Category Archives: INTERVIEWS

The Monster and Mary Shelley, an interview with performer Catherine Gillard, director Peter Clerke and writer Stewart Ennis

In celebration of 200 years since the publication of her most famous novel Frankenstein, The Occasion Theatre has announced the Scottish tour of their new production exploring the life of Mary Shelley.

Director Peter Clerke, writer Stewart Ennis, and performer Catherine Gillard gives us some insight into the production that begins at the Tron Theatre on 20th April.

What drew you to a play about Mary Shelley?

Peter: Firstly, the details of her life; which was remarkable. The more you discover about what she achieved and lived through, the more fascinating she becomes as a person. Then there’s the whole period through which she lived, a time of enormous scientific discovery, of philosophical and cultural change. She was at the forefront of this new, bold world; a world rich with possibilities for dramatisation and of great relevance to the present day.

What can people expect when they come to see The Monster and Mary Shelley?

Catherine: An entertaining production which celebrates the fascinating life of Mary Shelley and asks questions about how and why she went about writing her most famous novel. As a one woman performance the story is told from Mary’s point of view using different incidents from her life, but we look at these from a contemporary view – as if Mary was here today and looking back from now. This isn’t a naturalistic drama – it’s an atmospheric and abstract interpretation of what she might be thinking today looking back.

Peter: It’s been a fascinating show to work on and the contributions from everyone involved – writer, musician, actor, set and lighting designers – have been immense. We think it’ll entertain, introduce a very significant writer and thinker to a new audience and, hopefully, provoke a few questions along the way.

How did you approach writing The Monster and Mary Shelley?

Stewart: I read a couple of biographies of her including an early one by Muriel Spark, who revisited and revised her Mary Shelley biography throughout her life. Then of course, when we discovered that 2018 was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, along came a never-ending stream of books, articles, lectures, radio documentaries etc.  That said, this was never going to be a straightforward historical drama with an actress dressed up in period costume, telling us Mary Shelley’s life from the day she was born until the day she died. It was more a case of forming an impression of Mary Shelley that allowed us to be playful with her but which also felt truthful and respectful, and figuring out how this extraordinary woman’s life and work had relevance for us today.

Rehearsal image: Stewart Ennis

The play explores some of the events in Mary’s life that led to the creation of Frankenstein. How do you weave humour into this at times tragic story?

Stewart: I think that a creative spirit like Mary Shelley must have had a sense of humour; her letters and journals suggest as much. Yes, there was a great deal of tragedy in her life, and a lot of it is explored in this show, but it feels important not to define her by it, or in some way to present her as tragic or as a victim. She lived a life and she dealt with her troubles, and like any human being, humour is one way of dealing with that. The style of the show also helps in that respect.  The language is quite anachronistic but we have also included readings from Frankenstein, songs, and theatrical elements from her time, such as melodrama.

Catherine: We have to remember that Mary Shelley was a teenager when she wrote Frankenstein. She didn’t lead up to writing this book with the idea that it would define her – she was just living and coping with everything that life threw at her. And it wasn’t all wonderful – her mother died shortly after Mary’s birth; her father remarried soon afterwards and Mary didn’t get on particularly well with her new stepmother; she was well educated then bundled off to Scotland around the age of 14; and then she met Percy Bysshe Shelley who was already married. They fell in love and ran away to Europe. She was sixteen! She wanted her own life, she was a teenager – she must have been pretty wild and that on its own gives a humour. A spark of life, not just a tragedy. All this plus the fact that she was hanging out with artistic, radical libertarians – they were all for challenging the norms. There had to be funny stuff going on!

Having delved into the life Mary Shelley, what do you most admire about her? 

Catherine: I found it extraordinary that by the age of 25 Mary had lived through the loss of her mother, 4 children and her husband, not to mention the suicide of both her half-sister, Fanny and her husband’s first wife, Harriet. Her ability to cope with this level of tragedy and continue to live and work in a society where female writers were still not accepted was amazing. Most of all I admire her imagination and intelligence – to write a novel that continues to fascinate and spark ideas to this day is an astonishing achievement.

How relevant is Mary Shelley today?

Peter: Very – perhaps, unfortunately. The issues that she was most concerned with, of equality, freedom of expression and acceptance have progressed in the past 200 years but, in the #Metoo campaign, ‘fake news’ scandals and the continuing persecutions of minority communities these are still very live issues. Mary Shelley was undoubtedly ahead of her time; we, it can perhaps be argued, are somewhat behind.

What are your views on the original Frankenstein novel?

Stewart: I first read it about thirty years ago and to be honest only had a vague recollection of what it was all about.  I had been brought up on the countless Frankenstein films (the Boris Karloff Universal, the Christopher Lee Hammer, the Mel Brooks and the Abbot & Costello) all of which coloured my vision. It was one of the real pleasures of this process to go back to the original novel (or novels, she did a major rewrite many years later) and discover/be reminded that the creature is not some lumbering mute monstrosity with bolts through its neck, but agile in body and in mind and with such a deep longing to be loved.  You could say that he – the creature – is a product of an absolutely terrible, brutal, loveless upbringing and his actions are a reflection of that. It’s a more complex book than I think people imagine, and if our play moves people to read the novel, then I’d be delighted.

