serious about careers in the performing arts
THE TOOTSIE ROLLERS S IP T T N E G A & R O T CASTING DIREC M IS IC T I R C E R T A E H T THE ESSAY R O T C E IR D L A IC S U THE M
SUMMER 2013 | ISSUE 10 £3.95
S A N W O N A C U O Y G “THE BIGGEST THIN ” Y T I T N E D I R U O Y F O E S N E S A S I R O T C A N A
E IM T Y M E T S A W A N N O “I’M NOT G Y.” P P A H N U E M E K A M T A DOING THINGS TH
CONTENTS 16 COVER: ANDREW SCOTT Private, intriguing, and hugely in demand, Andrew Scott is one of the most extraordinary and brilliant actors of his generation. Why does he continually surprise his audience and challenge himself?
32 THE DRAMA STUDENT: TALES FROM THE DRESSING ROOM Jenna Russell gets cosy and chatty, revealing the key to a lasting career in musical theatre.
42 EMERGING ARTIST When the right talents are combined, thereâ€™s no telling how far you can go. Formed on the London fringe, the Tootsie Rollers are making a big noise and planning on going all the way - together.
20 THE ESSAY What future is there for theatre criticism?
6 CALENDAR Your guide to what’s unmissable in the coming months.
8 BEGINNER’S CALL
12 INTO THE PROFESSION
WHEN I GRADUATED FROM drama school I felt like I had no idea where I belonged in the industry. It’s a common complaint I hear from graduates. ‘Who am I?’ they ask, ‘Where do I fit in?’ I made decisions about what kind of actor I was based on what I saw around me. I grew my hair for the first couple of years because my agent thought it might make me ‘edgy’. Nothing happened. I watched my friends get cast in urban, gritty new writing pieces, so I shaved my head and took up running to get that lean look. Still, nothing came in. I went to the gym, I grew a beard, I went clean-shaven, I grew my hair, I cut my hair. Every time I thought I had identified a new ‘trend’ for actors my age I tried it out. I took every suggestion from agents, casting directors, friends. Nothing. Eventually I gave up trying to be someone else and just accepted who I am. I stopped trying to fit in, and suddenly I stood out. Quirky, odd, characterful, big nose, thinning hair - suddenly I found myself in work. Because I finally only cared about pleasing myself, and didn’t try to be someone else, I found my niche - being me. And it filtered through into my work - I stopped choosing projects that I thought would get me seen, or attract a brilliant agent, and I started taking work I knew I would love, and I stopped trying so hard to be what I wasn’t! And of course, I started to get noticed, and I got the great agent. When I stopped trying so hard, things got easier. So when I sat down and read through this issue, it struck me as particularly telling that it was all about being yourself. No-one could deny that both Andrew Scott and Jenna Russell are at the top of their game, and it seems both did it on their own terms. As for the fabulous Tootsie Rollers well, you couldn’t get a group of performers who are more about doing it for themselves than these ‘sisters’ are. Jenna said - “You are your unique thing” and she’s right. What sets you apart from everyone else will be the thing that makes you successful. No-one else can do what you do, in quite the way you’re doing it. Training and learning and developing are all hugely valuable but if you let it eradicate who you are, your individuality, then you’ll never feel comfortable in this profession. Learn who you are, as slowly or as quickly as is right for you - this is your road to travel, and only yours. So enjoy it, because the more you do, the longer you’ll be on it. JBR
DAVID LEVINE David is a celebrity photographer which has seen him travel the world. He is perhaps best known for his iconic images of Boy George in the 80’s. David works his magic on our 50’s inspired Andrew Scott shoot.
What price casting notices? Where do you get your casting information from - and at what cost? Twitter sensation @ProResting gets down to brass tacks.
Alex Vlahos, star of BBC’s Merlin, Privates and The Indian Doctor retraces his steps since leaving RWCMD.
24 FOUR TO WATCH Fourthwall highlights four rising talents to keep your eye out for in 2013.
25 A WEEK IN THE LIFE Musical Director on Matilda in the West End, Alan Berry, keeps track of his week.
38 SURVIVING THE PROFESSION Our regular feature writer, Daniella Gibb, looks at everything actors need to do to hold themselves together while waiting for the next job.
40 THE HOLISTIC ACTOR Give your inner actor a workout with these techniques to work body, mind and soul.
48 REVIEW ROUND-UP Fourthwall casts its eye back across the big openings of the last few months.
ALEX VLAHOS Alex trained at the Royal Welsh College and graduated 4 years ago. He has already worked extensively in theatre and television and joins Fourthwall as a guest journalist documenting his path into the industry.
BILLIE KERMACK Billie Jade Kermack is an author and a hair, makeup and sfx artist for TV, film, photography and live events. She sprung into action on our Andrew Scott cover shoot and gave him that special 1950’s look.
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UNTIL 7 SEPTEMBER BBC PROMS Summer in London is incomplete without a visit to the Royal Albert Hall for the ever popular BBC Proms, 12th July- 7th September. Tickets invariably sell quickly, but £5 gallery spaces are frequently available (particularly for the more eclectic late-night proms) and are worth queuing for. With something for everybody, this year’s programme boasts a Doctor Who Prom, 14th July, The Hollywood Rhapsody Prom, 26th August and the Film Music Prom, 31st August, but get in line early for those! When: July 12th to September 7th Where: Royal Albert Hall, London Info: www.bbc.co.uk/proms
UNTIL 31 AUGUST MICHAEL GRANDAGE COMPANY The star studded Michael Grandage season has bid farewell to Peter and Alice and, until August 31st, ushers in The Cripple of Inishmaan by the dark, comedic Martin McDonagh and staring an exceptionally chiseled Daniel Radcliffe. Following that, from the 7th September Sheridan Smith and David Walliams tackle Titania and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. When: Until August 31st Where: Noël Coward Theatre, London Info: www.michaelgrandagecompany.com
6 - 10 AUGUST THE SCOTTISH YOUTH THEATRE The Scottish Youth Theatre take to the Tron in Glasgow from Tues 6th - Sat 10th August with Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off, part of the 37th Annual Scottish Youth Theatre. The flagship summer programme of SYT takes place in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh, encouraging young people from all over Scotland to come together to take their theatre practice to a new level. The 2013 theme is Independence and Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off is the culmination of the course. When: 6th to 10th August Where: The Tron, Glasgow Info: www.tron.co.uk
UNTIL 1 SEPTEMBER THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF In Bristol all summer, a grassy meadow will cover the Georgian cobbles outside the historic Old Vic, forming the set for acclaimed theatre director Sally Cookson to bring her family spectacular, The Boy Who Cried Wolf and Other Stories, from Aesops fables adapted by Michael Morpugo. Cookson’s last open-air outing, Treasure Island, was seen by 23,000 people, so this should prove to be an unmissable summer event. Featuring puppetry, clown, and Benji Bowers musical score, The Boy Who Cried Wolf promises Cookson’s distinctive brand of magic and spectacle. When: 13th July to 1st September Where: King Street, Britol - open air Info: www.bristololdvic.org/wolf
2 - 26 AUGUST EDINBURGH FESTIVAL The grandfather of all theatre festivals and an experience that everyone should have at least once in their career, is the behemoth that is the Edinburgh Festival. Running for the whole month of August, Edinburgh is transformed into a magnificent and extraordinarily eclectic theatrical melting pot. Literally thousands of shows, ranging from the good, the bad and the breathtaking, form the most multi-cultural exploration of world theatre imaginable. Take Pro-Plus, a rain mac and expect to have the time of your life.
When: August 2nd to 26th Where: Edinburgh Info: www.edfringe.com
When: August Where: Various venues Info: www.manchesterpride.com
PRIDE FRINGE MANCHESTER There’s a lot more to Manchester Pride than the Big Weekend. This year, they have over forty exciting Fringe events taking place in the city centre, including live music, theatre, film screenings, sporting activities, art exhibitions and community groups. If you’re heading to Manchester during August, check out what this vibrant city has to offer.
WHAT’S THE COST OF CASTING Popular Twitter personality MissL @ProResting regularly tweets about ‘Casting Call Woes’. She gives her opinion on the casting sites that she keeps her eye on. BEING AN ACTOR IS an expensive business. Considering how little we often earn it’s amazing how much money we end up paying out in our attempts to make ourselves as employable as possible. Firstly we need people to see us at our best so we spend walletwithering amounts on headshots. Then we need to show the world what we’re capable of so more hard-earned cash is parted with to get a new showreel put together. And then they also need to hear our dulcet tones so best get a voicereel created too. Then on top of all that there’s the travel, the right clothes for auditions and all the lessons we’re supposed to attend to keep accents, improvisation and everything else constantly up to scratch. But all that money spent is utterly worthless if we can’t actually apply for work and unless you’ve got an amazing agent who constantly keeps you in auditions then you also have to pay to be on casting websites too. These sites don’t cost the earth, but it’s yet another payment where there’s no guarantee that we’ll get a return on our precious pennies. If we’re lucky then maybe we’ll get a couple of paid jobs and our subscription will pay for itself but it’s just as likely that you’ll land nothing and all you get in return is a limp sandwich and a niggling feeling that you should’ve listened to everyone else and got a ‘proper job’ instead. But why are we paying to be on these websites? Of course, every business has overheads and it means that (hopefully) their staff are getting paid which is always reassuring but when a lot of the work on offer is unpaid, it all starts to feel a tad unfair. On some sites, the amount of unpaid jobs is often two or three times more than paid ones. On days where I really should be doing more important things, I’ll check the difference between paid and unpaid jobs. One day I counted 16 paid jobs and a massive 76 unpaid ones. That’s 16 paid jobs being split between a rather terrifying amount of actors. Add to that the fact that the employers haven’t had to pay to post their jobs on the site while we’re paying up to £20 a month for the so-called privilege. It’s no wonder that us thesps can sometimes seem a little bitter. So why, despite the fact it’s the actors that are paying to keep these websites going, does it feel like they’re very much on the employers’ side? They don’t have to pay and it seems they can ask for pretty much whatever they want. Sexist, racist, obscene amounts of nudity - and 8
that’s often just in the first casting call you check in the morning. When actors are paying out money for these sites, the least you’d expect is a bit of quality control. Actors often have to prove themselves with a certain amount of professional credits before they can join these sites but it seems that anyone with a vague, hackneyed idea and a camera phone can put up a casting call. We’re told constantly as subscribers that we must apply according to strict instructions but it’s apparently ok for filmmakers to ask performers to ‘eat less than what you’d normally eat for the role’ and to suggest ‘we can pay for any plastic surgery she may require for the movie.’ Now, these are extreme examples (both true, I should add) but they still went up in a place where actors could see them and sadly I’m sure there were performers, so desperate for work, who applied for them. Of course, being self-employed, we are ultimately responsible for our actions and, as casting websites have said, they prefer not to edit casting calls so that actors can make an informed decision. If casting calls have
ridiculous requirements then hopefully actors will realise it’s not worth it and stay as far away as possible. But surely, if we’re paying for this service, shouldn’t there be some quality control where these jobs are removed entirely? Some of these casting calls are potentially dangerous and these time-wasters should not be allowed to post on these sites. Sadly it’s probably better for them to be open to everyone so that their casting boards look lovely and full and it then falls to the actors to do the quality control for them. Of course, there are plenty of wonderful jobs being posted on these sites as well and that’s why we keep paying because there’s always a chance that one life-changing job will come along. That one job that will hoist us out of our pyjamas and mean we don’t wince every time someone asks us whether we’re working at the moment. We’re optimistic fools at heart and these websites know this. We’re the ones that need the work and so that slightly sickly cocktail of hope and desperation means that we’ll keep paying. Paying until we’re earning enough to afford to stop •
“Acting is not about being someone different. It’s finding the similarity in what is apparently different, then finding myself in there.” - Meryl Streep
“As an actor, you have many tools - your body, your voice, your emotions, mentally. In film, you have your eyes because they communicate your thought process. In fact, generally in film, what you don’t say is more important than what you say. That’s not so much the case for stage.” - Hugh Jackman
DREAM Dream big. Imagine your life if all your dreams came true. Who would you become? What would you do? What would you have?
DECIDE Decide exactly what you want. Create visual, mental and physical pictures of it. Decide you are worthy. Decide to allow success into your life. DARE Dare to believe it can happen. Dare to take action. Dare to commit to going after what you want. Dare to radiate success.
1880s and today
The Theatre Royal Newcastle is a Grade I listed building which opened on 20th February 1837 with a performance of The Merchant of Venice. A huge fire destroyed the internal structure of the building in 1899. The interior was then redesigned by Frank Matcham and reopened two years later. Externally, the building is exactly as it was when it was first built. As well as stars such as Sir Lawrence Olivier, Dame Judi Dench and Orson Wells having tread its boards, Sir Ian McKellen has described the building as his “favourite theatre”. Arguably one of the most stunning theatre façades in the UK.
