issue 3 | summer 2009
Back Living on Avenue Q
Ben Barnes The Picture of a Hollywood Star Photography Special
8 Julie Atherton
Avenue Q is back in town and Sarah Clark tracks down the girl standing beside Kate Monster
It’s summer 2009 and the UK is ablaze with fresh young talent. Gone are the days of the customary ‘agent-guided actor’, as performers across the country are taking their careers in their own hands, writing and producing their own shows and quite literally making things happen! TDS is proud to be at the forefront of championing these inspirational individuals. Whether it’s the Edinburgh Festival, Manchester 24:7, or the Latitude Festival on the south coast, students and graduates alike are becoming the innovators in the worlds of theatre, film, comedy and literature. Many successful careers are carved on the Edinburgh Fringe, and we’ve been getting close and personal with the most exciting talent showcasing this year, some for the first time and others who are returning to be part of this international celebration of theatre and the arts. I spent a lot of time with an aspiring actor there in 2003. I remember his wit, charm and passion, and it was evident that he was tipped for great things. Ben Barnes joins me in an exclusive interview and documents his journey from his days in the NYMT through to his professional career as a renowned Hollywood star. TDS favourite Russell Labey gives us unlimited access to his dairy, revealing how he has adapted a new musical that is set to thrill audiences this summer. And with Avenue Q back in the West End again, how could we not track down one of our favourite leading ladies from the show? Sarah Clark visits the Gielgud dressing room of Julie Atherton. If that wasn’t enough, our widely anticipated Photography Special is packed with leading photographers who talk to us about their work and provide invaluable advice to those seeking headshots now, or those looking to update. I just know you’re going to be inspired by this edition! Phil Matthews Editor email@example.com
Daniella Gibb’s Into The Profession kicks off a series of articles and interviews on Edinburgh
12 The Diary of a Wolfboy TDS favourite Russell Labey gives us exclusive access to his private diary
The Prince Charming of the big screen joins us for an exclusive interview
The First Word 6
23 Uncle Dudley
Student Support 28
Take Control: Photography 36
Photo: Dan Wooller
Greg Williams © WDSMPI
news Spacey heads search for future creatives A new nationwide search for the UK’s top creative entrepreneurs is being launched with support from The Old Vic’s Artistic Director Kevin Spacey. It seems Britain can’t get enough of searching for fresh talent, as interactive magazine IdeasTap.com which is aimed at young creative types aged from 16-25, is calling for creative ideas from young people, with the most exciting projects to receive special funding. Their mission is to seek out and create opportunities for young creative entrepreneurs, to satisfy a demanding market hungry for new ideas and approaches. And it’s clear Spacey is keen to champion the work of young creative types. “The competition is fierce for people starting out in the creative industries and it can be tough for even those with exceptional talent to get their big break,” explains Spacey. “This is why the Ideas Fund is such an exciting and important new initiative. It is particularly powerful as the money goes directly to the young and talented rather than via third party organisations. The team at the Old Vic is passionate about helping young talented people reach their potential and we are proud to be involved with IdeasTap.com.” IdeasTap.com was created by The Peter De Haan Charitable Trust which sets out to encourage new ideas, projects and ways of working between young people and organisations. The charity is targeting young adults and teenagers aged from 16-25. Its ethos is based on a young person led approach – by young people and for young people. Chief Executive Paul Sternberg said the panel will be pursuing projects that have an innovative and edgy dimension to them. “We’re looking for something that’s not necessarily been done before, or something which has been done before, but done differently. But the innovation aspect is very important. Projects that are based around partnerships, working with other people and organisations. Something that crosses over the traditional art forms, it might be theatre based but it brings in a bit of visual arts or music.” With over £1 million a year committed to the programme, it encourages creative risk taking, supporting young people in developing their ideas and allowing them to pitch their proposals to mainstream and community-based arts organisations. For more information visit IdeasTap.com