Atmospheric, moving and darkly comic with a pulsing, cinematic score, this is a contemporary voyage into the life of Mary Shelley – the Gothic Girl who electrified the world. Presented by The Occasion Theatre.

LISTINGS

Fri 20 – Sat 21 Apr

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

8pm

Tickets: £11/£8.50 conc.

Box Office: 0141 552 4267

www.tron.co.uk

 

Wed 25 Apr

Platform, Glasgow

7pm

Tickets: £8.50/£5 conc./£4 Local Links

Box Office: 0141 276 9696

www.platform-online.co.uk

 

Thu 26 Apr

Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling

7.30pm

Tickets: £12.50/£10.50 conc./£5.50 students

Box Office: 01786 466 666

www.macrobertartscentre.org

 

Wed 2 May

Byre Theatre, St. Andrews

7.30pm

Tickets: £12/£10 conc.

Box Office: 01334 475000

www.byretheatre.com

 

Thu 3 May

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

7.30pm

Tickets: £12/£10 conc.

Box Office: 01475 723 723

www.beaconartscentre.co.uk

 

Fri 4 May

Eastgate Theatre & Arts Centre, Peebles

7.30pm

Tickets: £14/£12/£16 U15s

www.eastgatearts.com

 

Sat 5 May

The Brunton, Musselburgh

7.30pm

Tickets: £13.50/£11.50/£8.50 U18s

www.thebrunton.co.uk

 

Mon 7 May

Mull Theatre, Tobermory

8pm

Tickets: £10/£8

www.comar.co.uk

 

Wed 9 May

Skye Theatre, Isle of Skye

8pm

Tickets: £14/£12 Members/£7 Students and Young People/Seasons Free

www.seall.co.uk

 

Fri 11 May

Universal Hall, Findhorn

8pm

Tickets: £12/£10 Concs./£8 U16s

www.wegotickets.com/UniversalHall

 

Sat 12 May

Lyth Arts Centre, Lyth

8pm

Tickets: £14/£12/£6

www.lytharts.org.uk

INTERVIEW: Rebecca Norris, actor and co-deviser of The Wedding Reception coming to Eastwood Park Theatre’s Carmichael Hall in May.

Glasgow Theatre Blog had the chance to talk to Rebecca Norris, co-creator of The Wedding Reception coming to Eastwood Park Theatre this May.

Tell us a little bit about the play.

The Wedding Reception is a unique immersive theatrical dining experience. It invites you to be a guest at a surprise wedding reception for newlyweds William and Kate. You join the family (and a few uninvited guests) through two hours of a muddled attempt at traditional wedding celebration rites where nothing seems to go as planned. They cry, laugh and dance, and hopefully you will too! (maybe not the cry bit).

And your role…

Four actors play nine roles in The Wedding Reception. I play two roles: Lynn (the mother of the bride) and Marge (the groom’s aunt). Lynn is a great role to play She’s a wonderful and warm northern lady. A bit of a mum to everyone and will talk about anything. Nothing is off limits with Lynn. Aunt Marge is much colder. A stuck up ‘wanna-be’ who’s faked most things in her life to get her where she is today.

 

How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations?

The Wedding Reception has been performed all over the UK, including Scotland and Wales – although this is our first time in Glasgow. We have even been lucky enough to do tours across Australia and a show in Singapore. Depending on the location, we change a few references in the show for audiences to relate to but on the whole we’ve found wherever we are the universal truth is that everyone loves a good wedding so everyone always has a great time.

What is life like backstage on tour?

Backstage on tour can be a bit crazy, really. We have a lot of quick costume changes throughout the show so backstage can be manic. Especially when we are out and about on tour and the size of our changing area can vary quite some bit. We’ve all been very close together in some shows.

Touring can be demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh/look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night?

Keeping this show fresh isn’t so much of a challenge, as it’s very different to traditional theatre shows. The audience members are not just watching a show, they become an integral part of it so with their input we never perform never same show twice. It certainly keeps us all on our toes. Good planning and keeping it all in good fun is key to staying healthy and fighting fatigue on the road. We spend a lot of time in each other’s company so trying find ways of making long journeys and mundane jobs fun is really important.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one?

I didn’t get into acting until quite late – I was 30 before I’d even considered it. Although I remember having a love of theatre when I was younger, I never considered it to be an option. It was only by chance that I did a workshop in Brighton which actually changed everything. Suddenly my sole focus and drive was on acting. I went to drama school and worked full-time while attending to fund myself. Once I graduated I tried to make sure each job I got would lead to another until it became my full-time job and I’ve never looked back.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

It’s never too late! If it’s something you have a passion for then go get involved. Maybe do some courses and see where it takes you.