DETACH Detach from the outcome. Let go of controlling the HOW it will all unfold. Be open to the unlimited possibilities in store for you. Trust in the future you cannot see right now. DELIGHT Delight in your journey. Look for ways to feel good right now. Look to the beauty that surrounds you. Do what you love. Express gratitude and appreciation daily for everything already in your life. www.actorinspiration.com
CONFESSIONS OF AN ACTOR
CONFESSIONS OF AN ACTOR The joys of a jobbing actor. I’VE GOT TWO WORDS for you. Dance Call. Let’s get this straight, right? I’m an actor who can sing. Well, I’m an actor who can hold a tune. But being short, podgy and balding I get called in for the odd (sometimes very odd!) character part in a musical. Gerald, the agent, will be on the dog and bone muttering the usual “Now, now, dear boy, you’re not to worry, I’ve checked and it’s definitely a movement call - not a dance call, just a little light movement. Definitely.” And despite all historical evidence telling me that it’s not worth the humiliation, I rock up at a dance studio in North London, repeating “movement call, movement call” like some yogic mantra. As soon as I’m signed in I remember, too late, that no choreographer in the world has ever grasped the difference between “a light movement call” and “Ballet Rambert”. There’s me in a corner in my least greasestained trackie bottoms, a dark T-shirt to mask the sweat patches, and my cleanest pair of trainers. Everyone around me is stretching. Like really streeeeeeetching. I try
to touch my toes, every so often I wave my hands at the ceiling. The guy next to me does some weird move where he kind of pulls his right foot over his head. I attempt a sort of squat. Despite the fact that it’s April during the longest winter we’ve ever known and that outside it’s trying to decide whether to rain, sleet or snow, you’d think, looking round, that it was summer in the Bahamas. The smallest, skin-tight shorts and tops that barely cover the nipples have been sprayed onto skin and that’s just the boys. If I was busting out some moves in a sweaty club in Dalston I might take my shirt off, but it would be pretty late at night and after a few Stella’s but this is 10.30 in the morning, and the moves that these guys are busting out are like nothing I’ve ever seen. To be fair, I didn’t even know that boys could do the splits, and my Monday morning movement class at drama school never prepared me for this. There are easily 100 people here, and I’d say, conservatively, that at least 95 of them have extensive dance training and
they are not afraid to show it. I’m about to grab my rucksack and head for the door, when a perky blonde lass with curly hair shouts for attention. “I’m going to teach you the routine,” she says, “and then we’ll see you do it in small groups.” And because she’s fit, I stop. And so begins an hour of hell. To be fair, the blonde lass tries her best, but it’s obvious to everyone that this short, fat bloke at the back of the room thinks a piourette is some kind of ice-cream dessert, like Vienetta, and he barely has the co-ordination to walk, let alone dance. “Let’s put you into small groups now,” shouts Perky. And I don’t know why I don’t run, but I don’t. I remember what my movement teacher told us at drama school, that it’s “attitude not aptitude” and I put on my biggest smile and grunt and thrash around while the panel watch in horror. Not surprisingly I don’t make the cut. And I wake up the next day with a pulled hamstring. I think that’s what we call a Lose/Lose. •
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INTO THE PROFESSION
IT’S THE LUCK OF THE DRAW Alex Vlahos, star of BBC’s Merlin, has been out of drama school for four years. He credits one person with his success on stage and screen - Lady Luck. THE BUZZING SOUND OF hair clippers are edging closer to my ears as I watch it shear through the last remaining tuft of hair I have. I look up and see a completely different me. Once a head full of dark, curly locks, now a complete skinhead, my first thought - apart from thinking how cold February is going to be - was that I didn’t look anything like my headshot and showcase is three weeks away. That wasn’t a drunken accident, or a desperate cry for help, but actually a request from the director of our drama school production of Country Music, James Grieve. Although I did agree to it, seeing myself in the dressing room mirror of the Bute Theatre, our main performance space in RWCMD, I couldn’t help but think I had ruined my chances of getting an agent. I worried too much, that was my problem. It was in my nature back then. I felt that my new ‘look’ had altered my casting and I had that sinking feeling that casting directors and agents would fail to match me to my headshot and consequently, turn a blind eye to me. For anyone leaving drama school those last few months can be extremely stressful. I think the expectations of what is about to happen can, to some degree, be harmful. I particularly found that the pressure I put on myself was making me not enjoy those last few cherished moments. You’re in a bubble, being protected and cared for, guided and shaped. I really didn’t want the bubble to be popped. The drastic cut was needed however and after playing the lead role of Jamie in that production I shouldn’t have been so worried because, as a result of that show, I managed to get the interest of the agent I would later sign with before heading in to our showcase performance at the Royal Court in London. If this is an account of how I have ended up where I am in this profession, the word that sums up everything I’ve achieved is ‘luck’. I can’t say I enjoyed my last remaining shows at drama school, but being fortunate enough to have an agent that I respected and admired already in the bag (if you will) meant that the burden of worry that can sometimes fall upon a ‘soon-to-be-graduate’ seemed to pass me by. Luck. My very first professional audition was soon around the corner. I was asked to see Sarah Bird who was casting a new doctor-drama set in Cardiff, for BBC
Wales, called Crash. I was going in for the semi-regular role of Dylan, the boyfriend to the lead character in the series. I can vividly remember being stupidly nervous before my meeting. I somehow managed to skip the little steps of first rounds and re-calls and was straight in at the deep end meeting the director and producers for a screen test. I’m not normally a nervous person but that day was something else. I didn’t want to let my agent down; I felt like this was an opportunity to show her that her faith in me was right. I called on some advice given to me by my Head of Acting, Dave Bond, during my time at college - and it’s something that I’ve taken with me into every audition I’ve had in my career to this day. “Remember who you’ve met in the room. When you’re introduced to them, remember their names.” This simple act of remembering names instantly causes you to breathe. It changes your focus, from yourself to them. It makes them important. It chemically alters you, and by doing so allows your mind and body to relax - it keeps you looking calm (even though inside you might be a wreck). It was graduation day and I was dressed in my cap and gown, walking to greet my family after the ceremony, when the call arrived that I had been offered the part. I was thrilled and overjoyed; the day was already full of heightened emotions, parting with friends who had shared with me the best three years of my life - and
now my first job. I was about to start my own personal journey. Looking back on the early months of my career I was incredibly fortunate to skip from one job to the other. Again, I attribute it to luck. Of course, I’m not so ignorant to say that there weren’t a lot of ‘behind-the-scenes’ goings on - mostly my agent working incredibly hard to get me in the door and, most importantly, getting me seen by the right people. But you have to remember that a lot of this industry is about luck. That chance meeting. Having the right look. Being the right person to walk in at the right time. I genuinely believe that, and having that frame of mind keeps you sane when auditions don’t go your way - after all, there is such a thing as ‘bad luck’ too! Shortly after filming Crash my confidence was high and auditions were coming in thick and fast. Some I got close to, some passed me by completely - but I kept my self-esteem up and knew that the next job wouldn’t be far away. I landed a lead part in a five-episode special of BBC daytime soap Doctors. The part was written for a Brummie - an accent that, to this day, I still cannot master! Ian Barber, the director, took a chance on me, this inexperienced Welsh boy, and had the part re-written to suit me and my Welsh tones. Again, ‘luck’. I got to spend a month in Birmingham and it’s on this particular job I learned my craft. It’s a well-oiled, fast-paced,
INTO THE PROFESSION
juggernaut of a TV show and quite quickly it taught me professionalism; to be disciplined with my acting, from learning lines to hitting marks. Even silly things like saving the performance for when we were rolling instead of busting it out in the rehearsal. All these things have informed my approach as an actor, something that I have taken with me on to future work. Of course it hasn’t all been plain sailing. My first theatre job took over a year and a half to find me and it came when I probably was at my lowest in terms of self-belief; that struggle that every actor finds themselves in. I find it funny now, with the benefit of hindsight, that it would be this job that would pull me out of my slump and rejuvenate my career. I was asked to meet casting director Sam Jones. Paul Miller would direct John Simm in his first ever Shakespearean role, Hamlet, at the Sheffield Crucible. Unlike some larger theatres who have the luxury of a massive cast, Paul wanted to have a small company who would double up, or even triple up, on parts. Sam brought me in to audition for three lovely characters; Barnardo, Player Queen and Osric. All three offered something very different and would challenge my acting bones to the limit. I got the job. However, I found the whole thing incredibly daunting. Apart from the odd Shakespeare project at college, and one final play, where we bravely tackled Richard III, my experience in Shakespeare was thin to say the least. Luckily, I had found myself in a company of people that made the whole experience a rewarding one. Once you’ve graduated out of drama school the misguided few will believe that their training is complete and they are close enough to the finished article. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Like when you’ve passed your driving test, it is only when you’re out on the road does the real learning begin. It’s the same in acting. It’s the simplest trick in the world, but observing and watching older, more experienced actors at work will teach you so much. A truly invaluable gift. And I soaked it all up like a sponge. I learned a lot from Paul and a hell of a lot from John. Every night, during the show, I would sneak to the wings and sit on the floor, in darkness, and watch the famous ‘to be or not to be’ speech. I would watch John Simm adjust and change ever so slightly, tweak his performance depending on the audience, adapt to include them, in that unique relationship we share. I wish someone had told me, back in that dressing room of the Bute Theatre while the clippers did their work, that I shouldn’t worry so much, because ‘luck’ would find its way. This July will be my 4th year in the acting game. It’s a bizarre feeling, and even writing this has brought back some wonderful memories, as well as some of the mistakes I’ve made. I’m so lucky to already have an incredible body of work. This last year in particular has seen me at my busiest yet, as I’ve recently come off the back of an eight month filming gig where I played the iconic part of Mordred on the BBC fantasy show Merlin, and now I find myself beginning a brave journey into another Shakespearean role that of Malcolm in Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth for Manchester International Festival. As to the future? Well, the life of an actor is full of “What’s next?” and that’s why I love doing what I do because it’s that unpredictability which fills with me excitement. At the end of the day, none of us ever know what Lady Luck may bring. •
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OUT AND ABOUT
TOP MEETING PLACES IN LONDON
NATIONAL THEATRE PROPSTORE Southbank. Waterloo. 12.00-23.00 (Open until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights). A summertime pop-up cafe-bar furnished entirely with props, sets and costumes from the National Theatre. Pros: Located tantalisingly on the riverbank, a fun, attractive, convenient venue for drinks, coﬀee and the increasingly trendy ‘street food.’ Live music at weekends. Cons: Potentially extremely busy, particularly during good weather.
DID YOU KNOW? FLYING THE THEATRE FLAG The original Globe Theatre was built in 1599 in Southwark on the south bank of London’s River Thames by Richard Burbage. Colour coded flags were used outside the theatre to advertise the type of play to be performed – a red flag for a history play, white for a comedy play and black for a tragedy play.
SALT Great Queen St. Covent Garden. 7.30-19.00 (Closed Sunday) Independent espresso lunch and tea bar serving delicious, fresh food and coﬀee. Pros: Forget sandwiches! Fresh, hand-crafted food sets this place aside from the rest. An impressive venue for an ‘important’ coﬀee meeting. Cons: It’s not cheap and it’s really dinky. The high stools can prove dangerous (if you’re as clumsy as Emily anyway). BROADWAY BABY Prior to 1800, Broadway was just another street in New York. Then the Park Theater was built in 1810, followed quickly after by “The Bowery” in 1821. After that, theaters began to pop up all over, spreading the art through the heart of New York. There’s now over 40 venues in operation making Broadway a world theatre hub.
FOYLE’S BOOKSHOP CAFE Charing Cross Rd. Tottenham Court Road. 9.30-21.00 A popular hideaway for creatives and academics alike. Buy a book, have a coﬀee... What’s not to love? Pros: Irresistible chocolate brownies, free wifi and a great atmosphere. An ideal location for a meeting or just getting work done. Cons: Pricey, but nothing on Starbucks!
LEON The Strand. Charing Cross. 7.30-10.00 A funky, intimate restaurant providing fast but nutritious food. Pros: Cheap, wholesome and tasty (especially the fish-finger sandwiches). Fast, friendly service. Naturally low GI food. Super location and layout for meetings. Cons: Can get very busy at lunch with long queues for takeaways. Doesn’t sell chips damn!
NOTES, COVENT GARDEN 7.30-22.00 The less busy of the two branches, this classical music themed cafe boasts very good coﬀee and cakes. Pros: Relaxing ambience, classical music and attractive, open-plan layout. Cons: Patrons sit around large, shared benches so not suitable for meetings of the top-secret variety.
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OUT OF THE CLOSET Sir Ian McKellen came out publicly in 1988 on BBC Radio 3 and lobbied the thenHome Secretary Michael Howard about a law he was putting through, forbidding the “promotion of homosexuality in schools”. Howard refused to change his mind and asked for an autograph on his children’s behalf. McKellen happily accepted, writing: “F**k oﬀ, I’m gay.”
COMING IN SEPTEMBER 2013 FEATURES INTERVIEWS REVIEWS NATIONAL LISTINGS BOX OFFICE AND MUCH MORE www.britishtheatre.com
Photography by David Levine Styled by Billie Kermack Shot on location at Warr’s Harley-Davidson 611 King’s Road, London SW6 2EL
From Dublin’s fair city Andrew Scott’s star is riding high thanks to acclaimed roles on stage and screen. JBR talks to one of the most versatile, intriguing, and daring actors working today. “AND THE 2012 BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor goes to Andrew Scott.” First he sank his head into his hands in disbelief, before taking to the stage with a grin that was both disarming and devilish. Andrew Scott has a Puckish quality: youthful and slight. We meet for coffee on the South Bank: he is slightly disheveled, constantly shifting in his seat. Frequently the lilting Dublin brogue of his speech fades to silence. But he is not vague, or indistinct - rather it is as if he is reaching for the right thing to say: anxious to please, keen to be a good subject. “OK,” I begin. “Right,” he says, and puts down his sandwich. “Don’t stop eating!” I laugh, but the sandwich is pushed aside and he is focussed. “Ready to rock,” he smiles. When Scott won the BAFTA he thanked his Mum & Dad during his acceptance speech. “I always remember watching films on television,” he explains. “Really young like six or seven, and thinking I’d like to do that. And I
he roars, “Exactly 6 months! I got an opportunity to audition for the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and I took it. I remember one day thinking ‘I’ll take a year out and then I’ll go back’ but it just kind of took off. I got another job in the Abbey and then I got a film and I thought ‘this is what I would do after four years of doing a degree.’ It wasn’t like I was training in acting, it was essays in semiotics and very academic. I think acting, for me, is always about the joy of it, and I always try to have that now, that sense that it shouldn’t get any more complex than it was when you were 13.” Flash back three years to a warm September night at the Old Vic. I had been given a ticket to a Noël Coward play, Design for Living, starring Lisa Dillon, Tom Burke and Scott. It was a mercurial performance by Scott: quicksilver, thrilling, and zoetic. For me, what underpinned it was the sense that Scott was having an absolute ball. I tell him he struck me as someone absolutely loving it and he chews his lower lip and giggles like a schoolboy caught raiding the
The biggest thing you can own as an actor is a sense of your identity. You can only get that through trying as many different things as possible think I expressed to my mum that I’d love to do drama or something, and she said she knew this person had gone to these drama classes. So I just went along. It was Saturday drama classes. You did improvisation, a bit of Shakespeare, a bit of poetry, and I went once a week and had a laugh. They have these things in Ireland; they’re like drama competitions in these empty hallways and these fifteen year olds do excerpts from Shakespeare,” Scott laughs at the memory. “You know? I did Richard III, age 15! You get to do all these great excerpts like ‘now is the winter of our discontent’ and you win a prize or you don’t win a prize.” Youth theatre, Saturday drama classes, it’s a familiar route for many actors. “I had an idea that theatre was just playful, you know? And not academic and not the kind of subject for me. I went to Trinity in Dublin to do a degree in drama...but... it didn’t last. I lasted six months,”
tuck shop. “Yeah I do, I do, I do,” he rubs his hands with glee. “I do love acting. I never want to stop loving it. I feel very lucky to do a job that I really, really do love.” Scott, already an Olivier award winner for A Girl in A Car With A Man and the winner of an Irish Film & Television Award for Dead Bodies, epitomizes something of Warhol’s fifteen minutes - in a little less than fifteen minutes of screen time in Sherlock, Scott was suddenly a household name. The stunning success of Sherlock was pure zeitgeist television. “What was extraordinary,” he explains, “was that it was such an instant success. It was a hit after episode one, people just had an immediate affection for it really, really quickly.” After his BAFTA win for playing Moriarty, he must have been offered similar roles? “Once you’re in a show that’s successful, you can suddenly be asked to do the same thing all of the time,”
As Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock
he agrees. “But if you don’t want to you just have to not say yes, you know? It’s pretty simple.” Things must have changed overnight? “I don’t know,” he murmurs. “It’s very hard to know in that situation.” At first I suppose Scott is being humble; in the time we have spent together he has been stopped by members of the public, photographed, and pointed at. But it occurs to me that Scott is struggling - not to cope with fame - “It’s not too much of a problem. If you don’t want to be seen you don’t have to be!” he laughs, but struggling to retain his sense of himself, as an actor, now that he is a celebrity. “I’m sick of the word celebrity. It’s so overused now isn’t it? You just hear it everywhere! Celebrity this, celebrity that - celebrity toilet flushing! What even is it any more?” I press him to talk more about how his life changed post-Sherlock and he brings it back to the work. He is an actor first, and only second, or third, or, I suspect, much, much further down the line a celebrity. “I think the thing that it gives you is an opportunity to audition,” he says. “I often say that what actors want is an audition. If you don’t get it at an audition you can sort of cope but what actors can’t cope with is not getting a chance to audition. That is, I think, the greatest opportunity that being in a show like that gives. It opens the door and then it’s up to you which doors you choose to go into. I feel grateful not to have had too high a profile too early because I was able to go relatively unscrutinised.” Suddenly he clicks his fingers, “People go ‘Right, he’s an Irish juve., he’s a villain, he’s a romantic hero’ and actually only you can decide through exploration who you want to be. I think it’s really important for young actors to discover that and hold onto it before everybody tells you who you are. I’m like ‘No, I’m not, because I’ve done this before, maybe only six people saw it but I know that that’s in me.’ It allows you to to have a value of who you are, not based on how hot you are, or how popular you are, how famous you are.” For a second, Scott drifts off, looking out the window before snapping back. “The biggest thing you can own as an actor is a sense of your identity. You can only get that through trying as many different things as possible. So I think that’s why, even though I totally see that working on the fringe is hard, and it’s hard being poor, but there’s a great potency to the early work we all do and it shouldn’t be undervalued in the rush to success and fame. Your work is as valid when three people are watching than it is when three million people are watching.” Scott pauses a lot while he speaks, thinking carefully. He also laughs a lot. It is as if he is both cognizant of the fact that his 18 fourthwallmagazine.co.uk
thoughts now carry some sort of weight, and amused by the absurdity of that. “I think the value of success is that you realise... it is kind of empty. You still have the same torments and all that that sort of stuff.” He doesn’t often give magazine interviews. “It’s not for any lofty reason. It’s just I don’t think that actually gives you any value as an actor. For me, the thrill of being an actor is to try and play as many different types of people as possible. So it’s not being secretive, it’s just being private, and it’s being measured about what the value of those things is. I don’t think you’re ever going to really get to know a person in those. I think sometimes people’s homework is rewarded a lot. You know - ‘I did a huge amount of work - seven months starving myself and I hung out with astronauts’ but there is a part of me that just doesn’t want to know any of that stuff because it’s not the audience’s concern. I don’t think the audience want to know. The first question is often ‘what first attracted you to the part?’ ‘Well, six people turned it down’” And the self-deprecating giggle is back. “That’s why I was happy to talk to your magazine, because there’s a point to it and I really admire what it does. It’s sort of like a community magazine, isn’t it?” Scott was already highly respected by other actors, an actors’ actor, and the acting community is important to him. “I absolutely love other actors,” he nods. “I mean the really good ones - I kind of rely on them. One of the great privileges is to get to work with different people, you know? I feel a great affinity with young actors. What I feel is that you should never lose the sense that we are all doing the same thing. Somebody works in a soap, and it’s considered not as valuable as somebody who works at the RSC, and vice-versa? I think if you want to work in a soap and you feel that’s instinctively what you want to do, then brilliant! Let’s try not to judge each other too much!” If it seems Scott is all work and no play, that’s not true, although he’s not the type photographed falling out of bars. “I wouldn’t say I’m really serious, and don’t like to do any of those fun things, I just...it’s just...a little bit of balance, you know? I go to the gym, although there’s part of me that resists! I sit on a Swiss Ball and stare into space. I do a bit of that and then I go to the movies. I like eating out, I like a nice restaurant, hanging out with friends.” He draws, too. “I’ve always drawn people, people’s body language, what people are wearing. I suppose there’s an element of observation. I think I’m probably quite an observant person. What I’d really like to do is spend some time, just go away and draw and paint but I haven’t found the time. My parents say ‘just do it, shut up and do it!’” At one point he was set to do an art course, but it never happened. “I can’t even finish that sandwich,” he laughs. On stage, on screen, here on the South Bank, Scott is a bundle of energy- I wonder if rehearsing with him is hard work? “I do make a lot of bad mistakes. And you know what? I think it’s more important in rehearsal to be a good person than it is to be nice person. You’ve got to sort of be...you’ve got to sort of be... challenging a little bit, with the work in rehearsal, I mean. I think it’s really important for actors to do what instinctively is right for you. And for me it’s just been to, just know it really well and know the words really, really well. I quite like rehearsing - depending on the play - sometimes I hate it!” He giggles again: the naughty schoolboy. And that is what is most striking about Scott, he is both schoolboy and sage, constantly shifting and surprising. “What’s been actually quite nice about having a little bit of success is to realise you never really make it, you know? People often say to graduates and people starting out ‘Oh it’s a terrible job’ and ‘if there’s anything else you can do, do it’ which I can understand. But it’s also a brilliant job, you meet fantastic, empathetic people. That’s what we do. We try to imagine what it’s like to be someone else and for that reason you can meet really fantastically, kind, funny, funny people. That’s really the thing that keeps me going laughing.” • The third series of Sherlock will be screened on BBC1 in the autumn.
