Tag Archives: Interview

INTERVIEW: Kieran Brown, Scottish star of Titanic the Musical

Scottish actor Kieran Brown has an enviable theatrical CV, having appeared in Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies, Les Mis, Wicked and our own Glasgow King’s Theatre pantomime, to name just a few. He’s a member of the hugely successful Barricade Boys and a concert star in his own right. Kieran from Larbert, returns home to Scotland this week to appear in Titanic – The Musical at Glasgow King’s and at Edinburgh Playhouse from June 12th – 16th. I had a chance to catch up with him about life onboard the world’s most famous ship before it sets sail in Glasgow!

Can you tell us a bit about what we can expect in Titanic the Musical?

It is a multiple Tony award winning musical written by American composer Maury Yeston with book by the late Peter Stone. It tells the tale of some of the real life passengers and crew onboard the ill fated ship. It was first produced by Danielle Tarento with direction from Thomas Sutherland and musical staging by Cressida Carre at the Southwark Playhouse in London, before transferring to the Charing Cross Theatre, and then crossing the Atlantic to Canada. This is the first major professional production of the show in the UK. I should state, it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the 1997 James Cameron movie…! It has a stunning score with not a hint of Celine Dion..!
What about your role?

I play First Officer William McMaster Murdoch, who was essentially second in command of the ship, and was in charge at the time it hit the iceberg. He was Scottish, from Dalbeattie. He was treated quite unfairly in the film (which Cameron apologised for), but this is a much more sensitive treatment of his character. He very much blamed himself for the tragedy that unfolded. In actual fact, there were a great number of factors which led inevitably towards the sinking. It’s fascinating to learn throughout the show exactly what went on, but without ever placing judgement on anyone…

What songs or scenes should we particularly look out for?

The opening is really pretty epic..! It’s about 20 minutes long, and doesn’t pause for breath..! To be honest, it is such a stunning score and the sound of our 25 strong ensemble make accompanied by our 6 piece orchestra under direction of musical wizard Mark Aspinall is incredible! The audience are frequently blown away by the wall of sound that washes over them. It’s so humbling to be part of it!

How has the show been received as it’s toured around the country?

Phenomenally. Instant standing ovations practically every show. There’s the odd grumble about people expecting the film onstage, but those who have either informed themselves or allow our beautiful touching story to be told are usually left very affected by it. It’s a very emotional night at the theatre – because it’s not just a film – it’s true – I often wonder if people have forgotten that! We all know the ending of course but the final scene features direct quotes from the survivors – It’s very touching, but ultimately uplifting.

What’s life like on tour/backstage with such a large cast?

It’s been a while since I’ve toured and I actually enjoy it. We have a very mixed company age wise, but we do genuinely all get on great, and organise nights out, day trips to the countryside castle hunting etc. It’s a very supportive company onstage and off, and it’s a real joy to share this experience with them all.

Why should we come along to see the show?

It’s a story we all think we know, especially those who have seen the film (much of which was fiction), so I think it’s important to retell the story with tremendous respect and honour those who died (and survived). It’s not tap dancing and feathers, there are no hydraulic lifts and razzle dazzle spectacle, but there is a poignant layered story, accompanied by a beautiful, beautiful score, told by one of the most talented bunch of actors and musicians I’ve had the honour to work with. I think of all of the jobs I’ve done, this really ranks as one of those I’m most proud of. I love it. And I am particularly proud to be telling this story at the Kings in Glasgow. Last time I was here I was riding a magic carpet as Aladdin! I love the city (I lived and studied here at the RCS) and it feels very much like home. I’m curious to see how Scottish audiences respond to it…

Any roles you’d love to perform/shows you’d like to be in that you haven’t yet?

To be honest I’m keen to do a play – it’s been 7 years since I last did a play (The Woman In Black in Vienna). I love singing and musicals, but I’d love to do something where I don’t have to worry about my singing voice for a while..!

What’s been your favourite role to date?

I think playing the Phantom probably ranks as a major career tick and I was lucky that I managed to get on a lot during my two years at Her Majesty’s. The feeling I had inside when I stepped on to take my bow at the end of my first show was something I can’t really describe..!

What’s next after Titanic?