Finally, why should people come along to see the play? And where else can we see it?

Everyone should come to see this play! – though it’s PG, because of some sexual innuendo and partial nudity. That aside, each show is truly different as audiences react in various ways to being swept up in the raucous action. Whatever happens though, one thing’s for sure – it will be an unforgettable experience.
You are all invited to the most madcap marital celebration of them all and get to eat a 3-course meal as well.

We are playing at Carmichael Hall in Eastwood Park Theatre on Saturday 12 May at 7:30pm.

We’re also visiting:

Birmingham REP (10-11 May)

Greshams in Ipswich (18 May)

Bedford Swan Hotel (also 18 May)

Hadley Park House in Telford (19 May)

AFC Portchester Club House (22 June)

Nottingham Theatre Royal (6 July)

– and Edinburgh Fringe 2-27 August.

INTERVIEW: Zoe Halliday star of Little Red Riding Hood

Classic kids’ tale with a modern twist, Little Red Riding Hood is coming to Eastwood Park Theatre on Saturday 13 February at 3pm.

From the creative team behind the hugely popular Hairy Maclary Show, Little Red Riding Hood is a fun, original musical for children, with live music and loveable characters.

The show has toured from Edinburgh to Hong Kong and Singapore and comes to Eastwood Park Theatre as part of its 45th anniversary programme.

Recommended for pre-school children, the show features a forest full of family fun as Scarlet and her side-kick Stanley the Squirrel try to outwit Walter the Wolf. 

Zoe Halliday, from Milton on Campsie, studied at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s musical theatre course. She will play the lead role of Scarlet and Glasgow Theatre Blog caught up with Zoe to find out about the show.

Tell us a little bit about the play.

The play follows the story of 16yr old Scarlet who is lives in the woods with her father. Not having many friends and feeling a bit alone has left Scarlet longing for an adventure which falls into her lap (literally) in the form of letter from her grandfather. After some indecision about her own bravery Scarlet embarks on the quest her grandfather has sent her. Along the way she meets some wonderful forest friends including Stanley the Squirrel but also faces someone hairy not so nice enemies! The story is a whirl wind of adventure with catchy tunes all the way!

And your role…

I play the fearless “Scarlet”

How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations?

The play did a run over Christmas at  Roxy Assembly in Edinburgh. The audiences were fantastic and got right into the spirit of the show by singing along and joining in the madness.

What is life like backstage on tour?

It is exciting! Every day we are in a different theatre/venue and face whatever challenges that presents. Whilst it can be hard going being away from family and friends we have become really close as a cast and always manage to have a laugh! Bringing the show to new audiences every day is really special and even better when you have a strong, fun filled cast.

Touring can be demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh/look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night?

I wish I could say I eat lots of vegetables and exercise regularly but that would be a lie. The performance is fresh every day because it’s my job and I love doing it. That and some orange Lucozade and we are laughing.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one?

I decided I wanted to become an actor very early on. I loved dancing as a young child  and was inspired by my mum who had her own dance school. I had grown up with old school musicals and dance films.  I think I watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers so many times the video broke!

When my parents put me in stage school at 10 it just all made sense.

At the age of 13 I was one the first cohort of the Preparatory Musical Theatre programme at the Dance School of Scotland were I studied all through my high school years. I then went onto study a BA in Musical Theatre at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland at just 17yrs old.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

If you really want it, it is worth waiting for. The performing arts is an extremely hard industry but worth every ounce of effort!

Finally, why should people come along to see the play? and where else can we see it?

You should come and see Little Red Riding Hood for some exciting, fun and catchy enjoyment! Life isn’t as fun without a little adventure!

Tickets for Little Red Riding Hood are priced £10 standard and £8 concession, available from eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/boxoffice.

 

 

INTERVIEW: Paul Beeson on playing Robert Burns in Ae Fond Kiss at Eastwood Park

The first tour of new Robert Burns show Ae Fond Kiss, is touring around Scotland this February. Featuring many of Burns’ famous poems and songs, including Red, Red Rose, Ae Fond Kiss and Auld Lang Syne, it will be a show to remember whether you love literature or just want to find out a bit more about the Bard.

Rabbie Burns is played by Paul Beeson who will guide you through the show with amusing and poignant interactions with key characters, played by cast members Gilchrist Muir, Shawney Henderson and Zoe Halliday. Glasgow Theatre Blog had the chance to catch up with Paul to answer some quick questions about the show.

Tell us a little bit about the play.

Ae Fond Kiss is a play with songs that tells the fascinating story of the life of Robert Burns. It does this using modern original verse, interspersed with Burns’ traditional writing and songs; a Burns’ Greatest Hits if you will! We get to meet the family, friends and (many) women who shaped his life and work along the way.

And your role…

I play Robert Burns himself, at various ages and stages of his life… it is a challenging role but one I am relishing playing!

How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations?

The last time the play was produced was nine years ago during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it was performed at the Mining Museum in Newtongrange. It was received extremely well then; however being outside the city centre meant it did not get the audience it truly deserved. This newly staged version boasts a completely new set and directorial approach, and will touring in major venues across the country.