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WHAT FUTURE IS THERE FOR THEATRE CRITICISM? In an information, marketing saturated world, who do you trust? What do you read and what is the future of traditional theatre criticism? Tim Burners-Lee, creator of the internet, brought about a revolution that overwhelmed, consumed, and eventually defined contemporary society, facilitating freedom of speech in its rawest form. A universally accessible resource of information, music, film and literature, the internet has reduced the value of the tangible book or CD for example, resulting in the inevitable and devastating decline of particular industries. Theatre remains relatively safe, largely unperturbed by the culture of the ‘free download.’ A curated theatrical experience can be purchased in the form of a Phantom of the Opera concert DVD, but nothing available online yet threatens live, visceral, organic, fleshy theatre. However, traditional theatre criticism has fallen victim: In one respect, the immediate, wide-spread accessibility of a review has facilitated increased readership, but rapid turn-around and ‘free-for-all’ authorship means that the quality of criticism, at one time an art form in itself, is suffering. After all, “If everyone’s a critic, then no one’s a critic.” (L.Winer, Newsday) Where once, books were ritually burnt because of the political threat posed by the persuasive written word, the internet, by putting power into the hands of the people, has actively encouraged the spread of opinion. Writer John Moore explains that, “When it comes to arts criticism, the
internet was supposed to be the great equaliser,” but, what truth or meaning is there in anything online? The internet is everything and nothing because it has no centralised governance. What is fact without validation? Opportunistic bloggers, tweeters, and rapid-response reviewers, have filled the information vacuum created by the impartial internet, and whilst these unpaid, unqualified, unknowledgable writers slather the web with their opinions, informative, measured and witty criticism slips into the archives of yet another lost art form. Web reviewers, writing to varying degrees of purpose or proliferation have spawned a culture of speed rather than that of considered opinion, and this has resulted in wide-spread unemployment; John Moore, for example, was the last full-time, professional critic in Denver. As experienced writers become surplus to requirement we need to ask, can theatre exist without criticism? The answer is dependent upon what you believe the purpose of criticism to be. What do you read and who do you trust? What do you hope to achieve by flicking to the arts pages of a paper? In any case, with the standard of criticism (online and in the papers) continuing to slip, the critic’s reputation worsens. What future is there? Before we confront the future, let us look firstly to the past. The earliest known reference to criticism dates back to C.380 B.C.E and Plato’s
Republic. Laying a foundation for critical discourse in the classical world, Plato explains how it was fitting for a rhapsode, (poet) to respond verbally to theatrical entertainments: “For the poet is a light and winged and holy thing, and there is no invention in him until he has been inspired and is out of his senses, and the mind is no longer in him.” In the beginning then, there were high expectations. In the 1800’s, critics played an increasingly important role within the American press, and despite being accused of reducing feelings to a state of miserable refinement, they were valued, employed and at least possessed such skills. Meanwhile, as Irving Wardle outlines in his book Theatre Criticism, the Grub Street slums of Georgian London rapidly became a bohemian hive of artistic activity and were the probable origin of theatrical criticism in Britain. By the 1850’s, advancements in printing and the press fuelled an explosion in journalism, and in 1935, cementing that progress, establishment of The Drama Critic’s circle ensured that the critic’s influence continued to abound. Conversely, 2007 saw the beginning of widespread layoffs at newspapers and magazines leaving dozens of veteran arts journalists professionally homeless, expunged by internet reviewers or cheaper freelancers. And the situation continues to worsen, evidence now suggesting that criticism has
ESSAY reached such a point of decline that it is no longer significant; it no longer has a part to play. What could today’s critic offer in order to reinstate their own necessity and worth? What do we want? Reviewing, simply put, is the act of writing or speaking about the performing arts, so no one person can dictate what it should or shouldn’t be, and if critics disagree amongst themselves, that is nothing compared to the public disagreement over what their role should be. We all require something different, but one might hope to locate at least one, two or a combination of the qualities listed below: A review should be... Informative. The piece should contain basic, accurate information about the show/production in order to keep the reader in touch with the continuously evolving theatrical landscape - a landscape which, for some, sits at the epicentre of social functioning. The reviewer therefore, is required to attend, watch and inform. Entertaining. Theatre is occasionally entertaining. Shouldn’t we be entertained when reading about it too? Be it witty or not, criticism should capture the style and essence of the show - reflecting, not just referencing it. It is good for the industry if people flick to the review pages; interesting articles will promote that intrigue. Historical. Criticism is a way of documenting, remembering and celebrating past theatre, as well as present. Therefore a critic should have theatrical knowledge in order to root the production in question within theatrical history. Constructive. Good, impartial criticism can provide the fresh eyes a creative team require. Reviewing is a fundamental and integral part of
the development process - a way of improving theatre. “Only critical faculty enables any artistic creation at all.” (Wilde) What good does a sycophantic wash of praise do? Opinionated: A review should assist the reader in making the all-important decision: to buy tickets or not to buy tickets? That’s a big responsibility, and if “everyone is a critic,” then who should we trust? Marketing might initially catch the attention of the consumer but a good review can cement the £60 per ticket spend. The public need an arbiter of taste. And is this what we are getting? According to writer, John Russell Brown, criticism is an “unmapped quagmire,” - an art form that has remained, until recently, unexamined. But, in light of increased instability, it feels appropriate to turn the tables and examine what remains. Reviews that meet our expectations are increasingly difficult to find, but they do exist: Ben Brantley, for example, reviewed Menken and Fierstein’s Broadway musical, Newsies, for the New York Times. His piece, ‘Urchins with Punctuation,’ is lengthy and entertaining, reflecting the show’s energy and offering a measured and reasoned opinion from which the individual reader can decipher the production’s suitability. A literary achievement, he gives credit without verging into the bland territory of hyperbole: “Mr. Feldmen’s lyrics are spot on, while the melody reminds us just how charming a composer Mr.Menken [...] can be.” Overblown praise only provokes cynicism, disappointment and a wilfulness to protest. He is refreshingly witty: “That doesn’t stop them from burning energy like toddlers on a sugar high at a birthday party,” and immediately captivates the reader, much in the same vein as a play might wish to do. Brantley also resists the trappings of writing a gratuitous plot synopsis, instead summarising the narrative in one
line: “The show’s title characters, feisty lads of the urban jungle [...] make their living pushing the papes.” In terms of language, Brantley uses the “read all about it,” exclamatory, punctuated energy of the show to drive his piece and employs the colloquial so as to serve the readership and the show’s potential audience. In addition, the grounded review acknowledges current social trends: “These days urchins have mostly been replaced in popular entertainment by troubled teenage vampires (‘Twilight’) and fresh-fleshed human killing machines (‘The Hunger Games’).” Perhaps you could criticise Brantley for failing to address the historical concerns of said urchins, but the all singing all dancing, lavish musical does not lend itself to a serious discussion of these themes. If the show fails to address it, then why should the reviewer? Instead, Brantley reviews Newsies for what it is. Finally and perhaps most importantly, is Brantley’s impressive honesty. He bravely asserts his opinion in the confident 1st person, and in a way that is simultaneously constructive and comical: “I commend the cast members for always appearing to be excited by what they are doing. Unfortunately, that is not the same as being exciting.” Of course, Brantley is not the only capable writer in print, but with the situation as it is, and talented writers (young and old) being forced to write to unrealistic deadlines, often for no pay, is it any wonder that standards and expectations are not being met? Infuriatingly, criticism also continuously undermines itself in the following ways: Firstly, reviews have become monetized. It is increasingly common for large production companies to pay papers (inevitably tantalised by the fee) for headline quotes. We are now bombarded with emphatic posters making incredible claims: “It’s the greatest show on Earth!” for example. But, if companies pay for quotes, how are we, the reader, able to distinguish between a review and a sales pitch? The differentiation no longer exists. Secondly, writers for particular sites receive a rate of pay dependant on the number of fourthwallmagazine.co.uk 21
ESSAY ‘hits’ a review receives. Obviously, a 5* piece, fizzing with praise, is shared and circulated by the company and consequently, only the sycophant can afford to eat. This severely limits the opinion of the honest reviewer, terrified of displeasing. That’s not theatre, nor is it criticism. That’s bribery and actually, all the reader gets is more marketing. It is no coincidence that as we see more of the above, (not to mention dry, ignorant, distasteful writing) people lose faith in criticism, no longer functioning in the traditional capacity on which they relied. Simply put, the remaining work is not good enough to sustain the form’s validity. Let us remember for a moment Oscar Wilde’s expectation: “It is criticism rather than emotional sympathies, abstract ethics or commercial advantages that would make us cosmopolitan and serve as the basis of peace.” (Wilde) Gone, I fear, are the days of this long lost ideology. So what can be done? Due to the human need to impose form on chaos, art will always be accompanied by some sort of criticism; it cannot exist without it. However, in order to prevent being displaced entirely by the unmediated voice of the internet, critics need to act. Public reviews, such as those found on Amazon or Trip-Advisor, for example, tend to be either glowing or scathing. The internet rarely offers informed, impartial, measured opinion. For as long as this remains to be the case, the critic, as an arbiter of taste, stands a chance. Continuing to encourage a wealth of discussion and increasing public awareness will assist to stimulate change; only an amalgamation of minds can forge progress at this stage and suggestions are already being made. No one can prescribe a format for ‘good’ criticism; pieces are as individual as plays or paintings, but perhaps, as was conceded at ‘The Art of Criticism’ conference in London, 2013, the future of criticism might hinge upon a willingness to adapt. For example, Brantley argues that reviews cannot be written well AND quickly. “I don’t think you should go with your very first instinct. I don’t think theatre is sports.” However, in order to adapt to 21st century demands, critics may no longer be allowed the luxury of “a chance to process what [they’ve] seen.” Mark Shenton, in his blog for The Stage, identifies how critics, such as Billington, Taylor and Letts, have been attending performances ahead press night, in order to allow for writing time. This is not an ideal solution - a preview should be a preview, but early viewing could potentially improve the standard of published work. Also in question is the star-rating system, which some papers have dismissed in order to encourage a thorough reading of the piece. It is too tempting to place great emphasis on the over-simplistic, reductionist, blurry distinction between 3 or 4 stars. There are problems to be addressed and solutions to be trailed, but with persistence, adaptation and adjustment critics may well prevail. (Alternatively, we can hope that readers themselves might start to demand better!) However, if the horizon continues to darken, traditional theatre critics, artists as they are, may continue to suffer, reminiscent of where it all began - Grub Street and the impoverished, bohemian neighbourhood of hack writers.
Sources: Oscar Wilde, The Artist as Critic, Random House, 2013 Matthew Arnold, Can art exist without commentary? Mark Shenton, Blog for the Stage, The Future of Criticism is already Here, 2013 Ben Brantley, New York Times Julie York Coppens, Theatre criticism: A highly selective timeline, www.dramacritics.org en.Wikipedia.org Irving Wardle, Theatre criticism, Faber and Faber Dr Claire McManus, The Origins of Criticism: From Dryden to Manley, Cambridge University Press, 2003
Fourthwall has recently launched The Download, a brand new monthly performing arts audio show. Taking the best elements of the magazine, The Download brings the publication to life featuring news, reviews, interviews and debates. It is presented by Editor Josh Rochford and Creative Director of 3Fold Media Phil Matthews. The first episode of The Download featured a report from Fourthwall TV’s recent trip to the red carpet at the Olivier Awards, featuring previously unheard footage of their interview with Summer Strallen and an analysis of some of the winners. Guests in this episode include West End leading man Simon Thomas and renowned playwright Philip Ridley. Simon Thomas (pictured above centre), GSA graduate and currently playing Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera, shared advice about how to maintain the stamina for an 8 show week, and how he likes to prepare. Philip Ridley, described by Aleks Sierz, author of In Yer Face Theatre as the ‘best British playwright of the last 20 years’ dropped in to chat about what drives him, his extraordinary imagination and his career. Ridley inspirational interview covers his thoughts on new writing, music, telling stories, constantly challenging oneself, and what it means to make art. “Art doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” he says. “It needs an audience. Lots of actors feel this, that for a long time they’re doing it in front of the mirror at home, and at some point something clicks, and you just need to show this oﬀ to people. Don’t wait for things to happen, you might have a very long wait. Just create something. You’ve got to do it. I have no patience with people who say ‘I want to do this’ or ‘I want to do that’ - well, just do it! How come you’re saying it, and not doing it.” The second show featured an in-depth chat with senior RADA acting tutor Dee Cannon and author of In-Depth Acting. Her book has become a best-seller and a ‘bible’ for those wishing to succeed in the industry. Dee specialises in the Stanislavski technique and gives Masterclasses across the world. The team also have a wonderful discussion with stage and screen actor Alexander Vlahos (BBC’s Merlin, co-founder of theatre company Undeb and Fourthwall columnist). He talks about working on ‘green screen’ on his first day of filming on Merlin, as well as giving his top ten screen acting tips.
Listen at www.fourthwallmagazine.co.uk
From Acting to Auditions Samba to Stage Combat…
Students’ quotes: “I really enjoyed this course! The tutors were so helpful and knowledgeable and really gave me the extra conﬁdence I needed. I still use the audition piece I worked on with them! It was a really great environment to get a taste of drama school and I couldn’t recommend it more.” “An excellent course. I learned a lot from the whole experience.”
Summer Courses 2013 “Highly recommended. It furthered my knowledge and skill in Jacobean theatre.” “It was completely different from anything I had ever done. I discovered voice classes and movement lessons. I made up my mind there and then I never wanted to do academic study again and applied for a full time course.”
“The contribution of East 15 actors to the British theatre, television, and ﬁlm over the past decades has been immense. Several generations of brilliant young actors and actresses have come out of this highly original conservatoire.” Mike Leigh OBE East 15 is the only UK member of U/RTA (USA)
A host of courses at one of the U.K’s leading acting schools – in Loughton and Southend
Call +44 (0) 20 8508 5983 or visit www.east15.ac.uk East 15 Acting School is part of the University of Essex and is a member of Drama UK
FOUR TO WATCH
BY HANNAH READ
BY AMY BARNES
LITTLE BULB THEATRE
Do not be fooled by the modestly named Little Bulb Theatre: the light that radiates from this touring theatre company is vast and magical. Formed in 2008 and made up of graduates from the University of Kent, this theatre company burst onto the scene to win a Fringe First Award with their debut show Croscomia. They have since toured all over the UK and are currently in residence at the Battersea Arts Centre with their musical marvel, a retelling of the myth Orpheus. This new show is a perfect example of their talent and passion, with all members of the company learning instruments to form a jazz band to tell the story in the style of Django Reinhardt. This is the secret to their appeal; Little Bulb Theatre choose great stories, from lost childhoods to Greek myths that are laced with bitter sweetness, humanity and humour. Little Bulb have seamlessly taken traditional forms and merged them with a contemporary style, executed with a panoply of grace and charm. If you’re not already talking about Little Bulb Theatre, you soon will be.
Benjamin Bate is a director at Workhouse Pictures. After training as an actor at Oldham College in Manchester, and with a degree in Physical Theatre, Bate embarked on his directing career, studying the discipline at Brighton University, and directing various shows across the country. He then started writing and devising his own work. The realisation that he did not want his stories and characters to be confined by the medium of theatre led to the founding of Workhouse Pictures in 2011. You’d be mistaken for thinking this is just another struggling film company intent on producing footage by whatever means possible. Rather, Workhouse Pictures, with four full-time employees and a nice oﬃce space in Shoreditch, is thriving, and abides by a detailed five-year plan to help both the company and the British Film Industry become more sustainable. Their first short, Lost For Words, perfectly captured the private life of Charles Dickens through its acute attention to detail and unashamedly high production values. With various other shorts and features slated to go into production in the next few years, this company - and Bate in particular - is one to watch.