A Supreme Master Class Every young musical theatre performer, and even Britain’s Got Talent finalist Susan Boyle, aspires to be as successful as the amazing Elaine Paige, but that is almost an impossible dream. Elaine Paige is the First Lady of Musical Theatre, a title she has earned and one she rightly retains. So you can imagine the response when Musical Theatre students at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts were told that Miss Paige had agreed to come to the Academy and give a master-class. “The whole place was electric” said Director of Musical Theatre Paul Sabey. “The students were thrilled and overwhelmed that they were going to have the opportunity to listen to and watch a legend.” The master-class came about after Mountview’s Principal Sue Robertson met Miss Paige at the opening of Spring Awakening and invited her to visit the college. Following further discussions with Paul Sabey, the master-class was arranged for May 19th. The audience consisted of 1st and 2nd year and Postgraduate students who watched and listened while Elaine worked with five students on a one to one basis. “Elaine’s passion for performance was infectious and the students were engrossed and enchanted,” said Sabey. “It is something they will remember for a long time.” The following Sunday, Elaine mentioned her visit on her popular Radio 2 programme and said how much she had enjoyed it, playing a song especially for everyone at Mountview. Yvonne I’Anson
From Backstage to Centre Stage Fresh from completing his Creative Writing degree at Salford University, Sean Gregson received the news that he’d beat of stiff competition from over 120 entries to land a coveted place in the line up of Manchester’s 24:7 Theatre Festival. Donal Fleet is only the second play Sean has ever written, reinforcing the concept of 24:7 being a platform for new emerging talent offering the opportunity to showcase work, no matter how experienced the writer. Donal Fleet is a nail-biting and sinister comedy about the secrets we keep, the lies we tell and how untrustworthy one person’s version of events can be. Sean is heading back to school to do a Master’s degree in September in Theatre Writing so having a play in the festival is a huge step on the ladder to theatrical success. Another great accolade Sean has received recently is being picked by Tony Jordan’s production company Red Planet Productions to receive mentoring and commissioning support. Sean is delighted after beating hundreds of people to secure one of 20 places on this prestigious course and says, “It’s a dream for any young writer to receive this quality guidance.” This year’s 24:7 Theatre Festival will run from 20th26th July 2009. For more details see the website at www.247theatrefestival.co.uk
Summer reading Auditions are an integral part of every performer’s life. From getting into drama school, through to a successful career in an overcrowded industry, Auditions: A Practical Guide offers crucial advice and tried-and-tested techniques to maximize success before, during and after each audition. Written by established casting director and former actor with thirty years of experience, Richard Evans, the book offers a wealth of personal and professional insights covering: drama and theatre schools, classical, contemporary, physical and musical theatre, television and radio drama, screen tests and commercial castings, voice work, recalls, workshops, handling job offers, and rejection. From training to triumph, nerves to networking and camera to casting couch, Auditions: A Practical Guide is an entertaining, accessible, and indispensable read for every performer. Free UK delivery when you order at www.auditionsapracticalguide.com
Summer Ball Success The fifth annual Spotlight Summer Ball, a frivolous and flamboyant graduation party for the UKs best dance and drama students, was the most successful yet says organisers. Cafe dé Paris sparkled with its Moulin Rouge inspired décor, and everything from the glittering chandelier down to the vivacious dance floor was perfectly presented and ready for a night of hedonistic celebration. Sarah Cawood hosted the event, encouraging the excitable and very well dressed crowd to really let their hair down as she gave out competition prizes and announced the impressive list of performers for the night. The beautiful Jodie Prenger had sadly lost her voice but took to the stage despite this, joining Sarah in giving out some of the amazing prizes, including tickets to the Big Chill and a year’s membership to Spotlight Casting Directory. Oliver Award winning Leanne Jones gave a brilliant performance of some classic musical show stoppers, and was clearly in the party spirit, refusing to shy away from her audience on the main dance floor where just two years ago she was dancing away herself as a graduating student from Mountview Academy.