What is life like backstage on tour?

Being part of a small-scale touring company is incredibly rewarding and so much fun – if a little challenging at times! The cast and stage manager are responsible for driving the tour vans between venues, unloading and building the set before a performance and loading the set back in the vans afterwards… oh, and performing of course! It’s a valuable experience, as everyone involved takes ownership of the production to make it the best it can be and becomes completely invested in it. You do feel like you are in a little tour bubble at times, as you are living the show (and in each other’s pockets) almost 24 hours a day… but that’s why we love it so! Your cast mates become like family and some of my greatest friendships have been made this way.

Touring can be demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh/look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night?

Every audience is different and responds in different ways… some are incredibly noisy and responsive, some are absolutely silent! As performers, we respond to the energy the audience creates and feed off it, so every performance is fresh in that respect. Also, when you get on the road after the rehearsal process, you start to find the moments that the audience really love and perhaps moments that pass them by. We have to tweak moments like these to ensure we are doing the piece justice and that can keep us on our toes!

As for looking after yourself, it’s finding a balance in your touring life… Eating healthily can be tough when the only eatery near your hotel is a fast food joint! I try to make sure I get enough sleep, drink lots of water, eat a banana for energy and regularly steam the vocal chords… and you just have to be careful that the post-show socialising doesn’t get too out of hand!

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one?

I chose to do Higher Drama when I was in 6th year at high school. I had no aspirations, needed another subject to study and thought Drama would be fun (and if I’m completely honest, a bit of a skive!) After the first few lessons, I realised how much fun it was and it was far from being easy… it was also the first time in my life I found something I felt I was really good at and capable of taking further. A good friend of mine had left school a couple of years before and done a Year Out Drama course in Stratford-Upon-Avon. So, after I left school, I applied and was accepted, then progressed to Drama college the following year.

I became a Drama teacher a few years after graduating, as I struggled to find work and decided to get a full time job where I could use my skills. I taught for ten years before getting back into performing. Towards the end of my teaching career, I began dabbling in amateur theatre and remembered my love of performing… the pull was too much for me!

Any advice for aspiring performers?

It may be a cliché, but never give up, believe in yourself and be prepared to work extremely hard! When I first left college, I think I was too lazy to truly pursue a career in performing… you have to be proactive, the work won’t come to you! Every performer is unique, so play to your strengths. Do not shy away from what makes you ‘you’. Take risks when you can… Despite my performing experience, I had a fear of singing in front of an audience until very recently… and I am 38! I have had to work very hard to get past that and I am all the better for it.

Finally, why should people come along to see the play? and where else can we see it?

Ae Fond Kiss has everything; it’s entertaining, heartfelt, funny, sentimental, sad, exciting… it is crammed full of facts about Burns’ life, so everyone will learn something they never knew before… some of the poems and songs will be familiar to the audience and participation is encouraged… and everyone loves a bit of Burns don’t they!

Ae Fond Kiss is touring around Scotland this February and comes to Eastwood Park Theatre on Tuesday 13 February. Tickets cost £15 standard and £12 for concessions and are available to book now: www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/boxoffice.

INTERVIEW: Gus Boyd of the Police/Sting Show talks about their latest tour

The ex-members of Hotel California, KT Tunstall and Fish’s bands, return to the touring circuit with this new exciting project, The Police Sting Show. Touring Scotland throughout October and November and finishing this year’s tour at Eastwood Park Theatre on Saturday 25 November, the show features re-worked, fresh versions of all the iconic Police and Sting solo album songs in a 100-minute show featuring an acoustic Sting section. 

Gus Boyd, who performs as Sting, talks about what we can expect and what’s coming up next year. 

Why do you think the Police’s music still has such an enduring appeal?

Basically, because they are great timeless songs that have lasted that initial audience generation and being listened and liked by our children’s generation.

How long has it taken for you to perfect your portrayal of Sting/The Police?

I started working stripping back the songs on acoustic guitar just under two years ago.

Added in a drummer and bass player 18 months ago and we created our own interpretations and style for the 24 songs that we currently play.

Tell us what we can expect from the show?

Not copies of the songs but our own style and fresh take, but still retaining the integrity and the song message.

Do you find audiences differ as you travel around the country?

They are all fans of The Police and Sting Music but do differ in age demographic especially in the regional areas.

It’s great to see the young generation enjoying the songs alongside people of their parents ages!

The Police/Sting Show will be at Eastwood Park Theatre on 25 November at 7.30pm as part of the UK tour.