Who knows! The life of a jobbing actor..! TBH we are all loving this Titanic experience so much we are all hoping it may not be ending mid August in Hamburg! Crossing everything there is another life, whether continuing the tour or sailing into the west end, who knows…!
You can catch Kieran in Titanic – The Musical at Glasgow King’s Theatre from Monday 28 May until Saturday 2 June 2018 – tickets here
Edinburgh Playhouse from Tuesday 12 June until Saturday 16th June 2018 – tickets here.
Titanic photography: Scott Rylander
Kieran Brown headshot in article: Kate Scott

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: 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: 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.

TRAILER:

INTERVIEW: Robert Softley Gale talks about Blanche and Butch

Robert Softley Gale is an established figure in the Scottish arts scene, with over sixteen years of experience in diverse and varied roles – including actor and performer, director, writer and advocate of equality within the arts.

Robert’s professional acting debut was in 2002 and since then he has appeared in many productions – including co-writing and performing in ‘Girl X’ for National Theatre of Scotland. His award-winning solo performance – ‘If These Spasms Could Speak’ – was a hit of the 2013 Made in Scotland programme and has subsequently toured internationally to countries including Brazil, Estonia, the USA, Ireland and India.
A graduate of Glasgow University, Robert is an Artistic Director of Birds of Paradise Theatre Company.

For BOP (Birds of Paradise) he has directed the smash-hit sex comedy Wendy Hoose and Purposeless Movements, for which he was nominated for a CATS Best Director award. Glasgow Theatre Blog had the pleasure of talking to Robert about his play Blanche and Butch which is at Eastwood Park Theatre on 7th October.

Tell us a little bit about the play.

Blanche & Butch is set backstage at a touring performance of the iconic 1960s film ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?’. The film starred Bette Davies and Joan Crawford, with Joan playing Blanche, who is a wheelchair user – the three drag queens in Blanche & Butch are presenting the first stage version of Baby Jane to star an ‘actually disabled’ Blanche. There’s a lot of bitchiness and power struggles, camp show tunes and touching ballads – something for everyone!

And your role…

I play Blanche, the youngest of the three drag queens we meet. Blanche wants to make it big – wants to get his name in lights and be a star. But everyone else keeps reminding him that there are limits to what he can achieve.

 

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

So far we’ve opened at the Tron in Glasgow and toured to Greenock and Stirling – audiences have been loving the show so far. There are a lot of funny one-liners and much crudeness but there are also songs about trying to be the best dad you can be and a very funny number about intersectionality. Like I said, something for everyone.

What is life like backstage on tour?

I feel like I should write something cruel and bitchy about how difficult they all are the work alongside, but honestly we all get on really well and have a great laugh. The hardest bit to being backstage is putting on tights every night when you’re a guy who has cerebral palsy!

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?

It is pretty knackering – you learn a lot of tricks over the years to make things easier. Grabbing food whenever you can is important, as it isn’t always easy to find your next meal between shows and travelling. Keeping each performance fresh is about remembering that for every audience tonight is their first night – ever show is a unique event between us and that audience. It sounds cliché but no two shows are the same, we’re always finding new things within the show.

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

You can read quite a bit about this here http://www.softley.co.uk/biography.htm#22 – but the short answer is that I was studying Management at Glasgow Uni – thinking that a disabled guy could never be an actor – when I got a call from a theatre company in Edinburgh asking me to audition for them. I thought I had no chance – but what the heck! Long story short I got the job and 15 years later I’m still here!

Any advice for aspiring performers?

Be nice to work with – you could be the best actor in the world but if you’re difficult to work with then directors will find someone else. And have fun – it’s called a  ‘play’ for a reason.

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

If you want to have a really good night out – with a lot of laughs and moments of “They didn’t just say THAT, did they?”, then this is the show for you.

You can see it at Eastwood Park Theatre in Glasgow on Saturday 7 October and buy tickets from https://www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/article/9098/Blanche–Butch

The rest of the tour dates are available: www.boptheatre.co.uk/blanche-butch/

Header image of Robert Softley Gale by Eoin Carey

INTERVIEW: Keith Jack talks about his tour and album Movie Nights

Keith Jack is probably best-known for finishing second on BBC 1’s Any Dream Will Do but his theatre credits since leaving the show are impressive: The Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour); Charlie in Only The Brave (Edinburgh Festival); Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour); Alistair in Sincerely, Mr Toad (Edinburgh/Greenwich); Ralph Rackstraw in HMS Pinafore (UK Tour) and Sparky in Forever Plaid (St James Theatre, London).