Photo: AM-London www.am-london.com
To see all the images visit www.spotlight.com/ball/
Photo: Claire Pepper
Twisted Road the first word Knight Hooson graduated from drama school 20 years ago this summer. He takes a look at what his fellow graduates are now up to. The first day of drama school. Our first class was ballet. We were sent an advance list of things to purchase - pink tights / black leotards for girls and black tights / dance belt / white t-shirt for boys. What the hell was a dance belt? Before the days of Google it was a lot harder to figure these things out. One of the guys got it seriously wrong. He arrived late and took his place at the barre. There was something strange... the poor guy was wearing his beige dance belt over the top of his black tights. Oops. That day was 20 years ago this September. I started with a group of 20 – six men and 14 women. By Christmas, six were gone: they didn’t like the course or found it too hard. Then we lost two more. By the end of year 1 we were down to the final 12. Who were these 12 drama devotees? Where have they ended up? I suspect our journeys over the last two decades are fairly typical. Here’s a brief look at a dozen very different, yet viable, career paths. Tim was always a strong actor/singer. He has never stopped working in TV, film, voiceover and theatre. Mark was a great dancer. He went on to ballet school and danced for 10 years. When he retired, he managed a shop before becoming a travel advisor. He now earns a fortune as a regional manager for a travel company. Sean got married and gravitated towards directing. He started a theatre company and then set up a college drama programme where he teaches acting and directs. Aimee was a favourite of all our directors and had the lead in everything. She joined a band as lead singer; after a few local radio hits and years living out of a tour bus, they split up. Allison was enormously talented but could never organise herself to make anything happen. She was always saving money to get new headshots or planning to start auditioning soon. Last I saw her she was working in a photo processing centre. Liz was already an experienced stage manager. She now has a family and works as stage manager/actor while helping her daughter pursue acting. Jennifer was the most successful of any of us - major roles in theatre
and great parts on telly. After a few years she quit it all and became a painter. Now she is a busy artist while still doing some TV work. Darlene never intended to pursue a career as an actor. She practices reflexology, exploring music and drama on the side. Scotia was already very advanced in her ISTD ballet exams. She got her teaching licence and now runs her own dance school while raising a family. Amanda was always theatrical – dressing all in black and attacking her acting with vigour. She worked professionally until she had an epiphany that acting really wasn’t for her anymore. She is now a chef. Suzanne acted for a couple of years before meeting, and marrying, a military man. She is now a full-time mom and part-time karaoke queen. I found acting work within weeks of graduating and have worked off and on since. I had various detours along the way – including several fun years studying opera and a few less fun ones working in a library. While none of us have gone on to be stars, we all have been on an amazing journey. Some stayed with acting, some moved into adjunct areas and some are now completely removed from it. Yet each one of the 12, I’m sure, are grateful for their drama school experience. When you finish training, acting is your life. Nothing seems as important. In time, like barnacles encrusting a boat, life starts to crystallise around you. What was once the most important thing in your life becomes one of many important things, or perhaps even a less important thing. But there is always some kernel of the actor left. That never goes away. Chekhov said, “if you want to work on your art, work on your life.” As your life becomes more three-dimensional, so too does your acting. My teachers used to tell me I needed ‘life experience.’ Life’s experiences find you, not the other way around. If you are just starting drama school, then suck up every experience you can possibly get. It will be over before you know it. The good memories will last forever and you will quickly forget about the bad ones. If you are finishing drama school and setting off on your career, my advice is to work hard, go after what you want, but don’t be afraid to try everything life throws at you, even if it seems to be taking you away from your path. Maybe it’s leading you somewhere even better?●
Julie Atherton trained at Mountview and has become one of our best loved leading ladies. In her dressing room at the Gielgud she talks to Sarah Clark about puppets, performing and why she’s always up for something new. firstly, how did you get into performing?
I wasn’t very good at anything else! At school I really liked drama, music and art. I went on to 6th Form College and I took Theatre Studies, Spanish and Art, and I ended up dropping Spanish and Art because I just hated them! My Theatre Studies teacher there just really pushed me. I still ended up failing it because of the written work, because I’m just awful and have to sit down and explain how I’ve done something – I’m an instinctual actress rather than a textbook actress. He pushed me to go to drama school and I’m glad he did because I don’t know what I’d be doing now!
Tell me a bit about your training at mountview.
I loved it – it’s the best and the worst three years of your life. You’re growing up, essentially. I was 18, it was my first time in London, first time living anywhere on my own. My mum sort of wrapped me up in cotton wool, so it was really scary doing a whole new thing. The hours were really long but we worked really hard – you just become a family at drama school. I had an amazing time, obviously you’re growing up and you’re finding your own personality. It’s really weird, drama school! You get to do so many different styles, you learn so much and you learn what’s going to be useful to you, because what’s useful to you may not be useful to someone else.
You’ve said in the past that you were quite shy as a child – how do you go from being so shy to being ‘lucy the slut’?
I’m OK when I have to be someone else on stage, it’s going on as myself that I don’t really like. I don’t really do a lot of cabaret or anything like that. I’m going to do a few concerts next year for my album, and my new album’s on the way, but it’s talking in between [songs] as myself that I hate doing because I just feel like an idiot! (laughs) It’s just so much easier to be someone else on stage.
really known for promoting new work – obviously there’s avenue q and notes from new York, and you were cast as Sophie in Mamma Mia! when it was still fairly new. Did you always want to do new work, or did that develop a bit later?