More info at: https://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/article/9002/The-Police-Sting-Show

INTERVIEW: Barrie Hunter on brand new musical The Sunshine Ghost currently touring Scotland

New musical The Sunshine Ghost tells the comic story of the acquisition of Castle MacKinnon by a love-struck billionaire and property tycoon, Glen Duval, for his fiancé, Astrobeth – Hollywood’s favourite astrologer. Brought stone by stone from a remote rocky outcrop on a small Scottish Island all the way to Naples, Florida, they soon discover that the castle’s previous owner has not quite ‘left’ the building… 

Tell us a little bit about the musical and your role…

My name is Barrie Hunter, and I play the role of Glen Duval, a 1950’s American billionaire property tycoon in The Sunshine Ghost. He has promised to move an old Scottish castle from Scotland to the US to win the affection and the hand in  marriage of Astrobeth, a celebrity radio clairvoyant. Little does he know there is a spiritual entity from the past who’s not quite ready to give up his ancestral seat.

Barrie Hunter (left)

Tell me about life backstage.

Life backstage on tour is a moveable feast, as no two venues are the same, so you cut your cloth accordingly, depending on how much room you have on and offstage/dressing room situations/where you can grab some dinner etc. It’s a daily adventure!

Performing in musicals can be physically demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh/ look after yourself when you have to be on top form on stage every night?

Looking after yourself whilst touring is vital – I rest up whenever I can, take on lots of water, and if we go for a small refreshment after, it’s good if you can find a place that’s not too noisy, as talking over loud environments is a sure-fire way to damage you vocally. This show is a big sing for all of us, as there are only five actors and a musician singing the whole show (23 numbers!), and it’s technically quite tricky too at times – lots of lovely harmonies and the like-so we have to be on it all the time!

Keeping the show fresh is a fairly easy ask, especially on a job like this, as it’s a fairly quick process to get it up and running, and the tour is done and dusted within a month, so there’s no time for it to get stale! It’s always useful to remember that every audience is seeing the show for the first time, so that helps too.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become a performer and the path you took to become one?

I was inspired to be an actor after getting involved with my local youth theatre, Harlequin, on the south side of Glasgow. I then moved on to Giffnock Theatre Players, doing plays, and subsequently auditioned (twice!), for the RSAMD (now RCS), and graduated from there 22 years ago…wow, I’m old. Since then, I have worked in theatre, doing plays, musicals, pantos (this is my 7th year as the Perth Theatre Dame), and done the usual bits of telly, radio etc.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

The advice I would give to aspiring actors would be: be punctual, do your research, listen to others, and whatever you may be doing, just try to find the truth of it-these things really help me, and others, in getting the job done.

The Sunshine Ghost - eoincarey_THEPALMER (2)

Image by Eoin Carey

Finally, why should people come along to see the show?

Folk should come along to The Sunshine Ghost because they will have a hoot watching a very funny show with lots of lovely music being performed by a bunch of folk who really know what they’re doing…and me! Oh, and we have a very shiny floor and flashing lights and ladders and crates and…Ach, just come along and you’ll find out for yourself…

The Sunshine Ghost is now on tour in Scotland and will be at Eastwood Park Theatre on Thursday 19 October 2017 at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £17 standard and £15 concession. If you bring a group of ten people one person goes free.

More info here: https://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/article/9044/The-Sunshine-Ghost#booknow

INTERVIEW: Phil Hardie circus performer & entertainer on his original take on the Frankenstein tale

I had the chance this week to catch up with renowned circus performer Phil Hardie just as he embarks on a tour with his original take on the Frankenstein story: Welcome My Son.

Frankenstein is one of the best-known works in the literary world, tell us about your approach to telling this story in a new way in Welcome My Son.

The Frankenstein story is timeless. The moral and ethical issues it brings up surrounding humans playing God have not only remained relevant but have in many ways become more acute. With Welcome my Son I wanted to focus on the issue of neglect and how it destroys both parties in the relationship. How in the absence of love a human will turn to hate perhaps as the only possible alternative, but also how our apparent obsession to master control over the natural world can lead to our own isolation and ultimately our demise.

Tell us about your role…

I play both Frankenstein and his Creature. I wanted to give the Creature and the neglect he suffers real substance and ultimately I have sought to cast Frankenstein as the true ‘monster’ as it is his selfish neglect that creates a cycle of destruction.

How much preparation and rehearsal time did you get before the tour started?

The final rehearsal period has felt very short. I developed the show throughout June working over three weeks with my creative team. However, before the tour we have had just three days to re-rehears the piece and get it tour ready.

How has the work been received so far, has it been different in different locations?

I have performed the first development/version of the show in three different locations, Edinburgh, Banchory and Dumfries. Generally, I think it has been very well received every time. However, my use of dialogue and more traditional theatre acting in such a physically driven piece has had a mixed response. Some people would like to keep these elements separate from one another it would appear while, gladly for me, some are happy to see the genres mixed together. As we set off on the first dates of the tour, I hope that the show is well received but that is still to be discovered.

The amount of physicality in your work is astonishing, and I can image it makes huge demands on your body, how do you keep your performance fresh/look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night?