Little Bulb Theatre
2 BY CATHERINE LOVE
LUKE BARNES Luke Barnes exploded onto the collective consciousness with not one but two plays at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, firmly establishing his startling talent. Chapel Street stared unpatronisingly in the face of the hedonism and apathy of modern youth, while Bottleneck delivered perhaps the most stomach-dropping moment of the whole Fringe. As well as touring, both have made the trip down to London, where Chapel Street was included in the Bush Theatre’s RADAR Festival and Bottleneck enjoyed a run in the Soho Theatre Upstairs There’s a brutal yet generous honesty to Barnes’ writing, which meticulously captures everyday speech and somehow renders it oddly poetic. His subjects appear small, as do the plays themselves but they unleash wider gestures with surprising ferocity. What both share is a seesaw moment, when they tip over from light humour into something altogether darker, in a movement so swift it leaves an audience struggling to maintain their balance. Barnes’ latest project is Northern Spirit’s A Wondrous Place. Barnes turns the focus once again on his native Liverpool in Dog, a tale of one character’s search for redemption and forgiveness out on the city streets. The production is currently touring to Liverpool, Sheﬃeld, Newcastle and Manchester. 24 fourthwallmagazine.co.uk
BY ADAM LENSON
THE TEAM Explosive American collective The Team (Theatre of the Emerging American Moment) live up to their name by fusing American history, folklore and popular culture with a modern political outlook. Their work, typically and particularly American, resists the constraints of form and genre and is refreshingly anarchistic for that. Having decided on a theme, they write and develop ideas around a table, reminiscent of a TV show writers room. Then they pull their material together through workshops and rehearsals in a highly collaborative process considering just about every form of theatricality. Results of the riﬃng, improvisation, movement and games are then refined by director Rachel Chavkin. They won a Fringe First award in Edinburgh in 2004 and were back in 2005 with Particularly in the Heartland, fusing the themes of Alice in Wonderland with the unsteady echoes of middle America. They then partnered with the National theatre of Scotland for Architecting, an exploration of Gone with the Wind through themes of architecture and choreography. Their new show Mission Drift, at The Shed centred on Las Vegas, oﬀering a tenuous celebration of modern capitalism. Those who have followed them since their first steps (like those who saw Coldplay in a cramped room above a pub) can’t recommend them enough; it’s never too late to join the TEAM.
A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF
A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF…
A MUSICAL DIRECTOR
Alan Berry was musical director for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Matilda the Musical at London’s Cambridge Theatre. Other work has included Shrek, Avenue Q, Hairspray, Spamalot and Little Shop of Horrors. Later in the year he will be moving to the Palace Theatre to MD the new production of Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments.
Matilda’s performance schedule runs Tuesday to Sunday so my week begins with a day oﬀ which is rather pleasant. It’s a day to do sociable things, but also deal with mundane jobs like paying bills, and the occasional vacuum.
So, straight into the working week. Today we have auditions for the cast change which will be taking place in the summer. They are held at a London studio and we see around one hundred and twenty people today, who are put through rigorous dance routines and then asked to perform a song of their own choice. Working closely with the dance department and resident director we decide whether these people will make it through to the second round later in the week. This wraps up around 5:00pm then it’s straight to the theatre for the warmup. Every day the actors have a period of time before the show where there are physical, voice and vocal warm-ups on oﬀer. This is a good time for everyone to catch up, the company manager to distribute parish notices and for the creative team to give notes and work sections of the show. Then at 7:00pm, I get the green light, give a “3,4” and we’re oﬀ!
The morning is spent at home as there are two shows today and no extra rehearsals. We do, however, have quite a large outdoor event looming so it is a good opportunity to chat to the musical supervisor about arrangements for this event and do some initial preparation work. Then it’s oﬀ to the theatre for a double dose. There are eleven of us in the Matilda orchestra and we live under the stage in what is essentially a large studio. They are a superb bunch of musicians and it is a pleasure to work with them every day. Like the actors have understudies, the musicians can employ
‘deputies’ who learn the show enabling the musician to take time oﬀ. Today there is a person playing her first show on the piano chair and so I get in a little earlier to take her through some tricky corners of the score. It can be a scary thing ‘depping’, especially on this monster of a show, so this is where the counselling part of the job comes in. From then on it’s just two simple shows, It has to be said, conducting this amazing musical is the best part of my day! Then at 10:05pm when the show comes down, I must admit to going for a refreshing sherry. Or two.
So today is back at the audition studio to meet the successful people who got through the first round. They have been sent music and scenes from the show to prepare and today they perform these before a panel which includes the Casting Director, the Resident Director and myself. The casting process is like a huge jigsaw, which is a lot of fun, but can be frustrating at times when the panel disagrees - which is not too often I’m happy to say. This evening my assistant is conducting the show while the Children’s Musical Director and myself spend some time in the studio with one of the girls who plays Matilda in the show. This is really valuable time and enables us to keep the kids up to the very high standard the show demands. They’re such a talented lot and they work very hard.
I have my daytime free so it is a good opportunity to chill out and have a lie in. This evening my assistant will conduct the show again while I sit in the auditorium and watch. This is such an important exercise as it
allows me to take notes on the music and the sound of the show, and indeed identify the bits which might have involuntarily ‘evolved’! I then collate these notes and give them to the diﬀerent departments and individuals concerned - all delivered with love and respect, of course. Once a show is up and running it becomes all about its maintenance. London produces some of the best theatre in the world, so we can’t have standards slipping.
Another two show day! The morning is spent at home and I head in for the matinee around lunchtime. This evening I have a student sitting with me in the orchestra pit. I regularly get requests for work experience from music students and try to accommodate as many as I can.To be honest, the profession itself is built on reputation and word of mouth so often the most common question is, “How do I get my foot in the door?” There certainly is never an advert in the job column in the paper! Everyone’s journey into the music world is so diﬀerent but hopefully it helps for them to know mine, and possibly pick up a pearl or nugget along the way.
Today there is a matinee only, but I’ve been contacted by a group of drama students who are coming to watch the show and afterwards I give them a small tour and conduct a bit of a Q & A session. They loved it, and it is always satisfying to see the joy which is felt by people who come to the show. And it is at this point my week concludes, joining a number of the cast for a well-earned drink. It can’t be all work and no play after all.
TDS NEWS CITY LIT’S - “VALUE FOR MONEY” DRAMA SCHOOL City Lit, a college for adults in Covent Garden, has been awarded a ‘Recognition’ quality mark from Drama UK for two of their accredited courses. These courses feed into City Lit’s brand new 2-year part-time professional acting diploma. This new course oﬀers a more aﬀordable way to train for those who might not otherwise be able to aﬀord to go to drama school.
Dr Jonathan Miller, the patron of the City Lit Drama Department.
Vivienne Rochester, Head of Drama, Dance and Speech at City Lit, said: “I am delighted that Drama UK has recognised the first class quality of our courses. This is the Industry endorsing all that we do. Fantastic”. City Lit provides aﬀordable part-time and some full-time courses for adults. Alumni from its drama department includes Gina McKee from Notting Hill and Derek actor and comedian Kerry Godliman, Ruby Bentall from Larkrise to Candleford and Jane Austen and Louise Brealey of Sherlock Holmes.
Theatre and opera director, actor, author, television presenter, humorist and sculptor Dr Jonathan Miller is patron of City Lit’s drama school. City Lit also oﬀers experienced and professional tutors, many teaching at the other leading drama schools and conservatoires.
CASTING Musical Casting Director Benjamin Newsome offers tips for once you make it into the room
Dr Jonathan Miller says: “Drama schools in England are in danger of becoming elitist, cliquey institutions, oﬀering training only to privileged actors from wealthy backgrounds. City Lit is one of the few places with a level playing field.”
Two students who show exceptional potential will be awarded a scholarship to the value of 50% of the fees for their second year on the new Professional Acting Diploma. The new Jonathan Miller Scholarship is worth £3,250 for two candidates. www.citylit.ac.uk/dramaschool
JENNA RUSSELL Tales from the dressing room
STUDENT SUPPOPRT Simon Dunmore and Yvonne I’Anson answer your questions
SUMMER SCHOOLS Some top tips for getting the most out of your summer break on a summer course. When Jessie Buckley came second in I’d Do Anything, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2008 search for a Nancy to star in Oliver!, she seemed destined for an instant career in musical theatre. A West End role in A Little Night Music followed, and no doubt Buckley with her celebrity status and her great reviews for Night Music could easily have continued to work. She opted, perhaps surprisingly, to take a short course in Shakespeare at RADA. Buckley fell so much in love with RADA and Shakespeare that she postponed her West End career and enrolled fulltime. She graduated this year and can now be seen playing Miranda at Shakespeare’s Globe, opposite Roger Allam as Prospero in The Tempest. There are many reasons to take a short course in something you love. Many of the UK’s leading drama and dance schools oﬀer a variety of courses in a wide-range of disciplines. You may wish to learn a new skill or brush up your current ones, go deeper into a field of study that interests you, get a taste of what life could be like at a drama school before applying, or simply want to have some fun and make new friends. Some summer schools are a type of pretraining. It is an invaluable way of dipping your toe into the waters of the drama school life, to find out whether the rigour and discipline of the work is for you, but it is increasingly common to find seasoned professionals taking courses. In this way, the UK is becoming more like the USA where it is commonplace to ‘take class’ throughout your working life. Nowadays actors are asked to do more and more, so the more skills you have on your CV the better. You might want to take a course in a particular subject, like Shakespeare, to extend your knowledge, or jazz dance to give you the edge at musical theatre auditions. It may be that you feel a little insecure about your singing voice, and want to take a vocal skills course to really tighten it up. Perhaps you’ve done a lot of school drama, or with your local amateur dramatics group and are thinking of applying to drama school. Or you might be incredibly creative and want to try your hand at set designing, or mask-making, or costuming. Whatever your needs, working with professional tutors and mixing with other students of varying ability can only stretch you and improve your work. You can improve confidence, posture, fitness and a whole range of other skills that you’ll be able to take with you, whatever it is you’re doing in life. Of course, although it seems that everyone wants to be in the spotlight these days, there isn’t
one form of theatre that doesn’t rely on fantastic behind-the-scenes technicians. Summer courses are not just for performers. You can take courses in writing, production, technical theatre, set building, writing musicals, the list is endless. Summer schools are immensely popular. Almost all the top drama schools now include some form of summer school and so the range of courses on oﬀer are staggering, and the prices can vary immensely. It’s very important therefore to really do your research, and know what you want to get out of your course. The very worst thing would be to end up paying a small fortune for a course that turns out not to interest you tremendously, or is above your level of expertise, doesn’t stretch or challenge you suﬃciently or simply isn’t very well organised. So first, research, research, research. Ask around on Twitter and Facebook and see how much you can find out for yourself. Many of the best courses will already be booked up as they are incredibly popular but there is bound to be something to challenge and interest you that still has places available. Don’t simply sign up to any course though, take a little time and find the perfect one for you. Summer courses can be broadly categorised into three sections; Youth Courses, Pre-Training and Skills-based courses. Make sure you know which section you fit into. If you’re under 16 and are looking for a fun way to spend your summer holiday, make new friends and get to know a little bit more about your hobby, then a Youth Course is for you. These courses will be fun, friendly, designed to teach you a few basic skills, and maybe even end in a performance that you can invite your friends to. You could choose from a general production course in musical theatre, where you learn, rehearse and put on a whole production in a short amount of time or a course that breaks up your time into acting, singing and dance and gives you a taste of each to see which you like best. These courses often include trips to the local theatre, and maybe even a lesson or two from a professional actor. It’s probably worth pointing out that there may be upwards of thirty participants, so sometimes individual attention can be lacking, but these are a super way to get started. Almost every professional actor working in the UK started out in a school show, or a youth theatre group, and that’s why these courses are a fantastic option for young people. Pre-Training courses are more detailed and indepth, and while they’re not specifically designed to introduce you to what life is like at a drama school, they can be a terrific way to find out more about the school you’re thinking of applying to, or even just to see whether it’s something you want to pursue. If you’ve already picked up some skills, maybe from attending Saturday
school, or taking dance or singing lessons then you may find that a Pre-Training course stretches you a little more than a youth course. You can expect more intensive training on these courses. For example, rather than a group singing class, or an individual singing lesson, these courses might oﬀer you a class on Acting through Song, or repertoire choices - particularly important if you’re selecting songs to sing at your drama school auditions. Some pre-training courses are very specific, aimed solely at musical theatre, or classical acting, or very niche musical training, such as a cappella singing. Make sure that you’ve picked the right one. It might be a bit of a waste to find yourself studying classical text when all you really want to do is get sweaty, sing some big musical numbers and break out those jazz hands! Because these courses are aimed at slightly older students, you’ll be exposed to a much more professional way of working, and you’ll mix with people from diﬀerent areas of the country and diﬀerent life-experiences. Some of these pretraining course might even be residential, a chance to totally immerse yourself in the life of an actor, and to experience living away from home, perhaps in a diﬀerent city - and the best of these courses will usually include some kind of cultural programme in the city, with visits to the theatre, and other places of interest. Finally, skills-based courses are much more specific and intense than a Pre-Training course. These can vary in length, ranging from a one-day course focussing on a very specific area to an eight week intensive aimed at really deepening and developing your skills, interest and proficiency in a specific area. Most of these courses will have a lower age limit of 18, making them primarily aimed at older students who are preparing for entry to drama school in the next year or two, or older actors with some professional experience already who are looking at adding to their CV. These courses might be run, although not exclusively, by the top drama schools and practitioners who have been working in their field for many years. Actors never stop training, whether that is learning ‘on the job’ in professional productions, or by taking the time to study intensively on a skills based course. Whatever your level of skill or expertise, you can find a course that suits you. It’s not just the UK that oﬀers great summer courses either - you could find yourself studying Stanislavski in Moscow, Commedia dell’arte in France, Grotowski in Poland, or Meisner in New York. Your passion for performing arts could take you anywhere, the sky really is the limit - so don’t limit yourself.
I’VE CHOSEN MY SPEECHES AND HAVE BEEN PRACTISING IN MY BEDROOM. I THINK I’VE GOT ALL THE MOVEMENT AND BLOCKING WORKED OUT - BUT I WONDERED WHETHER I SHOULD BRING MY OWN PROPS, OR WILL THEY HAVE SOME I CAN USE? ALSO WILL THERE BE A CHAIR TO WORK WITH - AND ALSO, WHERE SHOULD I LOOK? AT THE PANEL, OR AWAY?
Simon Dunmore Answers... BEFORE I FOCUS ON props, chairs and where to look, I strongly suggest that you rehearse (try-out) your speeches in as many locations as possible. You may feel secure in your bedroom, but the real world of auditioning is so diﬀerent! You will have to act in so many diﬀerent spaces - from small rooms to massive dance studios. The former may feel as cosy and familiar as your bedroom, but the latter will (almost certainly) make you feel as though you’re lost in the middle of the Atlantic - with little means of steering in the right direction. I spent the first few years of my career touring. I quickly learned that each theatre or hall required adjusting to in order to give the most eﬀective performance. That adjustment wasn’t just to connect with the feel and scale of the space, but also to appropriately modify the moves and ‘blocking’. I quickly discovered such modifications liberating. Being forced to think on my feet, I found myself connecting to my character even more deeply - essential for good acting. Whilst directing, the only ‘blocking’ I do is which entrance and exit each actor should use. Good actors will self-navigate round each
setting. And, because they’re not restricted by specific moves, performances have more chance to grow and stay spontaneous even through a long run. In fact, I now hate the idea of ‘blocking’ as it tends to block the imagination necessary for spontaneous performance. Finally, before I get to your practical questions, I strongly suggest that you try out your speeches in front of other people - even in your bedroom (if there’s enough space). This is not necessarily for them to comment, but for you to get the feel of being observed. Remember how diﬀerent it is between a final rehearsal and the first performance! “Where to look? At the panel, or away?”: Once you’re connected to your character and the circumstances, ‘where to look’ should become natural. For instance, your character might well turn to look in the direction of an unexpected sound that’s part of the action. In audition you are in charge of where that (imagined) sound comes from. You’re also in charge of where the (imagined) other person/ people present are placed and the positions of (imagined) objects that are important to the action. The crucial thing is to place objects
and people in positions that ensure that the panel can see enough of your face and especially your eyes. In general (unless it is an address to the audience), they should be able to see three-quarters of your face for at least half the duration of the speech. To achieve this, orientate the other character(s) and circumstances to suit each audition situation. For instance, place the imaginary person to whom you’re talking at around 45 degrees to left or right in front of you. If your setting is clear in your mind, then it should be simple to angle it appropriately. There is no point in placing a chair specifically to mark another character or using a mark on a wall – or even the hat-stand which I once saw used as the object of some singular passions. If you do use such objects you’ll usually find yourself concentrating on that object rather than your partner(s) – who should be clearly lodged in your imagination so that the audition panel can see them through you. Also, don’t think that you have to stare at one place continually just to make it clear that he or she is there. Remember: it is only in certain circumstances that we look directly at someone for extended periods.