No stranger to pantomime, Keith’s credits include: the title role in Aladdin (King’s Theatre, Glasgow); the Prince in Sleeping Beauty (Ipswich Regent); the title role in Peter Pan (His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen), Prince Charming in Cinderella (Whitley Bay/Horsham/Newark) and the title role in Dick Whittington (Maidstone). This season he will be starring as The Prince in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks).

Keith’s newly-released fourth album, Movie Nights, features classic songs from iconic movies, here he talks about the inspiration for the album and the tour to promote it and answers some questions about his career.

This album, and the forthcoming tour, has come from my massive love of films from a young age. I wanted to find a good mix of songs – both young and old – with all different styles and have them led by strings, giving a different feel to all other movie albums. I feel like we have really achieved this, making it more my own style without losing why people fell in love with the song in the first place.

I couldn’t have done it without my lovely friend and MD, Scott Morgan, who did all the arrangements on the album and played the piano beautifully! He was supported by fantastic string players in January Tewson, Jade Cuthburt, James Greenfield and Naomi Wright; thank you for your lovely playing on this album.

A big thank you to Kristian Polly for recording the album and for a fun day in the church recording the strings and also to Istage Studio for letting me use their fantastic facilities to record in. A special thank you to Jim Lang who Mixed and Mastered the whole album, making it sound exactly how I imagined it would be. Also, a special mention to Ian Fraser for all the pictures and the album artwork. I have been lucky enough to have a fantastic team around me to do this album and I couldn’t have done it without them all.

My last mention goes to my family and friends for their help and support in creating this album. And, of course, not forgetting you – my amazing fans. Thank you so much for coming along with me on this journey over the last 10 years. From coming to concerts, buying albums and your support on social media, I can’t thank you enough! I hope you enjoy this album just as much as my others. This tour is the most perfect way to celebrate its release! So, sit back, grab your popcorn and enjoy!

Q & A Interview

Some former talent show contestants claim that the process leaves them feeling manipulated and exploited. Did your experience in Any Dream Will Do make you feel that way?

No, not at all. We were kind of moulded and helped and nurtured to be the kind of performer that Andrew Lloyd Webber wanted. I never felt as though I was just a cog in a money-making wheel.

An amazing 21 million viewers tuned into the final of the series, in June 2007, and Lee Mead went on to wow the West End critics as Joseph in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s magical musical. But you couldn’t even console yourself with the prospect of performing the role in the touring production of the show. That opportunity had already been offered to Craig Chalmers, who finished fifth in the competition. Surely, you must have been gutted and, perhaps, even a little resentful?

Not at all. I was actually still competing in the programme when Craig was eliminated and Bill Kenwright offered him the part of Joseph.

To prove that you held no hard feelings, you accepted the role of Narrator in the touring version, alongside Craig Chalmers, as Joseph, and fellow competitor Chris Barton, who finished in eighth place, as Benjamin. Tell me about that?

I loved it. And, actually, it’s a bigger singing role than Joseph.

They say, though, that everything comes to he who waits and, eventually, you got to actually play the role that you competed for. How did that feel?

It was just a really nice feeling to finally get to do it. I was able to relax and settle into it a lot easier than I would have done if I’d come to it straight from the show. We had some great audiences on the tour and it was nice to see all different parts of the country.

Was it difficult learning to cope with the instant fame that is often the result of such shows.

At first it was strange. You don’t change as a person but everyone else changes around you. It’s very strange to walk down the street and have people following you and trying to take your picture.

Your boy-next-door good looks have ensured that you have a loyal fan following and not just from girls…tell me more?

I was very proud to be featured on the front of a gay magazine. When I first went on to Any Dream Will Do, John Barrowman told me: ‘You haven’t made it until you have a gay fan base’, so to be the cover boy on such a magazine made me very happy.

Tell me what has been happening in your career lately?

I have just finished touring with Joe McElderry in the Saturday Night at the Movies tour and have also completed my brand new album Movie Nights. Right now, I’m enjoying being busy preparing for the forthcoming tour to promote the album.

What are your favourite tracks on the new album and why did you select them?

I love ‘So Close’ from Disney’s Enchanted. That song comes at such a lovely moment in the film and it’s such a beautiful song. It’s not the bestknown song from the movie, but I performed it on the Saturday Night at the Movies tour and everyone seemed to love it. It’s strange that people recognise the song but don’t know where from. I also really like the arrangement that my MD, Scott Morgan, came up with for ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’. Stevie Wonder’s original version has a happy, upbeat feel to it. I have chosen to perform it as a more melancholic ballad – it almost sounds as though it could be a sad lullaby. I think it’s nice to change the arrangement when performing a cover version, rather than just trying to replicate the original.