The physical demands of the show are punishing. Eating well and keeping well hydrated are key. For years now, I have started every day with a pint of warm water with half a lemon squeezed into it. It really helps to wake up all your systems. Of course coffee comes immediately afterwards. Obviously it’s critical that I warm up and stretch well before and after each performance. On tour I have a fantastic technical team to support me and they help to minimise the amount of physical work I do with regards to load in, rigging the equipment and setting up the stage in order that I am physically ‘fresh’ for the performance.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become a performer and the path you took to become one?

I have a very profound and clear memory of going to see a traditional ‘Big Top’ circus when I was about four or five years old. It included animals, tigers, zebras, etc. I had no interest in any of this but the clowns that segued each performance captivated me and the acrobats; both aerial and floor simply blew my mind. I remember saying to my parents as we left that I wanted to be an acrobat and I made them hang around just to see if we could catch a glimpse of the performers back stage…we didn’t. In honesty it’s not that I obsessed over this but I have always loved testing myself physically and throughout my life I’ve pursued street skating, skiing, climbing, basically any sport that you’re competing against yourself. I began performing professionally using circus arts in my first year of art school and have continued ever since. I’ve used juggling, balance art, clowning and character acting and acrobatics to create performances and shows since the year 2000. In the end I felt I needed to push myself to try and create a full-length show which brings all this experience together.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

My advice for aspiring performers is deliver your performance with uncompromising conviction and your audience will be drawn in.

Finally, why should people come along to see the work? 

Come and see my show because it is a new approach to creating theatre which draws on circus techniques as heavily as it does physical and traditional theatre. It is, I hope, a true collaboration of the performing arts. You can see it at Platform in Glasgow on Monday (9 October 2017) and the rest of the tour dates can be found below:

INTERVIEW: LOCAL TALENT CHRISTOPHER JORDAN-MARSHALL MAKES WEST END DEBUT IN MAMMA MIA!

It seems like a short while ago I saw you as a student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland starring as the Emcee in Cabaret. Tell us what happened between then and starring in the West End.

Ahhhh amazing, you got to see Cabaret! Definitely one of my favourite parts I ever got to play. So, round about that same time I also signed with a London agent and started to get auditions coming through, including auditions for Mamma Mia! in London and for the tour. I didn’t get past the first round and just kind of forgot about it. I graduated in July 2016, and almost immediately booked my first professional job in London, Floyd Collins at the Wiltons Music Hall. Once that finished, I was back in Scotland at the Tron Theatre for Christmas, in the The Snaw Queen, followed immediately after by Still Game:Live at The SSE Hydro. Luckily, I hadn’t really stopped, and so made the move back to London to start auditioning again. Cut to two months later, and a few rounds of auditions for Mamma Mia! again, and suddenly I was going to be Sky in the West End!

Georgina Castle & Christopher Jordan-Marshall as Sophie and Sky
London Cast 2017/2018

Tell us how you felt when you got the call to say you’d be making your professional West End debut.

Well it was about a week after the finals for Mamma Mia!, and I was sort of waiting to hear about a couple of things. When my agent phoned, she said ‘So, do you want some good news?’ and I’m pretty sure I swore at her down the phone and yelled a bit. I was honestly jumping about my house, totally ecstatic. Cliché as it is, this was something I had been wanting and dreaming of ever since I was little and so for that dream to become a reality at the age of 22 is just really special for me. I’m grateful every day.

How are you enjoying playing Sky?

It’s bloody brilliant! I’m honestly having such a good time. Everyone that works at the Novello, the cast, creatives and crew are an absolute joy to work with, and there is a total family vibe amongst us all. We get such amazing audiences every night, and even though it’s been running in the West End for 18 years, there is still something really fresh and new about our cast which is so exciting. When we first took over in June, we performed a slot at West End Live, which is sort of a concert weekend in Trafalgar Square where musicals all around the UK and in central London perform. That was a pretty special moment, singing and dancing an Abba megamix to thousands of people.

Christopher Jordan-Marshall as Sky (front centre)

What do you think makes Mamma Mia! so enduringly popular?

There are so many elements I think. The songs come first obviously. You get the sexiness of things like Gimme Gimme! and Voulez Vous, and then also the heart from songs like Slipping Through My Fingers and The Winner Takes It All. Then you have the story which interweaves these songs seamlessly in a way that lots of jukebox musicals are unable to do. It’s a story about mothers and daughters, about strong female friendship, and about empowerment of women. Certainly back when it was first conceived, there wouldn’t have been many stories like it, and only really now is that starting to change. It’s just such an awesomely feel good show, which makes every audience member leave with a huge grin on their face. They get to escape to a beautiful Greek island for two and half hours, what’s not to love?! People need escape like that more than ever these days, so I’m glad I can contribute to that.

What is life like backstage at the Novello?

Well I’m lucky enough to get a dressing room to myself next to the stage on the ground floor. It’s not a huge room, so I tend to keep the door wedged open and slowly over time it has sort of changed into a mini green room for the other company members to chill in when they aren’t needed on stage. I have a bit of time in between the things I’m involved in on stage so I’m happy for the chat. Usually backstage totally runs like clockwork, everyone knows exactly where they are supposed to be but every so often it becomes a bit hectic. We have two large set pieces that are moved around on stage with handles to create different scenes and environments. One Saturday one of the handles broke off and the pieces couldn’t move. We had to completely make up the rest of the show without them working or moving, which was fun!