STUDENT SUPPORT In a performance, it’s only occasionally (if ever) that you look directly at the audience. Apply the same rule when performing your audition speeches - unless otherwise requested by the panel. If you’re using a speech that is a direct address to the audience, then think of the panel as part of a bigger audience. Props: I strongly suggest that you avoid using these. As you haven’t got a proper set, costume or lighting, too much of the visual emphasis goes on to the prop and consequently away from you. It is amazing how riveting even a small piece of paper produced for one of the numerous ‘letter’ speeches can become. Props can be mimed: that mime doesn’t need to be brilliant. And think how much easier it is to put down an imaginary glass on an imaginary table, without making a sound at the wrong moment. In using any imaginary prop, remember not just the shape as you hold it in your hand but also its weight and its impact on your sense of touch. The only exception to this can be a prop introduced briefly and then quickly discarded. Even then, make sure its impact doesn’t take the focus away from the rest of the speech. Some find it useful to have some kind of token secreted on their person to help connect with the character. Chairs: I have never known an audition room without one for the auditionee. However, only use one if you intend it for personal use - anything that’s an essential part of the action. I’ve seen chairs successfully substituting for motor-bikes, fences, lavatories, etc. - as well as more conventional seating devices. However, a warning about chairs. There is a common variety, as familiar as the bollard is to the motorway, that inhabits many audition venues. It can serve all kinds of functions as described previously. However, don’t rely on the well-known weight and balance of these plastic and steel functionaries for crucial elements of your well-prepared speech. You may suddenly find only chairs with arms or a room filled with wobbly ones. Be prepared to adapt to whatever form of seating is available.
Tip 1: Do a brief check on the mechanics of your audition chair before you start your speech. For instance, you don’t want to be thrown by the fact that the back is lower than that of the chair you rehearsed with. Tip 2: If your audition chair represents a diﬀerent type of seat (a low, backless bench, for instance), sit on the chair as though you’re sitting on that ‘bench’. You can achieve the feel of this by placing your bottom near the front of the seat and having no contact with the back. For other forms of seating, try out a real version and transfer the sensations & bodily positions to the chair supplied. Tip 3: Do consider carefully whether you could discard the seating entirely. This works more often than people realise and can add spontaneity to a speech. If you do take this step, remove the chair completely from your acting area to ensure that the panel doesn’t associate it with what you’re doing. For much more detailed advice on auditioning, please see my books. Good luck! Simon Dunmore has been directing productions for over 30 years - nearly 20 years as a resident director in regional theatres and more recently freelance. He also teaches acting, and has worked in many drama schools and other training establishments around the country. He has written several books: An Actor’s Guide to Getting Work; the Alternative Shakespeare Auditions series and is creator of and consultant editor for the Actors’ Yearbook. Simon.Dunmore@btinternet.com
@fourthwallmag SPREAD THE WORD!
Your Questions Answered
“I’ve got a good singing voice and was going to apply to musical theatre school, but a friend told me I would find it diﬃcult to work as an actor if I was trained in musicals. Is that true?”
As a musical theatre student you will study acting, dance/movement and singing and should leave college a good triple-threat performer. Some drama schools who run Musical Theatre courses even give students the opportunity to appear in a play during their final year (although I don’t like this option particularly). What if you studied acting? Would you ever work in musicals? Well, if you are good enough then there is every possibility and the same applies to those who have trained in musical theatre. My question to you is: If you spend three years studying musical theatre, then surely you will want to put into practice everything you have learnt? I am not saying you should exclude all acting roles, but build up your CV in the area you have trained. I have known many musical theatre graduates who have gone on to appear in non-musical theatre shows, TV and films and I have known acting graduates go on to appear in musicals. What I find frustrating is when a musical theatre student says they want to appear in a non-musical as soon as they finish training - it just doesn’t make sense to me. Anyway, I wish you luck with whichever course you choose - follow your heart! • Yvonne I’Anson is General Manager at Associated Studios. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
JEN’S DOs AND DON’Ts DON’T make a general email and cc every agency in Contacts. Research the agencies your actor friends are with, hear first-hand experience, and write personal notes to agents you want to work with. DO a spell check on any email to a prospective agency, or casting director.
CASTING THE NET Musical Casting Director Benjamin Newsome gives his tips on what he looks for when he’s reading Spotlight submissions, and what he’ss looking for once you get in the room. THE SONG YOU CHOOSE isn’t the only thing
that a Casting Director will remember about you, nor is it the notes you hit, or even what a lovely sound you make. Reading Spotlight submissions is always the longest part of the process. I like to give EVERYONE a chance, so I sit & look at every single CV - even when I’ve received over 5000. The first thing I look at is the photo; if it’s not a professional photo then it usually means you’re not a professional. A nice clear headshot, outside, seems to be the fashion at the moment. Invest in good photos as its ammunition for your career & the first thing a casting director sees. Second thing is training. It’s always helpful to know if you’ve trained at an accredited college, it’s not majorly oﬀ-putting if you haven’t, especially for TV & film but, personally, I feel it is quite important for musical theatre. Before anyone gets upset, here’s my reasoning. If a producer gives me 20 time slots for auditionees, then I have to find 20 possible leading roles to come in for a meet. If I have 21 submissions and it’s a choice between two people, both have similar CV’s but one is trained and one isn’t then I’m going to go for the trained one because I know they will have had amazing training and have the technique and etiquette required. It’s nothing personal. If you weren’t lucky enough to go to a top school then get yourself into a fringe show and invite me along to see you as I’m all up for meeting new people and giving opportunities. But most of the time due to the fact I go to around 4/5 shows a week, I know most of my submissions or know of them. Next I look at their CV, if they
have worked with a director or producer I know all I do is make a quick phone call for a recommendation. Working hard and being a good team player in every job you do is important as it could cost you that audition ry later down the line. People talk in this industry and news travels fast, don’t be that diva! Once you’re in the room the first thing I notice is confidence. I don’t mean over confident as that’s cringe-making but don’t be shy. Body language is a big factor and a smile always helps. Being polite is always a good start but most importantly being e prepared with the right song choices. People have to remember that each person that e walks into that room is there because I chose them so if they look bad it makes me look e bad and that 10 minute slot could have gone to someone else. If your auditioning for a contemporary musical comedy that needs a mezzo belt, at don’t bring in a piece from a legit musical that se only shows soprano. A lack of common sense lets a lot of people down. I look for actors st more than anything, I hate it when people just stand and sing, you should sing the song as at if you’re telling a story, make me believe what you’re singing. Don’t just stand there, dead and wooden! It’s what makes the diﬀerence between a singer and a performer or an ensemble and a lead. If I have an assistant working with me taking names outside the room, remember they’re working for me and ne listening to everything that’s going on. No one wants a diﬃcult performer in their cast. Mostt k of the time I do it all myself so I get to speak to each actor and relax them before they come in to see the panel.
DO be pro-active. Go to workshops, and networking events like the ones Spotlight organise. Go and watch independent film and theatre, write to directors you want to work with. The actors who write more, work more. It’s as simple as that. DO ask people in the industry their opinion on your headshots. Don’t pay too much attention to which ones your Mum and Aunt Doris like unless they are casting the next HBO series. DON’T do lots of extras’ work and fill up your credits with dog-walker, barman, hospital porter etc. DO regularly update your Spotlight CV with any new credits, new skills, new accents. It is an important tool for agents and casting directors to use as a quick reference of who may be suitable for what. DO upskill. Get your musical instruments back up to a reasonable level, do some mask / puppetry classes, go to Circus Space. If you are an MT performer make sure you are attending regular voice and dance classes. DO trust your agent. Don’t say no to an audition because you don’t think you are right for it. Your agent has subbed you and a casting director has seen your picture and CV and requested you. Just because you are 35 but have recently been asked for ID doesn’t mean you can play 17! DO make the most of every opportunity which presents itself. Preparation is everything.
INTRODUCING A NEW DYNAMIC ALTERNATIVE TRAINING COURSE IN MUSICAL THEATRE ONE-YEAR FULL-TIME (32 weeks - Tuesday to Friday)
AN AGENT’S VIEW
PRESENTED BY ASSOCIATED STUDIOS The home of Artistic development APPLY NOW Course starts 1st October 2013
Estelle, Joey’s agent in the sitcom Friends
Jen Holden from Byron’s Management offers an agent’s view of the actor/agent relationship, and some top tips for getting the best from it
www.associatedstudios.co.uk email@example.com 020 8237 1080
I HAVE WORKED AS an agent for the last 10 years... and I’m an alcoholic. Well, no... that is a slight exaggeration and miniature joke to amuse myself as I fill up my coﬀee cup (glass) and consider how to begin writing advice on the minefield of actor/ agent relationships. Regularly I hear actor friends complaining about their agency. It is such an important relationship to get right. Careers and livelihoods depend upon it. The right agency can help, direct and support you in your career choices. When considering what traits to look for, you need to pick an agency that not only has lots of contacts and gets people good work, but also has agents you get on with. People who you are not terrified to call for advice who you can tell the personal reasons for not currently wanting to go on tour, or relay awkward problems within a cast, or why you don’t want to audition for a role with nudity. It is a very delicate relationship and I frequently see myself and my colleagues take on the role of therapists as part of our work. Actors are wonderful, often complex individuals who need the support of an agency that has their back, and a fridge of wine. Look for an agency that is excited and enthusiastic about working with you. Don’t romanticise that you want to be with your favourite actor’s agency. Although Brad Pitt’s agent may indeed be perfect for you, it’s important to find an agency that won’t just submit their top 3 actors, with you lost on the books while they are working on their big earners. When you have secured an agency, make sure you work with them. Don’t simply blame your agency if you are not being seen for much; there will be reasons. Call your agency and ask what the reasons are. Ask for a list of recent submissions. Maybe you need a new picture, be more proactive, re-involve yourself in tours or fringe theatre and meet new people in the industry. Don’t just sit at home waiting for the phone to ring. Be loyal in the relationship. I recall one client was unceremoniously dropped after they were overhead ‘bitching’ in a casting waiting room. Our agency mainly comprises of actors we have looked after for years, and loyalty is something we value. We need to know everything about our clients, who can speak Arabic, who can motorcycle, juggle, play the harp, who has a base in Wales, who has a nephew who can masquerade as their son, who has had a confidence knock and shouldn’t be subbed for theatre. Knowing everything about our clients is often the result of a long working relationship. The length of our relationship with a client often directly reflects on their success. As an agent it is a privilege to see your clients experience monumental moments in their career, after having talked them through the inevitable worst times. Being an actor or agent is not for the fainthearted, it can be tough, heartbreaking and demoralizing but watching a client experience the rewards of years of both of your hard work is totally glorious.
TALES FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
“Trust who you are. That’s the only thing you’ve got. You are your unique thing. It’s going to fit some things and not fit others. Be at peace with that”
TALES FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
JBR gets cosy and comfortable with Musical Theatre leading lady, Jenna Russell.
THE STAGE DOOR OF the Pinter Theatre tells a hundred stories. A stage door keeper, literally the keeper of the stories, presides over a comfy nook covered in headshots, some yellowing, corners curling. A hundred stories, a hundred once-upon-a-times. Jenna Russell’s dressing room tells its own story. She shares with Merrily We Roll Along co-star, Josefina Gabrielle. Gabrielle’s side of the dressing table is covered in make-up, brushes and powder and paints, neatly laid out in readiness for the evening show. On Russell’s side, there are three or four photographs of her baby daughter, Betsy, blu-tacked to the mirror. She tucks her legs beneath her on her chair and begins to tell stories. Born in London, brought up in Dundee and a performer from a young age, she has plenty of stories to tell. She is delicate-looking, radiant, with huge, open, blue eyes that brim with tears when she talks about the recent hurricane in Oklahoma, “I just want to fly over there and hug everyone,” and then dance with laughter when she re-enacts calling up David Babani [Artistic Director of the Menier Chocolate Factory] to beg to be cast as Mary in the revival of Merrily “I know you’re doing it with old people! I’m old, and I’m a person! See me!” Russell is the musical theatre actress that has made me cry more than any other. “In a good way, I hope?” she giggles. Her performance as Dot in Sunday in the Park with George (another Menier production) had me sobbing throughout, and her current heart-breaking turn in Merrily is a devastating analysis of lost hope. “Being a mum is extraordinary,” she explains, “I feel like I have access to emotions a lot easier.” Throughout the interview, Russell’s eyes flash over to the photographs of her daughter. “I’m rabbiting on about Betsy,” she apologises, “I’m always rabbiting on about Betsy. I want to make her proud.” she admits. Russell chatters gaily away, illustrating her stories by animatedly recounting things that other actors, or friends, have said to her, name-dropping in a most delightfully humble manner - it is a trait which is both endearing and entertaining. “I was talking to Gavin Creel...do you know Gavin? Gavin. Gavin, Gavin, Gavin, my best friend Gavin,” she giggles, “He said ‘there are two kinds of actors, ones that hide behind the character and you can’t see the actor there, and there are others you see come through. I’d like to think of myself as being
that type of performer. I can’t escape me, I can’t escape who I am and what I am.” What she is, is a big sister - warmth pours out of her like a loving mentor. “I feel starting out is the time to take big chances, to do things for nothing, to work with writers, to put yourself out, to keep yourself in shorter, more interesting jobs,” she explains. “Trust your instinct, I think that’s important. Some young people I work with go ‘I don’t really want to go up for that but I feel I should’. I say ‘If you don’t want to go up for it, don’t go up for it!’ It’s very hard to say ‘no’ and it takes us years and years to form the word. It is your only power. You have no other power. At. All. I’ve said ‘no’ to things, I’ve pulled out of a job, an enormous life-changing job. It’s the best thing.” Russell has built an extremely versatile career. “I’ve been at it so bloody long!” she laughs. Stage, film, TV, Shakespeare, comedy, serious drama, but it seems to be her work in musical theatre that has brought her most acclaim. “I was obsessed with musicals,” she recalls, “but I never thought I’d be in them, and then somebody introduced me to Sondheim. I noticed though, that if you did a musical people didn’t see you for telly. So I’d put the musicals aside and spend three or four years doing tellys and plays and then I’d dip my foot back into musicals. Then, about six years ago, after doing Sunday in the Park, I did Amy’s View and I had a really miserable time on it - nothing to do with the cast and nothing to do with the writing, I just found the whole thing really sterile. I just thought ‘I can’t do this anymore, I need to do things that bring me joy and make me smile.’ And I love a musical theatre company. I’m not gonna waste my time doing things that make me unhappy, so I fully embraced the musical theatre form with open arms.” And she laughs again, that all-encompassing laugh that makes you pull your chair in closer, makes you want to be in a company with her. “I’m used to there being nine of us,” she says of the Merrily company, “and at the Chocolate Factory there are two dressing rooms...” she pauses and then roars, “Dressing rooms? That’s a laugh! There’s an area, with a piece of plywood with a gap at the bottom and a gap at the top. So the women are on one side and the men on the other, talking, shouting, throwing stuﬀ over. That’s the one sadness about coming here, you just don’t get to see each other as much as
TALES FROM THE DRESSING ROOM you would like. I hear Sheridan said, Sheridan Smith, with Little Shop of Horrors - when they went into the West End - between their dressing rooms there was a wall, which they tapped and they went ‘this isn’t a proper wall’ and they had it knocked through! I loved that!” A sudden low buzz invades the dressing room, “Sorry that’s the toilet!” she laughs, “Oh the glamour!” Russell was in the first cast change of Les Misérables when it transferred from the RSC to the West End. She’s played, among others, Sarah Brown in Michael Grandage’s production of Guys & Dolls, and Bertrande in Martin Guerre, and tells characteristically self-deprecating stories about them. “Thank God Michael Grandage cast me,” she reveals, “because it changed things for me. They got in touch with me for Guys & Dolls; they said ‘come in’ and I said ‘I’m not going in, I’m not ready!’ - I don’t have audition songs, I don’t, it’s terrible! I had no idea what to sing! I remember auditioning for Martin Guerre. One of my favourite songs is I Remember, it’s a Stephen Sondheim song. It’s beautiful, just beautiful. And Claude Michel Schönberg said “What are you going to sing?’ I said ‘I’ve got I Remember’ and he said ‘OK, who wrote it?’ and I said ‘Stephen Sondheim’ and he said [puts on a thick French accent] ‘Non! Eet ‘urtz ma eey-ars!’ and I thought ‘well there we are, then!’” and Russell tucks her hair behind her ear and shakes with laughter. Does she take care of her voice, steer clear of alcohol and cigarettes? What’s her daily routine when she’s in a show? “God, I don’t have one! I stopped smoking because I thought Betsy didn’t like me smoking. I don’t drink as I’m too knackered. I don’t have a routine. I should have a routine! I went to Mark Meylon - you ever been to Mark Meylon? Fearless singing teacher. When we were going to New York with Sunday I thought ‘you know what? I don’t really want to be oﬀ. I wanna make
sure I’m fighting fit’. I went to Mark, he gave me a tape. I put it on my ipod. I used that every night before the show, but I can’t find it! I don’t know where it is! If I had that I would use it,” she says, but the glint in her eyes doesn’t entirely convince me she would. “I try and sleep as much as I can, I try and drink water. I’m a bit rubbish at it.” But despite her louche, laissez-faire insouciance, Russell does oﬀer an invaluable insight into her process, although I doubt that would be the word she uses. “I remember Meryl Streep saying she never looked at the script. She would learn her lines in the trailer just before she went on, to keep them fresh. I think there’s something in that. I don’t worry what the lines are, I just trust that they’re there. I always leave about 10% of the performance open to what happens on the stage. I like to know kind of what I’m doing, I stick to it mostly - for lighting - but I give myself room to change and sometimes those choices are better and sometimes they’re worse. I let how I’m feeling that day, or what’s happened that day come with me onto the stage.” There’s a little knock on the door and a chap pops his head in. “I was just checking to see if I left a hat in here?” he asks. “A whattie?” smiles Russell. ‘Martin’s hat”, “I haven’t seen it, sorry love,” Russell replies. There’s something about the exchange that makes me imagine Russell hosting a mad-hatters tea-party in her dressing room the night before. “I don’t like being on my own,” she confides, suddenly quieter. “I like the banter. That’s half the reason I love the job, the banter. When we were altogether, you’re all sharing experiences. That’s part of theatre, isn’t it? What other job do you have a friend who’s in her 80’s and next job a 16 yearold? It’s brilliant! I miss us all mucking in together.” There’s something wonderfully Fairy Godmother-y about Russell. It could be the ashblonde hair, the glow that comes from her smile, the sense of humour - “Let me make sure me cleavage isn’t hanging out!” she quips to the photographer. But after an hour with her you feel like you could
ask her anything, and that she’d not only answer you honestly, but would share something with you, take you under her wing, and help you on the road. The best teachers in life are those who help you understand. “If I could look back,” she says, “I would say ‘trust who you are’. That’s the only thing you’ve got. You are your unique thing. It’s going to fit somethings and not fit others. Be at peace with that. Trust in saying ‘this is who I am.’ When you’re young you feel like you have to conform to that high-belt singing, skinny, dancing, false-eyelash wearing, fierce thing. If that suits you, go for it. But if it doesn’t feel comfortable for you - don’t put it on. If you’re five-foot with a bit of weight, you still will work. You’re more interesting. Somebody will bite, somebody will bite eventually. And say ‘no’. Go work in the more interesting places, Southwark, the Gate, the Bush. Turn down long contracts. While you have the opportunity to be free, be free. Go work in Spain! Join the circus! It makes you more interesting. If you can find other little avenues, diversify. Do a play if you can, it makes a diﬀerence in terms of your casting for musicals. It’s bizarre but that’s how it is. It’s the best job in the world. I love it, I’m still in love with it. It can break your heart; I had a couple of years of jobs being taken away from me, not being able to get auditions. It happens to us all. My agent said ‘you’ll get a job, and you’ll be so happy because of the disappointment’.” Russell hugs us all goodbye, and kisses my cheek, and I’ll admit - I’m smitten. I hope she’s always this happy, and if she has to be disappointed first in order to get there, then I hope it’s a very, very short story.
