilarating moment of my life. I had only dreamed of being in the show, so the reality was everything I could have imagined, and so much more. Getting the call to say I was going to play Boq was huge too – it was the absolute cherry on top. There are too many funny moments and offstage memories which kept every day different. Some of them will stay closely guarded secrets!
Wicked fans are known for their fervent devotion to the show; have you had any interesting encounters with the fans?
I was (and am) always overwhelmed by the tremendous loyalty and support shown by fans of the show. They are a big part of your experience as a member of the cast and I always found them to be supportive, respectful and generous. There were a few interesting moments, like getting followed home on the tube, but you have to be prepared for the attention in such a huge West End show, and remember that it’s a heightened reality.
What do you think your strengths as a performer are?
I like to consider myself versatile, and always look to broaden my skills. The business calls for multi-faceted performers these days, so you have to be very pro-active in maintaining your voice, body and mind, and learning new things that can open up work to you.
You have been working at Italia Conti with young performers: can you tell us about that?
Being able to work in drama colleges and teach the standard of talent I am presented with every day is truly a joy. I spent a wonderful year with the students at Mountview Academy, and it’s great to have new faces at Italia Conti. Its reputation is world famous and the students are a joy.
What advice do you find yourself giving to the aspiring actors there?
I always aim to be completely honest with students, whether it is what they want to hear or not. This is a very exciting business to work in, but it is also a tough one, and I think it is vital to inform students of the highs and lows, and the do’s and dont’s as I see them from my experience.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The beautiful Harriet Thorpe (above) once told me “there are two types of people in your life; radiators and drains. Go to the radiator”. I stick by that at all times. I am always grateful to have been surrounded by such true friends.
You have been working as a freelance vocal coach, tell us about that.
This job takes me all over the place and makes every day interesting. I have the joy of being able to go to different colleges/schools, and work with highly talented individuals looking to make their way in the industry. I have recently been appointed Head of Music at West End Masterclass, which is a tremendous training ground for talent. The buzz from being a teacher is just as huge as standing on stage. When a student calls you to say they have their first job it’s the best. Last night I saw two of my boys play leads in Taboo, and have never felt prouder.
There are many Scottish theatre performers currently making their mark in musical theatre, what particular traits do you think that Scots performers have that makes them stand out from the rest?
The accent! Regional accents instantly grab people’s attention, and make you stand out. Also, Scots have “the banter”!
What advice would you give to a young person in Scotland who is thinking about embarking on a career in musical theatre?
Go for gold. Set your eyes on the prize and never settle for second best. If you are hungry, passionate and driven then you are half way there. Be a sponge – listen to EVERYONE and see what works for you. Be open and eager to learn. The only thing that will hold you back is yourself so aim high and push through.
What ambitions would you still like to fulfil?
There are lots of things I still want to do. I feel I am only at the start, and always look forward to what new opportunities may arise. An Oscar would be nice. So would a Tony and a number 1 album…time will tell. I’m not in a race to the finish.
Tell us what’s next for you in 2013 and beyond.
I am off to Dubai in April to play Tobias in Sweeney Todd for a limited run. This ticks off two of my dream roles and I am delighted to be part of this epic new production. After that…who knows? That’s the exciting part!
Do you have a message for your fans?
Thank you for your unwavering support, and for always being so wonderfully kind and loyal. You will never know how much it means to know you have so many people on your side in what is an unpredictable business.
Finally, describe yourself in three words for us!
Positive, Passionate, Happy….(And just a wee bit mental 😉 )
Follow George on Twitter @george_ure
More information about West End Masterclass here