MAMMA MIA!
London Cast 2017/2018

How do you keep your performance fresh when you’re on stage eight times a week?

Good question. This is first contract I’ve had which is a year long, so I’m still finding that out to be honest. Something I try to do before going on every night is remind myself that all the events that happen during the show are happening for the first time, so I don’t pre-empt anything, and that usually makes me present. That, and just constantly being open to reacting to whatever Sophie or whoever I’m with and what they’re giving me. That makes it fun every night because you don’t know what you are going to get. And if something is a bit rubbish one night, or something goes wrong, you get to try again tomorrow and be better!

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to becoming one?

I don’t know if anything particularly inspired me to become an actor, I think I was always pretty sure that was what I wanted to do since I was a little guy. I was put into local amateur shows and went to youth drama groups/theatre schools. Music and drama was something I always kind of excelled in at school, so it started to become obvious what path I was going down. It was a way to express myself whilst growing up, when I didn’t particularly know how to yet. If I didn’t have those groups and shows, I think being a teenager would have been a lot harder. I guess the teachers and friends that were in my life during that time inspired me to pursue it professionally. Oh and my uncle Alan. He was the one who introduced me to a lot of theatre and has always been my biggest fan. He’s a big inspiration for all this.

Do you have any advice for kids back home who aspire to become a performer?

If you love it, pursue it. There are so many ways to become part of theatre and the arts professionally, which many kids aren’t made aware of in schools. Actors, musicians, hair and makeup, production, agents, casting, it’s all out there. Do not let your parents try and choose your pathways for you, and make you do something you don’t want to; you’ll be unhappy. I was lucky enough to be fully supported by my family in all my endeavours but sometimes that doesn’t happen. I remember my guidance teacher told me that I shouldn’t do music AND drama at the same time in school, and made it out that it was practically impossible to pursue a career in it. Needless to say, I didn’t listen to her. Even if you aren’t the best at everything to begin with, keep learning and growing and trying, because you eventually start to get somewhere. Don’t settle, and go chase your dreams; it can happen!

Christopher Jordan-Marshall (front centre) Mamma Mia! 2017/2018 Cast

Finally, why should people come along to see you in Mamma Mia!?

Our cast is amazing, there’s topless boys, and the tunes are amazing obviously. I also keep my Scottish accent so SCOTLAND REPRESENT. Come get drunk (if you’re over 18) and dance!!

You can see Christopher at the Novello Theatre – more information here

Image credit: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

 

INTERVIEW: Medhavi Patel star of We Are The Lions, Mr Manager! – currently touring the UK

Medhavi Patel is taking on the role of Jayaben Desai in the world premiere of We Are The Lions, Mr Manager!, which is currently touring the UK.

Patel’s previous stage work has seen her star in Tales of Birbal, Trident Moon and Fragile Land, and she has starred in TV shows including Doctors and Holby City. The role of Jayaben Desai holds particular significance to Patel after she learned she is a distant relative of the iconic leader.

The play will be at Eastwood Park Theatre on 29 October 2017.

Tell us a little bit about the play.

We Are The Lions, Mr Manager! is a beautifully written play by Neil Gore about the Grunwick strikers back in 1976. The play is based on the strong and courageous journey of Jayaben Desai, a South Asian women of Gujarati descent. Jayaben fought along with the many that supported her for the right to have a union represent them in the factory they worked for – this was due to the mistreatment of immigrant workers at the factory.

Medhavi Patel as Jayaben Desai in We Are The Lions, Mr Manager

And your role…

I will be playing Jayaben Desai. She was a woman of incredible strength, courage and determination. She fought a battle at a time where the odds were against her, simply because she was a woman and an immigrant. Many say she was ahead of her time and strived to show that Asian woman can be strong and outspoken too.

The real Jayaben Desai

How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations? 

Many are excited at the prospects of such a strong play based on real-life experiences which are still a struggle for many in today’s society. I believe it will be received strongly everywhere we go, as we have kept the energy levels high and used elements of humour and emotion at the right balance.

What is life like backstage on tour?

Rehearsals are fun but gruelling and trying to get the right tone of the play and characters is important. Louise Townsend (Director) and Neil Gore (Playwright and Actor) have gone to great lengths to ensure the production is as close to real life events as possible. There have been many moments of laughter but equally many moments of discussion and thought about why the play is so important right now. Life backstage can be tiring but when you love what you do, that feeling takes second place.

Touring can be demanding: how do you keep your performance fresh/look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night?

I try to be as active as possible on a regular basis, whether this means walking, going to gym, for a gentle run, dancing in my room, practicing yoga and even getting enough shut eye. I also make sure I drink plenty of water and keep healthy snacks to hand. I warm up before performances and ensure I have time to silence the world from my thoughts before the show in order to go on sharp, focused and energised. Rest and play should be in the right balance and looking after oneself is essential to any performer as we are our tools.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one?