Fourthwall on Broadway Theatre Editor Emily Hardy travels across the pond and meets some of Broadway’s brightest stars, interviewing the likes of Glee’s Telly Leung, star of Peter & the Starcatcher Jason Ralph, producers of Pippin Jack W. Batman and Bruce Robert Harris, as well as producer of Kinky Boots Jim Kierstead. Be inspired, read them online today - www.fourthwallmagazine.co.uk
Fringe on the Fringe With 28 wide-ranging performances, The Fringe on The Fringe festival launches London’s newest theatre venue in leafy Parsons Green. But Upstairs at The Southern Cross is in no way conventional; a far cry from the traditional black box, the venue at present relies heavily upon audience imagination and cleverly thought-out staging - www.upstairsatthesoutherncross.co.uk
Blog: Being Brave Katie Brennan writes online about being brave and following your dreams - even when they seem like nightmares! “Recently, I’ve been having a bit of a rough time. Work has been rubbish, creativity has been stunted, everything felt so viciously turbulent yet also bizarrely stagnant and I started to question everything”. www.fourthwallmagazine.co.uk
ROSE ACADEMY A unique insight into professional actor training If you’re aged 16-21 and thinking about pursuing a career in acting, this is the course for you. To arrange an audition or for further information please contact the Box Office. “One of the most insightful and enjoyable courses I have ever done. It made me feel like an artist and not just a student. I feel ready to attack my auditions, more prepared than I ever would have been.” Lizzie (Academy Alumni)
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A NEW HEADSHOT PHOTOGRAPHER SEARCH AND COMPARISON WEBSITE
HUNTING THAT KILLER HEADSHOT JUST GOT EASIER Photographers: Sign up before September 30th get 50% discount on membership. Interested email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
GET YOURSELF AHEAD In a recent survey, 96% of casting directors said they believe headshots are central to the future of the casting process. So, those trusty 10x8s are as important today as ever. But making your headhots really work for you in 2013, means embracing new trends too, says “top theatre photographer” (The Stage) Michael Wharley. What makes an industry-standard headshot is relatively unchanged, even after 80-odd years of service: head and shoulders, eyes/face to camera and in a 10 x 8 ratio. Historically B&W was standard, though colour is now dominating. And just as importantly, the essence of a good headshot is - and the jobs is has to do are - also still the same. On the one hand headshots provide an accurate preview for casting purposes: “Your photos absolutely must look like you,” says Pippa Harrison, Head of Client Relations at Spotlight. But they are also your calling card and brand as an actor, so impact-factor is vital. As Janis Jaﬀa, a succesful TV, film and commercial casting director says: “headshots need je ne sais quoi, something that makes [casting professionals] stop and look.” So what is changing? Well, the industry used to thrive on the idea of the singular ‘killer’ shot; a photo that was all things to all casting directors. But as the pre-audition process of assessing and selecting actors has moved online through services like Spotlight Link and Casting Call Pro, creating a true headshot portfolio has become important. Instead of one photo, you now need a range of contrasting, believable shots that will help casting professionals, producers and directors understand the full range of your casting at the click of a mouse. The resources and advice in these pages should help you select a photographer, prepare for the session, and choose the best shots afterwards to create a dynamic and varied portfolio. Throughout, it’s worth taking a step back to reflect, as Pippa Harrison says “less about what you think you are, more about what professional people will think you are.” Doing that is vital for the successful modern actor, agrees Adrian Jeckells, principal at the London School of Musical Theatre: “you have to assess yourself as a commercial entity.” Remember too, that in 2013 headshots are – alongside a showreel, a voicereel, an up-to-date CV
and even short video/audio clips of your skills – just one facet of strong actor’s promotional toolkit. Tip: create a great portfolio with 3-5 varied headshots, mixing colour and B&W, indoor and outdoor, and shots in diﬀerent outfits. Make sure each photo really adds something. You could also add in a (decent) production photo or 2, to give a sense of you ‘in-action’. COLOUR AND B&W In the UK, B&W remained the norm long after colour was embraced in places like the US or Australia. But colour headshots are now widely accepted and expected here. So: which is best, and why? Colour provides a highly accurate preview for casting purposes, whether you’ve a hair colour (red say) that doesn’t benefit from B&W, or simply because it allows eye colour to shine through. And such subtleties can help nail an audition. As casting director Anne Rowe says “a great colour photo really helps me when I have to make decisions quickly, then send images oﬀ to the client - who may not appreciate a beautifully composed black and white shot. They may want to see how naturally blonde/ dyed blonde/ light blonde/ dark blonde/ strawberry blonde your ‘blonde’ hair is, for example.” But B&W has it’s benefits too, and not just in the eyes of old-school casting professionals. Acclaimed director Blanche McIntrye, the Critics’ Circle Most Promising Newcomer 2012 says: “ Though colour photography gives you a sense of an actor as a person, I really like B&W as an option - it gives you a more sculptural sense of a person’s face.” So, as Annie Rowe reflects: “there is absolutely a case for both.” Colour is here to stay, and you absolutely need good colour headshots, but B&W should also be there in a portfolio that helps casting professionals and employers see your casting range. As Rowe observes: “ A portfolio with a colour photo or two is so helpful! Then I can select and send the most appropriate image to the client with
no guess work involved.” Tip: Very brightly coloured clothing can be distracting in colour headshots, so work with subtle colours that you know suit your skintone, hair colour and eye colour. A top that matches (or is similar to) your eye colour will really help them stand out. Michael Wharley is a London-based actors headshot photographer. He leads seminars for drama schools and actors on ‘Taking Control of Your Headshots,’ and writes on industry trends at www.wharleywords.co.uk
HEADSHOT HUNTER It’s a diﬃcult task searching for a specialised head shot photographer in today’s saturated market. However, a unique website is set to revolutionise the way performers carry out their search. Headshot Hunter is essentially a comparison website that includes many important factors that are not featured on other sites, consolidating a vast amount of information and placing it into an easy to navigate website. There’s a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right photographer, including price, location, studio/ natural light, time spent with the individual, digital/film, number of shots and the time it takes to receive the photographs, to name a few. Headshot Hunter will have all photographers in one place where users will be able to search with filters for personal preference and make a short list of their favourite photographers or individual head shots, comparing them side-by-side. The site will include deals, discounts and packages, as well as users being able to read and post reviews. www.headshothunter.co.uk
SURVIVING THE PROFESSION
MAINTAINING A BALANCE Daniella Gibb continues her journey as a woking actor, picking up new skills all along the way.
HOW FAR DO YOU go when adding your special skills onto your Spotlight CV? Horse-riding - tick (Sat on a horse at Margate once and didn’t fall off,) Aerobics - highly skilled (does doing it at the gym count?) Juggling - tick. Juggling? Well, I did an hour session of circus skills when I was 11 and still juggle quite regularly today, but instead of brightly coloured balls - I juggle jobs. The last 12 years have found me job juggling and trying to keep my balance; working towards my acting dreams yet working to live. Drama schools aim to teach you everything in preparation for an acting career but one module they exclude is “what to do if it doesn’t work out.” Obviously this is omitted on purpose, who wants to spend £25,000 on training to be told it might not happen? I hate to be the slap-in-the–face reality fairy, and I’m not saying all this as some bitter failed actress, but not everyone can work 100% of the time. Even Sheridan Smith and the Strallen sisters occasionally have periods out of work. But you are still an actor even if you have to do something else to pay the bills in-between. During these lean periods, graduates and young actors often work front-ofhouse or in bars because these flexible evening jobs leave you free for auditions. But there comes a time when these jobs and doing ‘promo’ work aren’t the best option anymore. Promotional work can mean anything from donning a posh frock and greeting VIPs at Ascot to dressing up as a kiwi fruit and giving out smoothies at Waterloo Station. The money is good because the mortification levels are high; you are bound to see your agent or recent, heart-shattering ex when dressed as a slice of Dairylea. And as you get older all that standing around in cold weather isn’t good for an ageing dancer’s bones. Likewise, bar work till 2am begins to suck when you need to be in bed after the 10 o clock news in order to get your collagen-producing 8 hours in before your early morning yoga class. I am painting a terrifyingly dull picture of life as an early 30-something, trust me it isn’t that bad. My point is that as a creative person, you no longer want your brain to lie dormant during those months of unemployment. We come alive when working on a script or rehearsing a production number but isn’t it better to feel that dynamic and responsive for 12 months of the year? How do you keep your creative juices flowing and more 38 fourthwallmagazine.co.uk
importantly, feel useful, in-between jobs? You find a new passion and start working on an alternative career. Don’t panic! You don’t throw away your dreams and live the rest of your life in a grey suit doing crosswords on the train. An alternative career can be something that interests you, uses your skills and compliments the career you already have. Finding another avenue that inspires you, and will also help pay the bills, can be a really positive thing to do. Teaching is an obvious transition; please please ignore that stupid adage, “those who can’t do, teach,” because it seems to me that only those who are bloomin’ brilliant can pass on the passion and skills necessary for our industry. Working for companies can be challenging as they expect commitment and find it hard to understand when you get a job at short notice. I once had to leave a job because they weren’t going to allow me to miss my one hour toddlers’ music class for an audition for the Les Miserables movie. Can you imagine – “I am sorry Mr Tom Hooper, Oscar award-winning film director, can we postpone because I must sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ to Tarquin, Harry and Tabitha or their musical growth will be stunted.” So the teaching job went and so did I - off to the audition. I may not have won a role as ‘battered whore #6’ on the movie set but I did have the incredible honour of singing on the soundtrack so if you’re reading this,
Tarquin, from your Montessori Nursery, I apologise, but that’s showbiz! Many folk I know have bought into a franchise or set up their own schools, leaving them free to perform and also make a good income because there will always be children (or parents) who want to be taught by someone “in the profession.” The in-thing to do at the moment is photography. Again, because you can fit in appointments between jobs and auditions and you already have a great client base – your colleagues. However, it is advisable to have a flair for photography because you cannot just ‘wing’ a good headshot and, no, you can’t use your iPhone 5 even if it does have 8 mega pixels. So like all alternative careers you would need to put time, money and effort into having the right equipment so that it can really work for you. It can be expensive to set up if you don’t generate business and it may take a long time to gain a reputation and be able to charge the big bucks, but if it’s a passion of yours, go for it. Unless you fall under the ‘character actor’ section of the Spotlight book you may find modelling is a great way to subsidise your income. My inheritance from my dear dad of a strong jaw line and stumpy legs ensure this is not an avenue for me but many dancers and actors are mannequins worth photographing. Not cat walk stuff but photo shoots, adverts and even hand modelling (unless your contract
SURVIVING THE PROFESSION in Les Miserables has left eternal dirt beneath your fingernails!) As performers we have so many skills to draw upon. We can prepare people to speak in public, develop our dance skills into the fitness qualifications or literally sing for our supper. Performance singing no longer has that ‘northern working man’s club’ reputation; you’d be surprised how many corporations, weddings and events are desperate for professional singers to entertain them with an ABBA medley. Backing tracks are now pretty swish; gone are the days of the 1980’s Casio keyboard “bmm, tssk, tssk, bmm” you can create a truly professional act with modern tracks and make a really good living from it. Some West End stars have formed a company sending singers to do tribute gigs and others do corporate entertainment. Sick of having no control over his career, an enterprising fellow thesp has set up his own theatre company. He produces modern and new work and is the only fringe company ever to pay me, so it seems he’s winning in all directions. Having your own theatre company means you can decide what to do, who to work with and create theatre that you believe in – truly exciting and inspirational. And a stage manager I worked with uses her financial qualifications to help actors with their self-assessment tax forms, not quite donning the grey suit but a great way to make extra income. So what do I do? Well alongside some teaching I imagine you have guessed from this column that I have branched out into writing. There is an on-going joke on Twitter that everyone is a blank/blank/blank and writer! Everybody can write it’s whether people chose to read it or not. There are thousands of theatrical blogs out there, ranging from reviews to aspirations and recollections. Just look at the production team behind this magazine, all working actors putting their passion and skills into words. I worked with a wonderful man and actor called Michael Simpkins who has an extensive career; dancing in Lycra with me in Mamma Mia! and most recently seen as a parole officer in Eastenders. But what I find inspirational about him is that he is a successful writer too; his published books and newspaper opinion columns fit nicely alongside his continuous acting career. He has the most accessible and witty style and if you haven’t read his book on acting called “What’s my Motivation?” you can’t call yourself an aspiring actor! Get on Amazon now! It is my dream to have a career like Michael’s, being able to pop in and out of acting work whilst keeping my brain happy by writing. See, even thirty-something’s have a dream, it’s just an amended one! Having an “in case of ” and complimentary career doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your acting dreams but actually being sensible and paving a future for yourself. From a young age we are all so blinkered about acting; we focus on achieving our goals and, like most young people, don’t give a second thought to pensions or god forbid, being 55 years old! Taking your blinkers off won’t cause you to fall behind but in-fact put you a few steps ahead when you find yourself loathed to wipe another restaurant table and desperate to be creative when those pesky casting directors won’t let you. Developing the skills you already have can lead onto new dreams, exciting realities and perhaps even allow you to asterisk a new highlyskilled activity on your Spotlight page! And as for me, I pretend I’m a theatrical Carrie Bradshaw as a type away dreaming that my blog will be made into a book. I get just as big of a thrill when I see my name on a bi-line as I do when it’s in a theatre programme. My blog on the recent West End agreement reminded me that when you’re passionate about something, your words do travel, although I declined to get on my soapbox when asked by Sky News! With this column, blogs on the Huffington Post and some online freelancing, I feel like I am making progress but I have yet to make it to the ‘West End’ of the written word. But as with all dreams – there is always time. • Follow Daniella on Twitter @daniellagibb
New branding for KSA We catch up with Phillip Short, Course Director of KSA Academy of Performing Arts. Back in 2010 when we spoke with KSA Academy of Performing Arts for The Drama Student, the performing-arts college based close to London in Beckenham, Kent was somewhat of a hidden treasure, specialising in an intensive One-Year Musical Theatre Course which held an impressive 100% pass rate. 2012 marked a series of significant changes for KSA. It had a total rebrand, encompassing a new logo and website, and overall identity. Director Phillip Short says “It was important for KSA not just to be seen as a regional school but to open itself up to national appeal. After all, we are only 20 minutes from Central London!” Retaining its 100% pass rate, of which 85% of graduates have achieved a distinction, KSA has proved that its hard work is paying oﬀ. Alongside its existing course, it has added a Two-Year Musical Theatre Course, whereby students will be awarded the Licentiate Trinity College London Performance Diploma in Musical Theatre. Following the success of these courses, KSA has announced that it will be launching a One-Year Acting Course, commencing September 2013. Training will be delivered over 12-week terms, with a curriculum that covers all the essentials - Acting, Voice, Singing, Movement, Performance and Audition Technique. Phillip explains “We always planned to expand our training portfolio to include a stand-alone acting course, and we feel that the amazing experiences aﬀorded by our current courses, together with our fantastic acting teaching faculty and wider connections within the acting industry make us very well placed to deliver a first-class acting diploma course. Students will work towards the ATCL Diploma in Speech & Drama and we are determined to match the 100% pass record we hold for our other courses.” KSA oﬀers applicants the opportunity to attend open audition days for its September 2013 intake. Refreshingly, there are no audition fees and applicants will get the chance to meet the tutors and to discuss their training needs. “We understand that students are choosing us as much as we are choosing them. The open audition days allow applicants to experience the school and our training ethos in greater detail through a workshop environment”. KSA students are exposed to as much industry experience as possible. In February they featured in a Marriage Proposal Flashmob as part of the Microsoft Bing ‘Is For Doing’ Campaign. The YouTube video went viral worldwide and has had over 100,000 hits. The students now look forward to putting on a new musical written by KSA Directors Phillip Short and Elaine Gray on 25th July at Leicester Square Theatre. This end-of-year production has historically been fruitful for many of KSA’s graduates, including Daniel Buckley, who went on to perform in the West End’s Loserville and The Book of Mormon, and Alex Gerred in Dreamboats & Petticoats. As the huge buzz around the school continues to grow, we look forward to watching KSA graduates’ careers soar. www.ksapa.co.uk
“YOU WANT FAME? WELL, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying - in sweat!” Lydia Grant’s opening speech from Fame inspired a generation of actors. It’s great advice, for a whole number of reasons. Getting to the top of your profession is about working hard, harder than maybe you thought possible. But literally, it’s also about sweat. It’s a rare actor that isn’t in peak physical condition. That doesn’t mean being ripped, or super-toned, or even slim. It means being fit, having stamina, being in an appropriate physical and mental state. It’s easier to stay ready than it is to get ready. But there are other benefits to getting sweaty. All theatre is physical theatre, of course it is, but there are physical approaches to acting that all actors could benefit from learning. Here in the UK we rely on a very cerebral approach to acting, choosing our intentions and, in a way, letting our mind tell our body what to feel. But our mind and imaginations are constantly bombarded by images and representations - “this is what anger looks like”, “this is how we move when we are scared” and it’s easy for acting to become representational as the mind tries to filter these images into our work. Luckily, there are techniques that help us get out of our own way, and teach us to trust our
body. After all, thanks to twenty-odd years of experiences, our bodies contain a complete roadmap of every emotion we have ever experienced. We just need to be able to access that road-map. “Everything you’ll ever need to know is within you; the secrets of the universe are imprinted on the cells of your body.” ~ Dan Millman Here’s a physical technique adapted from Jerzy Grotowski’s teachings that you can use to access your physical road-map. Like all these holistic techniques it also combines mind and spirit, teaching you how to be a complete actor. Grotowski taught a form known as the ‘cat’ a series of physical movements that, when combined create a ‘routine’. If you are unfamiliar with Grotowski’s form then perhaps you should develop your own routine, combining press-ups, yoga movements, sit-ups, Laban, dance, or any physical movements. There does not need to be a proscribed order to the routine, or length. Repeat your own sequence, in whatever order you wish, trying to push through the tiredness. This is physical work - only when you have pushed beyond your mental limits will you make discoveries. This works even if it is just repeated press-ups or sit-ups - anything that involves placing the body under physical tension. Using this for character work, I find it useful to
Red Jasper - the actor’s lucky stone. Jasper is one of the oldest known gemstones. It is a strong securing gemstone. It is a stability gemstone and it eases emotional stress. It helps balance the emotional energy in the body. It also promotes physical energy.