How do you feel you have matured, musically, in the past decade?

I’m partly the same performer as I was. However, I feel that my voice and, indeed, my performances are more structured and mature. People tell me that I’ve not lost any of the charm, fun and vibrancy of my younger years. I think I have just grown up, that’s all. I now think that I know myself inside out as a performer.

Does it make a lot of difference to be able to choose your own material now, rather than having songs and themes chosen for you?

It makes a massive difference. A lot of the stuff I performed in Any Dream Will Do, I would not have chosen for myself. That said, it taught me to experiment with different styles and to take chances and stretch my boundaries. It’s liberating not to have to pick songs with the sole intention of pleasing the public. That has pushed me on so far.

A selection of the possible songs for Keith’s tour (subject to change) follows:

A Thousand Years: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn

Everything I Do (I Do It For You): Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Staying Alive: Saturday Night Fever

I Just Called To Say I Love You: The Woman In Red

So Close: Enchanted

You’ve Got A Friend In Me: Toy Story

She’s Like The Wind: Dirty Dancing

Kiss From A Rose: Batman Forever

Jailhouse Rock: Jailhouse Rock

Beauty and the Beast: Beauty and the Beast

Run To You: The Bodyguard

KEITH JACK – MOVIE NIGHTS, WILD CABARET GLASGOW 22 OCTOBER 2017

TICKETS – 0141 552 6165

For more information and to keep up to date with future projects, visit: Officialkeithjack.co.uk or @keithjack on Twitter.

FEATURE: The Jersey Boys hit town

The UK tour of the Tony, Olivier and Grammy Award-winning Best Musical Jersey Boys comes to Glasgow at the Theatre Royal for the festive season from Tuesday 8 December 2015 – Sunday 3 January 2016.

Ahead of the multi-award-winning musical hitting town, Glasgow Theatre Blog had the opportunity to meet the cast and see a sneak peak of the show this week at Glasgow’s Oran Mor.

Matt Corner will be heading the cast as Frankie Valli* with Sam Ferriday as Bob Gaudio, Lewis Griffiths as Nick Massi and Stephen Webb as Tommy DeVito**.

Seen by over 22 million people worldwide, Jersey Boys is the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and their rise to stardom from the wrong side of the tracks. These four boys from New Jersey became one of the most successful bands in pop history, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and sold 100 million records worldwide, all before they turned 30.  The show is packed with their hits, including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, December 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don’t Cry, My Eyes Adored You, Let’s Hang On (To What We’ve Got), Bye Bye Baby, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Working My Way Back to You, Fallen Angel, Rag Doll and Who Loves You.

Jersey Boys (3) - Credit Ian Watson

The Jersey Boys (and girls) stride into Glasgow. Image Ian Watson

I asked Lewis Griffiths (Nick Massi), Sam Ferriday (Bob Gaudio) and Henry Davis (Tommy DeVito) what they thought was the secret to Jersey Boys continued success.

Lewis Griffiths: “It’s real, it’s gritty and it’s credible, it’s a show that appeals to people who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre, especially to musicals”.  Sam Ferriday adds: “The biggest thing, though is that although people might know the music, no one knew the back story of these guys, it’s turned out, that this is one of the reasons why the show has been such a hit, people are shocked by the actual story”. Henry Davis: “You don’t need to be a musical theatre fan to enjoy this show. People tell us that they’ve brought their husband, boyfriend, brother, dad and grandads, people who would normally never set foot in a theatre, to see the show and they’ve left more than pleasantly surprised. We’ve also been told that people have caught the theatre bug from coming to see the show. It appeals to such a wide demographic, it’s not just for one generation, it’s for everyone”. Lewis Griffiths: “Unlike big West End productions which have also toured, or are about to tour, shows like Mamma Mia, Wicked or Billy Elliot, this is a true story. It’s a legacy to these four men”.

Another secret of Jersey Boys’ success is the quality of its cast and it’s notoriously difficult casting process highlighted by producer David Ian: “It’s an unbelievably hard task to cast this show, any actor hoping to play Valli has to be under 5 foot 9 inches, look Italian-American, sing higher than Mickey Mouse and be able to act and dance as well as pulling off a believable New Jersey accent”, added to that, all actors vying for a part have to complete multiple auditions and a final vetting process by the real Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio before stepping onstage.