I chose this path as I always loved performing from a young age. I didn’t see it as something particularly unique or special, as it feels like home when I’m performing – it really feels like I’m doing what makes me happy and that is my life’s mantra.

People spend so much time working and worrying that they forget about feeling, whether it’s happy or sad. When you incite feelings in your audience and bring them into your world it is the most amazing feeling. When you are able to touch people and make them aware of these feelings, it’s a job well done. I love the physical, mental and emotional challenges, the creativity, the people and the experiences that being a performer brings.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

Keep learning and be open to new challenges, don’t let yourself fit in just one category as you’ll never know your true potential.

Know your value and never be scared to question if you don’t understand or you don’t agree with something. An actor never stops learning and developing as their environment and life is their inspiration. Keep your craft alive through moments of quiet through attending workshops, shows or even trying to learn a new skill. You’ll never regret it.

Finally, why should people come along to see the play? And where else can we see it?

I think it will touch anyone who has ever had to fight for something important. It shows that together any difficulty can be faced and overcome. To see and know the story of a strong South Asian woman who has fought so valiantly for the rights we have today, to understand that we can question the systems in place and strive to make changes not just for ourselves but also for the people around us.

The play will also be on tour UK-wide and comes to Glasgow’s Eastwood Park Theatre on 29 October. Tickets are on sale now, priced £15 standard and concession £12 from: http://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/boxoffice .

Further dates and show locations on can be found: www.townsendproductions.org.uk

 

INTERVIEW: Gina Isaac star of Rapture Theatre’s Streetcar Named Desire

Gina Isaac is currently starring in Rapture Theatre Company’s new production of A Streetcar Named Desire as Stella. I caught up with Gina just before the final week of the production at Edinburgh King’s Theatre.

A Streetcar Named Desire is an American classic, for those who are less familiar with it could you tell us a little bit about the play. 

It’s a story full of the heat and vibrancy of the city where it is set, in New Orleans. Blanche and her sister Stella, who is married to the brutish Stanley, find themselves thrown together and the story unfolds from there. You see the old world and the new clashing up against each other in the various characters in the play. There are too many spoilers in there to go into detail but it’s a wonderful story.

And your role…

Blanche is a fading Southern Belle who is desperately trying to hold onto a world that no longer exists. Like all of Tennessee Williams characters she is deeply flawed and yet striving with hope for something more.

How much preparation and rehearsal time did you get before the tour started? 

The rehearsal period was four weeks, with a week of sitting around a table discussing and then ‘getting it on it’s feet’. Streetcar is a very complex play with layers upon layers for the actors to discover. It was a very intense but satisfying process.

How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations? 

We’ve had a really terrific reception from all of our audiences, and every audience is different of course. The play is quite ‘light’ in the first act, and the story is very engaging, which seems to invite the audience in and they are really with us. Come the second act, things get dark pretty quickly but by then the audience seem to have really invested in the characters and you can hear a pin drop…with the occasional rustle of sweet packets.

What is life like backstage on tour? 

I wouldn’t know on this job as I never leave the stage or the wings. I’m pretty sure they’re having a good time though. It’s normally a strange mixture of high and lows on any tour – it can be quite an intense experience working in such a bubble for months at a time.

Touring can be demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh and look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night? 

Touring actually really helps to keep a performance/play feeling fresh. Every venue and auditorium is different with it’s own set of challenges, so you never really ‘settle’, which is great. You learn to listen to your body as an actor, as it will always let you know if you’re burning the candle too much. Some parts that you play will demand you look after yourself more than others…it’s a delicate balancing act but common sense really.

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one? 

I used to watch a lot of the old MGM movies when I was a kid and I guess that’s what sparked things for me. I was lucky, in that I never wanted to do anything else so I was quite a clear about the path I wanted to take. I studied drama at school and attended a group at weekends. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to go to a drama school as opposed to university and I spent three years at the Central school of Speech and Drama and then entered the industry from there. The hardest part about being an actor is once you’ve graduated and become part of a very big, very competitive industry. You learn quite quickly if the life of an actor is for you.

Any advice for aspiring performers?

Gosh, that’s a tricky one. I guess one of the main things I have realised, is that every job you do informs and moulds you as an actor. You are constantly learning as an actor, always. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it for. You take something from every job, the good ones and the ‘not so good’ ones. Also, always brush your teeth and if you’re on an OK wage, get a round in now and then.

Finally, why should people come along to see the play? and where can we see it?

Because ‘Streetcar‘ is the most brilliant story…and everyone loves a good story. It’s totally engaging from the off and I think you really care about the characters and what happens to them. This is our final week at The Kings, Edinburgh, so do yourself a favour and come see it.

Gina will be appearing in Rapture Theatre’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire at the King’s, Edinburgh from 3 – 7 October 2017.

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