Amazonite balances feminine and masculine energy. It promotes kindness and practicality. It is an excellent stone for artists. Pale azure blue amazonite is know as the lucky “Hope Stone”. It will be lucky for all your hopes and dreams.
co uk 40 fourthwallmagazine.co.uk
concentrate on what I know about the character, trying to place myself into the characters psyche - how would they perform the movements? This helps me focus the character and find their physicality. Everyone holds tension in a different place - this exercise can reveal where that tension is placed and give you a jump-in to the character. It can also be used for working on text. With a difficult passage, perhaps intensely emotional or challenging, I vocalize the text while pushing through the Grotowski cat. When I am physically exhausted, and sweaty, I find myself not worrying about the ‘acting’ - just allowing my physical state to lead my emotional state. I’ll realise that this character places their anger in their right hand, or their sorrow in their neck. My body’s physical road-map, developed over years of experiences, is leading me to a more truthful representation. Your body can be as effective a guide as your intellect trust it. Follow @HolisticActing on Twitter You can discover more about Jerzy Grotowski’s physical approach by reading: Stephen Wangh An Acrobat of the Heart, Thomas Richards At Work With Grotowski on Physical Actions. Both available on Amazon
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ACTING COACH Have you ever explored the wisdom your body has when it feels bad? I had a conversation with an actor who was struggling to get further on in his career. He suﬀered with nerves in castings. He was just starting to get the kind of castings he had always dreamed about and now, so he said, he was screwing it up. “How is that, screwing it up?” I asked. His body tensed. “Frustrating. I get a sick feeling in my stomach. And then I get down.” As he spoke his shoulders slumped, his chest caved in and his breathing became shallow. “That’s how it feels, so what is that like?” I pursued. I will often elicit a client’s metaphor. I want them to move out of left-brain critical, logical thinking and take a leap into the right hemisphere of their brain, the seat of illogical, creative, unconscious thought. “It’s like I’m standing in a room with no windows. Water’s pouring over me and it never stops. I’m staring at the floor and I’m cold and wet.” Changes in the metaphoric landscape in your mind often result in changes in your thinking and shifts in your behaviour. “When you’re done with getting wet, but only when you’re done, I want you to take one step back and tell me what you see.” “It’s a shower, there’s a switch….If I’d looked up I would have seen that. I could’ve turned that water oﬀ a long time ago” he said. Silence. The power of a persons metaphor lies in the sense it makes to them and the insights it oﬀers. He broke down in tears. And then something wonderful: his spine straightened, his chest opened, his breathing dropped and he said, “I can choose how I feel.” I welcome conversations. If you would like us to speak, email email@example.com
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Emily Hardy tries to glam up for an afternoon drinking tea and iced lattes with the impossibly glamorous Tootsie Rollers, and finds a little bit of their girl-power rubs off. FROM THE INSTANT THE girls walk in it is obvious how close they are. Lisa, The Diva, and self-confessed organised Tootsie arrives first. Meg, The Peach, is “desperate” for an Earl Grey (a need we can all sympathise with) so, with teas and iced-lattes all round, we get stuck in. But not before we’ve reminisced; my first encounter with The Tootsie Rollers was at a charity gala in 2009. I remember being enraptured, even from the wings, by their onstage dynamism and felt justifiably concerned about how I was going to follow. With as much enthusiasm as they had those four, long years ago, the close-harmony girl band (Anna -The Sweetheart, Lisa - The Diva, Flo - The Bombshell, Katie - The Poppet, Khiley The Siren and Meg - The Peach) chat to me about how it all began: “We all met when we did a fringe production of Mack and Mabel, at the Catford Broadway Theatre. We had the most incredible time and then Anna’s sister offered us a gig at Koko’s in Camden. It went really, really well, so we thought ‘maybe we’ve got something here’! We love the golden era and the Hollywood films, so we decided that’s what we wanted to do.” Following a hysterical, breast-related digression, Lisa explains what makes the band unique: “We’re six girls so have this huge female energy, but our big thing, aside from my breasts, is Retro meets Contemporary. We’ve got the glamour and the ‘make-doand-mend’ vibe of the 40’s, but we are modern women.” Even after a morning of rehearsals the girls, faces gleeful with anticipation, look effortlessly beautiful. “We’re influenced by contemporary artists such as Paloma Faith, Caro Emerald and even Katy Perry because she’s bright and fun, but we have Retro icons to match our individual ‘personas’: Anna is Judy Garland, Lisa is Rita Hayworth, Flo is Marilyn Monroe, Katy is Mitzi Gaynor, Khiley is Elizabeth Taylor (or sometimes the naughtier Betty Page) and Meg is Grace Kelly.” God only knows who my Retro icon would be. I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at Bridget Bardot, but regrettably, Marie Dressler is a more feasible choice. We giggle until it occurs to me; we’ve forgotten about the Spice Girls! I idolised Baby Spice, emulating her every move and fashion faux pas. These girls must have felt that prolific influence too? The Tootsie’s let out a dreamy, choral sigh. “Funny you should mention that, Emily. We’ve just been working on a Spice Girls medley! Their influence has been huge; we call ourselves Retro Spice Girls.
That’s where our personas came from. We LOVED them.” We probably could have broken into a full-out rendition of Wannabe there and then, but refraining from recreating a scene from Viva Forever, we refocus. What drove you to continue after that initial gig at Koko’s? “A major drive was the lack of Retro musicals in town five years ago. We love Mamma Mia and Legally Blonde but didn’t necessarily fit the casting bracket for those shows. It made sense to build something that we were in control of. We wanted to be constantly creative without needing to go to anyone else for the work.” “But,” Meg interjects, “This was never originally a business venture and that is probably the key to our success. We would just do a gig and have such a blast! We unintentionally charmed people who then referred us on. Opportunities kept coming and it snowballed organically. It was never a case of work being thin and trying to pull some cash in. We’re focused 100% on the band now, because we are so busy, but up until this point, we’ve all done different shows and projects alongside gigs.” How on earth did you administrate other projects? “It has been a very difficult juggling act, but we are the very best of friends and all want to work together. When opportunities have arisen for a Tootsie then we have supported them. Sometimes it’s meant doing twenty-hour days and learning every harmony, but we make it work.” Glancing around the table, the gratitude these girls feel for each other is abundantly clear. They have all benefited from that support at one time or another. Glassy eyed, they continue: “That’s the secret to our success; we are an incredibly close support network so always rally together. We are more like sisters than friends! If anything ever happened to the band it would create such a huge void in our lives. In all aspects of our lives the Tootsie’s come first.” Jumping up, Flo proudly admits, “I’m making my boyfriend move from New Zealand to London. Going there is NOT an option.” Now, that is girl power! Closer to the girls now, I felt it was time to make a confession: Glamour is not my strongest suit. For example, I momentarily thought it was a good idea to leave the house this morning wearing a summer dress decorated with large prints of vintage steam engines. Treading the precariously fine line between pretty and weird, I looked like I’d been sponsored by National Rail. Does glamour come naturally to all of you? “We get a lot of
help. JP from ‘Effort Made’ styles us; his mantra is ‘never underestimate the power of an outfit.’ Speaking of which, I love your dress. You look gorgeous!” (Phew!) “Being in the Tootsies has made us aware of how to dress for our individual shapes and sizes.” Anna, the band’s answer to Betty Boop, excitably interjects: “Do you want to know about our undergarments!?” (I don’t know. Do I?) “We are sponsored by ‘What Katy Did’ vintage lingerie. I have a waspie to pull in my waist, because I’m straight up and down. Lisa has a corselette because she is a large-bosomed lady. Also, heels are a nightmare for me because I’m so clumsy, but we cracked it yesterday. We’ve been sponsored by Clarks, and they have sent us beautiful shoes that I can actually walk in!” “It’s a good job she’s talented!” Meg adds, affectionately. More inspiring than intimidating, there’s nothing not to like about the Tootsies. They are endearingly fallible too: “Flo, who is basically the perfect dancer, walked, no... strutted onto stage and stacked it over the stairs.” So, what’s next? “We have started writing with people, such as Michael Bruce, resident at the Donmar, and collaborating with Shlomo and DJ Yoda amongst others, in order to shift from the corporate realm to somewhere more commercial.” And, what one piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out as a performer? “There’s nothing more attractive than self-creating, be it writing or starting a band. What we have here was all born out of being pro-active and playing to our strengths; figure out what makes you you, and keep doing that.” In huge demand, the effervescent Tootsie Rollers fill their days and nights performing at Wembley, for the Queen and at celebrity parties. “Being a Tootsie is more hours than any full time job, but we are like six mums, so proud of what we have created.” And they deserve to be, having forged such success entirely for themselves. Later on, the girls send me a tweet: “We must do drinks soon all sporting a red lip - it’s way easier to do en masse!” Aside from being the perfect demonstration of Contemporary vs Retro, the tweet beautifully sums up what I (feeling like an honorary member) had come to learn about them: For as long as the Tootsies have each other, they are unstoppable. Twitter @thetootsies fourthwallmagazine.co.uk 43
CASTING WEBSITE COMPARISONS Maintaining a healthy presence across multiple casting sites is a fact of life for the modern actor. It helps maximise chance of being seen for work, supplements an agent’s efforts, and is key to the business of promoting, marketing and sustaining a career. But each of those sites costs valuable time and money. So, where do you need to be, and what’s best avoided? Michael Wharley investigates. SPOTLIGHT www.spotlight.com Members: 40,000+ actors. Entry criteria: Drama UK accredited training or verifiable professional credits. What is it: The industry standard casting breakdown service. Long a provider of casting directories, Spotlight Link is the company’s breakdown release and interactive casting tool, connecting, actors, agents, casting directors and employers. What do I get? Shareable (but only via ‘view pin’) private online CV and portfolio, with new (as of April 2013) tools for uploading unlimited video and audio media. As an unrepresented - c/o Spotlight - actor, access to certain tiers of casting breakdowns, and ability to selfsubmit. As a represented actor, ability to view all casting breakdowns and prompt agent to submit. The cost: £144 per year (now includes unlimited uploads of media). The castings: Over 80% of castings within or into the UK from overseas passes through Spotlight Link. Almost any project of any note on TV, film and stage will have been cast, in part at least, through the company. The niggle: The annual-only fee structure is not flexible, and CV is not publicly visible without some eﬀort. Despite recent improvements, the technology handles poorly on mobiles and tablets. Wharley’s verdict: The (almost) original online casting tool. Allows ready exposure to all the top casting directors, and access to breakdowns for the industry’s top projects. Not as actor-centric, as technologically developed or as useful for broader selfpromotion as other services, but a place no UK actor can afford not to be. Value for money rating: ££££ Should I? Yes
CNI www. castingnetworks. co.uk CASTING CALL PRO www.castingcallpro.com/co.uk Members: 40,000 actors. Entry criteria: Drama UK accredited training or verifiable professional credits. What is it: Founded specifically to empower actors and give them career development and online networking tools, it oﬀers similar breakdown and submission tools to Spotlight, but in a more actor-centric way. At nearly 10, it is a stalwart of the scene. What do I get? Flexible, public and shareable online CV and portfolio, with tools for uploading video, audio and stills media. Access to casting breakdowns, and ability to self-submit. Plus an array of networking tools and other resources. The costs: Free: basic profiles & access to unpaid jobs board/networking resources. Paid: £17/month or £130/year (+VAT) for enhanced profiles & full access to casting breakdowns. Ability to suspend services when away on a job, for example, is a good flexible feature. The castings: More than decent. CCP releases breakdowns from across the theatre, film and TV worlds, but has also worked hard to develop relationships with casters in non-traditional spheres like viral video and corporate, so many of its castings are unique. The niggle: Technology cannot compare to CNI or The Page. Wharley’s verdict: Power in the hands of actors. The technology and design does feel a little dated now, but CCP is a strong, effective tool for promoting and sustaining a career alongside, or even instead of, an agent’s efforts. Value for money rating: ££££ Should I? Yes
Members: 20,000 (in the UK). Entry criteria: none. What is it: Incredibly sophisticated casting software aimed at simplifying the casting process. used widely in the States. Has been taking on Spotlight et al in the UK for the last few years. What do I get? very flexible and shareable online CV and portfolio, with great tools for uploading video, audio and stills media. Access to casting breakdowns, and ability to self-submit or have your agent handle. Ability to manage multiple profiles (say, voice acting, modelling and dance) under one account. The cost: If represented, free sign up, if non-represented £10 sign up to basic profile, casting resources and industry tools. Monthly fees for enhanced media/image hosting, with discounts for longer-term sign-ups. Fees range approx £60-£120 per annum. The castings: Currently primarily short film, commercials, viral, dance and modelling The niggle: a better tool for self promotion than it is for directly generating work at the moment. Wharley’s verdict: Great for self-promotion and economical. Only solid for work prospects. CNI really excels in the tools it offers casting directors, so if they sign up in greater numbers, could become a must-do, rather than a could-do. Value for money rating: ££ Should I? Perhaps, if you have money and time.