Producer David Ian at the Jersey Boys Glasgow Launch. Credit Ian Watson

Producer David Ian at the Jersey Boys Glasgow Launch. Credit Ian Watson

With this is mind, and the shows reputation for quality control, I was interested to find out if each actor is able to bring anything of themselves to the roles of these flesh and blood characters.

Lewis Griffiths explains: “I’m the only one whose character is no longer with us, so for me I really had very little to go on. he was also the quiet man of the group. There are YouTube clips of the others, so there’s something there, but that was the interesting thing for me, I’ve had to develop my own way of playing Nick Massi. I’ve had to drip-feed my own life experience into my portrayal, and after a year of playing him, I now know when there’s either too much Lewis or too much Nick. It’s 50% the character and 50% the actor. Sam Ferriday adds, “yes, there are clips of Tommy DeVito, Franki Valli and Bob Gaudio as they are now, but few of them in their heyday, the era we’re playing them in, so it can be hard”.

David Ian with Jersey Boys (L-R Sam Ferriday, Matt Corner, David Ian, Henry Davis, Lewis Griffiths) - credit Ian Watson

Producer David Ian with Jersey Boys Sam Ferriday, Matt Corner, David Ian, Henry Davis, Lewis Griffiths – credit Ian Watson

Winner of Broadway’s Tony, London’s Olivier and Australia’s Helpmann Awards for Best New Musical, and a winner of 57 major awards worldwide, and with the UK and Ireland tour just passing its first birthday, I asked the actors how they sustained an enthusiasm and freshness for the show.

Sam Ferriday: “We’re fans, fans of the music and fans of this incredibly written play, and it is a play, a play with amazing music. I know I grew up with the music and Henry’s mum and dad were big fans, so he did too, so you never get bored with performing songs that you love”, he also adds “it’s also the closest you can get as an actor to feeling like a rock star every night”.

A true ensemble piece, each actor has their chance to shine. Having seen the show on several occasions the on-stage chemistry is always palpable, I ask if it’s the same off-stage. Lewis Griffiths says: “One of the secrets of its success is the fact that no one story or character dominates, it really is a story of these four guys and there has to be the right balance of personalities between the four of us and luckily there is”.

Jersey Boys (4) -Credit Ian Watson

Credit – Ian Watson

Touring from the very top to the tail of the UK, the actors have covered a vast geographic area, I wondered if there were differences in audiences’ reaction to the show up and down the country. Lewis Griffiths: “Yes, surprisingly we’ve had different reactions everywhere we go”. Henry Davis: “I’ve been here in Glasgow with Rocky Horror and that was mental so I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction to this”.

In a show filled with highlights, I ask if there are any stand-out moments each night for the actors. Lewis Griffiths: “For me it’s the dirty, gritty, fractious relationship between the four of them, the break-ups, the real life of it, the guts of the show, that’s what I get off on”. Henry Davis: “For me it’s the journey. The chance to tell this person’s story and, of course, there’s the segment where they go into the big three hits, you can feel the audience’s anticipation and when it finally comes, it’s great to see the reaction, but the end where you get to see the character’s reflect back on their story from the present day, it’s a great feeling as an actor to get to play that complete journey”. Sam Ferriday: “I agree about the end, some of the best writing is the end, when each character finishes off their narrative, it sums up the essence of the person and you get to see who that character really is”. Henry Davis: “It resonates with the audience, it’s the point where it really clicks together”. Lewis Griffith, “Despite everything, they all come back together for the finale and it shows it’s not about any one person, it’s all about the music they made together”.

With producer David Ian intimating that Jersey Boys’ world domination seems set to continue with proposed forays into China and Hong Kong, I ask the actors about the future beyond the show and if they have any roles they have their eye on. Lewis Griffiths: “I’ve spent four years chasing this role and I’ve finally got it so I don’t actually want it to end, but I’d like to stretch my wings and do some straight acting roles”. Sam Ferriday: “In terms of musical theatre, Book of Mormon, Elder Price, it’s just a different way of acting, that comic style, otherwise something gritty”. Henry Davis: “I want to do everything, try anything”. From the audience and critical reactions to these four young men and this incredible show, I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear from them.

Jersey Boys will be at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal from Tuesday 8 December 2015 – Sunday 3 January 2016.

Tickets are available here

*Michael Pickering will play the role of Frankie Valli at certain performances.

**Henry Davis will play the role of Tommy DeVito at certain performances.

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