STAR NOW www.starnow.co.uk THE PAGE www.thepageuk.com Members: 1000+ actors. Entry criteria: Drama UK-accredited training, Equity membership or representation. What is it: One of the new-breed of casting tools, the Page began life as a similar service to CCP or Spotlight, but has become primarily a marketing tool for actors, powered by the multi-platform quality of its new technology. What do I get? Fully public online CV and multimedia portfolio, which displays multiple dedicated versions across pc/tablet/mobile. Features of the groundbreaking CV include swipe-gesture interactivity and ability to connect media clips to specific credits or skills. Ability to upload media clips direct, or cross-link with vimeo/youtube, plus full social networks inter-connection. Access to breakdowns where published. The cost: Free. The castings: The Page is now primarily a marketing tool for actors, with casting directors able to search for actors using its search functionality. Members have access to any breakdowns that are released through the site. The niggle: Lack of castings would have been the niggle, but since the site has reframed itself as a marketing tool, this really is without a down side. Wharley’s verdict: Would be worth paying for, but for free, a total steal. One of the best, most versatile and up-to-the-minute selfpromotional tools available to actors. Value for money rating: £££££ Should I? Yes
Members: 22,000 actors. Entry criteria: No entry criteria. What is it: Founded in New Zealand to connect talent with casting professionals, Star Now is a straightforward breakdown release service that now has over two million members across Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, Ireland, and South Africa, France and Germany. What do I get? Flexible, public and shareable online CV and portfolio, with tools for uploading video, audio and stills media. Access to casting breakdowns (see cost below), and ability to self-submit. The costs: Free: basic profile without a listing on the casting director-searchable Talent Directory. Paid: £35.94 for six months / £29.97 for three months / £12.99 for 1 month. As above plus access to all jobs, enhanced multi-media uploads and full visibility in talent directory. Star Now Pro: a brand new level of membership, not currently on sale, but made available at the discretion of the Star Now team to ‘industry professionals who are models, actors, or dancers’. The castings: opportunities for a variety of entertainment industry roles, from dancers to models to photographers. Casting breakdowns for actors feature a large proportion of walk-on/extras roles and lowpaid or fringe work. The niggle: Technology is good, but the quality of castings and the industryperception of the site need addressing if it is to be become a truly vital tool in the UK. Wharley’s verdict: A solid promotional and work-generating tool for actors starting out on the business - or entering via non-traditional routes - and looking to build experience.
The new StarNowPro membership may help it build a stronger relationship with casting professionals, but it cannot yet compete on an even field with other sites here – in terms of reputation or castings. The ability to move between Star Now countries and switch profiles to that jurisdiction is a nice tool. Value for money rating: ££ Should I? Perhaps Wharley’s Overall Verdict Your experience and training will initially dictate where you find your online home, even if Spotlight is where most serious actors are aiming, eventually. But managing and maintaining a portfolio of casting sites can be practically a fulltime job. It’s wise to be on more than at least one site outside of Spotlight, but remember that out-of-date or inaccurate information can really harm your chances, so don’t bite oﬀ more than you can chew.
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THE MAKE A DIFFERENCE TRUST Originally set up under the name West End Cares and Theatrecares, before being rebranded in 2008 as the Make A Diﬀerence Trust, we have been the National HIV charity for the entertainment industry for over 22 years. So much has happened since then, that it is hard to remember a time when we consisted of a small group of actors in the pouring rain, outside The London Palladium shaking buckets and trying to come to terms with this terrible disease that was killing so many of our industry’s members. It was a time of extreme fear and misunderstanding and whilst many things have changed for the better, the miss-education, stigma and prejudice which accompanies the disease persists today. Many young people coming into the industry think that HIV is a thing of the past at best, or curable with a pill at worst. The reality is however that there is no cure, no vaccine and whilst there are treatments to support people living with the virus, it is not the easy option. In December 2012 the government announced that there were now 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK and around 25%, that’s 1 in 4, are unaware of their status. The Make A Diﬀerence Trust provides numerous services to the industry including a hardship fund, back to work projects, educational services and sexual health support programmes across all four countries the UK. The charity also works in sub Saharan Africa to support orphan care, food security and educational projects, and is proud to have recently funded our 14,000th child through an education. We are excited to be working with FourthWall Magazine and look forward to making a real diﬀerence together.
AUDITION HORROR STORIES “I applied for something looking for female actors for a ‘pushing the boundaries comedy similar to Little Britain’. We had to sign a privacy agreement as they were going to show us examples of their work. On entering the audition room with about 20 other girls, we were given a quick intro talk and a video example of their past work was played. It was a video of some porn stars. Turned out it was porn for a niche online market in America where women like to see men humiliated. They were looking to replace the female porn actors with legitimate actors to give the projects some more credibility. I stood up, disgusted, had a bit of an ‘Erin Brockovich’ moment to rally all the other girls against this exploitation, all “Let’s go! This is disgraceful! Who’s with me?!” No one as it transpired. It was about £10,000 a film. So I stormed out and back to the unpaid rehearsals of whatever awful fringe show I was doing at the time.” - Nicole “The immortal dance audition when someone wet themselves (wearing grey flannel jogging bottoms) and decided to just carry on much to the horror of the other dancers” - Alex “I totally dried during a West End musical theatre audition. Helpfully the pianist called out the lyrics to me. ‘It’s not the lyrics I’ve forgotten, it’s the tune’ I replied, blushing. So he played the tune for me. I then opened my mouth and sang the wrong lyrics to the wrong tune. I didn’t get a recall.” - James
FOURTHWALL ONLINE Fourthwall online is updated every day and covers industry news, interviews with leading industry professionals, advice for your career and reviews of the latest theatre productions across the UK and beyond. Plus videos and podcasts Go to www.fourthwallmagazine.co.uk and keep yourself informed.
WHAT’S HOT OR NOT?! All hail Merrily We Roll Along which transferred to the West End’s Pinter Theatre from the hit-making Menier Chocolate Factory making history in the process. “More 5 star reviews than any musical in West End History” trumpeted the posters, and indeed the gold stars reigned down on the show from The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, Daily Express, The Times, Metro, The Daily Telegraph, Heat, The Independent, the Sunday Express and the Independent on Sunday to name just a few. We were captivated by it, adding our own 5 stars. Less unanimous were the reviews for Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, by far the most hyped London opening of the year so far. “A lavish bonanza of a musical” wrote Michael Billington, awarding it 4 stars in the Guardian. Henry Hitchings for The Evening Standard agreed, as did Time Out and The Mirror. Quentin Letts for the Mail was less sweet on it - “slow as cold treacle” he wrote, calling most of the songs “duds” 3 stars from him, Charles Spencer in The Telegraph while Sam Marlowe for the ArtsDesk gave it just 2. Shakespeare goes with summer like strawberries with cream, and openings didn’t get much more hotly anticipated than Branagh as Macbeth at the Manchester International Festival. 5 stars for a “thrilling and cinematically fluid production” from Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph. Letts, for The Mail. Libby Purves for The Times, Matt Wolf for the ArtsDesk and Billington for The Guardian were a little more tempered, awarded it 4 stars apiece. At London’s Globe, renowned actress Eve Best took the directors helm for their Macbeth, winning 4 stars from Spencer in The Telegraph, 3 stars from Maxwell Cooter for Whatsonstage, 3 from Hitchings in the Evening Standard and Simon Edge in the Express.
It’s been a good season so far for the Globe. It opened with Roger Allam playing Prospero in The Tempest, gaining 4 stars from The Telegraph, The Independent and The Guardian. Othello at The National is proving to be the unmissable Shakespeare of the year, with the stellar cast of Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear shining brightly amidst the 5 stars awarded by The Telegraph, the Express and the Metro and 4 stars from Time Out, ArtsDesk, Daily Mail and Financial Times. More star power over at the Old Vic, where Kim Cattrall brought a luminescent big-screen glow to the role of Alexandra del Lago in Tennesse Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth. Despite the plaudits universally lavished on her performance by the press, with Spencer, in the Telegraph, whipping himself into a frenzy and awarding it 5 stars, most critics were left non-plussed by the actual play. 4 from the Independent and Times, 3 from Whatsonstage, Mail, Guardian and Evening Standard. Up at the Sheﬃeld Crucible, the unstoppable History Boys were tutored by the capable hands of Matthew Kelly as Hector and directed by Michael Longhurst, emerging with an impressive report card of 4 stars from The Times, the Independent, the Guardian and the Express. A case of ‘could try harder’ from Fourthwall though. We gave it 3 stars. Over at Dundee Rep an excellent showing for National Theatre of Scotland’s Let the Right One In, adapted by Jack Thorne. 5 stars from the Herald, 4 stars from the Independent, the Scotsman and Exeunt. Dominic Cavendish for the Telegraph was less enthralled, awarding it 3. London audiences will soon have their chance to make up their own minds when it transfers to the Royal Court later this year, before a West End run.
WHAT FOURTHWALL THOUGHT Daniel Radcliffe’s starring role in The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Noel Coward as part of the Michael Grandage season erased all memory of Harry Potter, winning 4 stars. The Park Theatre, London’s newest theatre, made a good start, leaving room for improvement as they settle in, with 3 stars for The School for Scandal and 3 for Yellow Face. Perhaps Southwark Playhouse needed a little more relocation time, opening their new venue with wrestling play with music, Tanzi Libre, which scored just 2 stars, and closed early due to cast injury. Ubu Roi, over at the Barbican, presented by Cheek by Jowl and directed by Fourthwall interviewee Declan Donnellan captivated us, prompting a thoughtprovoking 4 stars. Once, the transfer of Broadway smash musical playing at the Phoenix Theatre in the West End, won our hearts with 4 stars. At the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon Jonathan Slinger’s titular performance in Hamlet ran away with 5 big stars. And in other big name showings, the pairing of Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw in Peter & Alice at the Noel Coward theatre, romped away with 4 stars.
NEVER FORGET YVONNE I’ANSON
MARGARET RUTHERFORD I was so angry with myself the other night because I forgot to record the film Murder Ahoy! starring the inimitable Margaret Rutherford as Miss Jane Marple. She starred as Agatha Christie’s amateur sleuth in four films – Murder She Said, Murder at the Gallop and Murder Most Foul – all loosely based on Christie novels and Murder Ahoy! which was an original film script. Starring alongside her as Miss Marple’s loyal companion, Jim Stringer, was her reallife husband Stringer Davis. I loved her performance as Jane Marple, although reportedly Agatha Christie did not because Marple was portrayed as a comic character and because the films were not faithful to the original stories. Margaret Rutherford was born in 1892 in London. She suﬀered tremendous tragedy as a child. Her mother hung herself and her father suﬀered mental illness – indeed several years before her birth, he had murdered his own father and was confined to Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Originally she worked as an elocution teacher and didn’t make her stage debut until the age of 33, at the Old Vic. She enjoyed a distinguished career on stage and in films. Her final stage performance was in 1966 when she played Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals at the Haymarket Theatre, with Sir Ralph Richardson. Unfortunately, her declining health meant she reluctantly had to give up the role after a few weeks. She made many comedy films working with people like Norman Wisdom (Trouble in Store and Just My Luck), Frankie Howard, Donald Sinden, Diana Dors Virginia McKenna, Peter Sellers and Leslie Phillips In 1963 she won an Academy Award and Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the Duchess of Brighton, in Terence Rattigan’s The V.I.P.s, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. In 1961 Margaret Rutherford was awarded an OBE and in 1967 was made a Dame Commander (DBE). Tragically she suﬀered from Alzheimer’s disease at the end of her life and was unable to work. She died, aged 80, on 22 May 1972. At her memorial service her friend, the actress Sybil Thorndike praised her enormous talent and recalled that Rutherford had “never said anything horrid about anyone” – a truly wonderful testament. They broke the mould with Margaret Rutherford, we will never see her like again and I urge you to try and see some of her old films, they are hugely entertaining and her performances are sublime. This amazing lady is one actress I would have loved to have met.
A VIEW FROM THE STATES CLAYBOURNE ELDER
There is nothing more rewarding for an actor than working on new material. It’s what we study in acting school, what we yearn for in collaboration and the reason why we dressed up in our parents clothes as kids. Working in New York as an actor, there are myriad opportunities to get on the ground level of these processes and it’s what I absolutely love about the city. I thrive on developmental work. An interviewer recently asked me why all my prominent professional credits were new works and I told her that for every prominent credit I have there are at least ten projects I worked on that didn’t go anywhere! That’s the gamble of new work. It’s not as steady as replacing an actor in a long running blockbuster; but hey, if we wanted steady then why on earth would we become actors? It’s a big investment of time and skill to workshop a piece, and it can be a heartbreaking practice. Some of the projects we love working on and believe in the most never really get their moment to shine. In fact, the pieces I have loved the most aren’t usually commercial enough to sustain long runs. My first professional job in New York was working with Stephen Sondheim in the original company of Road Show. It was a pretty intimidating room of people - Michael Cerveris, John Doyle, John Weidman, not to mention Mr Sondheim. But from the first day, our exploration was encouraged with improvisational exercises and discussion and I cracked out of my shell. I was certainly more nervous on breaks when I had to make small talk then when we were all working. The show went on to extend as much as possible, then we made a cast recording, but the idea of transferring to a commercial house wasn’t really in the cards. The same year Road Show played in London, at the Menier Chocolate Factory, I worked on the U.S. Premier of Take Flight which had originated at the Menier. Though Take Flight had run in London, this was a new production and
with the writers in the room we were encouraged to explore and give feedback on the material as they made rewrites. They made lots of changes throughout our process, cut characters, added songs, scenes etc...it was thrilling! This kind of “re-work” can also be very rewarding. I worked with Moises Kaufman on a play called One Arm that Tennessee Williams wrote as a screenplay. It was a long and probably un-producible screenplay that several companies had made into various theatre pieces over four decades. Instead of referencing any past productions, as a group of theatre artists we tried to decide what we could bring to it. Working with Tectonic Theatre Company is a very collaborative experience. The first two weeks of rehearsal we just explored the play in “moments” that we would each come up with at home and bring to rehearsal. Moment Work requires a lot from the actors but creates a dialogue about the work without specific words from the script. Then once we got into standard rehearsal mode, each of us had an ownership of the material and movement that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. The development process can sometimes be very long and requires a lot of patience. I had been working on Bonnie and Clyde for almost three years before it opened on Broadway. We did a workshop, then an out-of-town, then another workshop, another out-oftown and two more workshops before Broadway. Currently I’m working on Venice at the Public Theatre and its been in development for almost five years. But the rewards for putting in this kind of work early in the process lends depth and strength to a portrayal of a character and challenges us to learn and grow as actors. As actors in New York we have to balance our time between the jobs with the paychecks and the jobs we’re passionate about. Sometimes we are lucky enough to have them be the same thing, but passion comes first! •
1) Classic Rogers & Hammerstein musical. (3,5,2,5) 7) Shakespeare’s “rotten orange” (4) 9) Famous flop musical based on Stephen King novel (6)
10) The name of the bar at old vic (3,3) 11) (see 2 down) (5) 12. Green Grow the....? Title of play that Oklahoma is based on. (6)
14) Much... Ado About Nothing (3)
16) Name of new temporary National Theatre space. (4) 15
17) Legendary physical theatre practitioner. (9) 20) Behind the scenes artist working in beauty, special
eﬀects, prosthetics. (4, 2, 6) 22) German word used for “good luck” (3)
23) Bloody Shakespearean play running at RSC
summer 2013 (5, 10) (someones doing it) 23
DOWN 2) Acclaimed young British actress, winner of two Olivier awards in two consecutive years for Best Actress in a
15) Marylebone theatre - the first purpose built theatre-in-
Musical (2011) and Best Supporting Actress (2012). Also 5
the-round, since the Great Fire of London. (7)
18) Operatic work. (4)
3) Person working Front of House (5)
19) Surname of the family in Noel Coward’s Hay Fever. (5)
4) New name for the National’s Lyttleton Theatre
20) Clare Lizzimore’s first play, recently perforemd at Royal
5) British Musical theatre actor appearing in Nashville on
ABC Network (3, 8)
21) Jim Cartwright’s first play. (4)
6) West End Theatre where 39 Steps is playing. (9) 8) 1958 Pinter play recently seen at Traflagar Studios with
Answers can be found at www.forthwallmagazine.co.uk
Simon Russell Beale. (3, 8) 13) There’s no business like it! (4)
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