I think that came later actually. When you first graduate from drama school you’re like ‘I just want a job!’ I knew I didn’t want to do ensemble, I did hold out for parts. I did ensemble in Edinburgh and I was a dancer in an ensemble in panto while I was auditioning for Mamma Mia! and I thought ‘You know, I think I’ll never do panto again, it’s not really my thing!’ (laughs) I think if I had been offered first cover for Mamma Mia! I would have taken it at that stage in my career, but fortunately I didn’t and I decided I’d rather be out of work than be known just as an ensemble member. It’s quite hard to make the transition. I was lucky, and I held out
– it did mean I was out of work quite a bit between jobs – I’m not being fussy, I’m just trying to craft my career the way I want it to go. It’s really hard when you’re out of work. You don’t know what’s coming up, you’ve just got to stick to your guns when you say ‘I won’t take that’ which is really hard when someone offers you a job.
You’re very well known for Musical Theatre, but would you like to do a straight play? Some Shakespeare, maybe?
Well…maybe not Shakespeare! (laughs) I’m a little bit over it. Am I allowed to say that? (laughs) I loved studying it, but I’m all for new work. I do like classics, they’re great to study, they’re great to do once in a while, but I’m so bored of that!
A new play, then?
Yes, definitely! Or even a classic that was new to me.
Is it hard to make the transition between Musical Theatre and being seen as a ‘serious’ actor? Yeah, it is really difficult. So many times I’ve gone to an audition for TV or a play and they’ve looked at my CV and gone ‘Oh, so you’re a singer…’ and I’m like ‘Well, I can sing, yes, but I’m an actress foremost.’ It is difficult when they try and pin you down, but it is changing, the transition is becoming easier – a lot more people are taking a chance.
You’ve got an incredible singing voice - did you ever want to be a singer, rather than an actress?
Yes, I did. I didn’t know which way I wanted to go but I knew that singing would be a part of it, but I just realised how cruel that world was. I’m so glad I didn’t go into it, I don’t think I would have been ready at 18, or even 21, it’s just so cut-throat. It’s all about the way you look. I love singing, but I do prefer new musical theatre where you properly act through the song, and the song’s written well. Foremost I’m an actress, and that’s what I love doing.
Is there a feeling of community in theatre, then, that’s lacking in music?
I think so, yes. I mean, you hear of bitchiness, but I just don’t think it’s like that. I think it’s the people who aren’t in it that say that! Generally the shows I’ve been on everyone is just so down to earth and lovely. We all struggle, so we all think ‘Well, let’s just get on with it!’ We’re just so grateful to have a job!
Moving on to Avenue Q, you’re now opening again in the Gielgud after it was supposed to close altogether. Do you think that
Photo: Dan Wooller
pullingfocus people are more supportive of new work than we give them credit for?
Yes, absolutely. I think once people have heard about it it’s easier. This is the perfect show for the public, but as soon as you say ‘Oh, it’s got puppets in it’ people don’t really understand – you can’t explain to somebody what the show is, you just say ‘Just go and see it, I guarantee it’s funny!’ and once they’re in and they know about it, it spreads. Cameron [Mackintosh] did his best to keep it going, so I think finally people are sort of understanding it a bit and taking the risk to go and see it.
Did you have any idea what it would be like when you first auditioned for it?
I didn’t know at all. I thought it was going to be great but I don’t think it took off as much as they thought it was going to over here, but luckily it has now. Things need time in Britain. In America it’s more acceptable to go and see something new, but over here people tend to think ‘Oh, I don’t know – I need to see something tried and tested.’ It’s funny, because people aren’t like that about going to the cinema. But then again, maybe it’s the ticket prices, maybe you’re going to be more cautious about it. I’m absolutely gutted about Spring Awakening closing. You’ve got to support new musical theatre and then make your judgements – go and see new things!
Of course, the West End has shows such as Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera that have been running for decades now – do you think it’s important to have a mixture of old and new?
Yes! Those shows were once new shows too – how fantastic that they’ve come this far. They’re still pulling in the audience. Maybe Avenue Q will run for years and years, you never know! New musicals do have a bigger voice now – we’re getting there.
Notes From New York has really helped bring new work to the West End – how did you get involved in that?
It was all Paul Spicer and Neil Eckersley’s idea to do some sort of concert of new work, and I was like ‘Yep, I’m in!’ We did the first one at the Arts Theatre, and rather than do a cabaret, which is what everyone does, we decided to do a concert. Next thing we know we’re doing it at the Donmar – it just really took off! We had a bigger following that we thought and it just carried on and on. It was meant to be a one off concert, yet we’ve just put on massive shows of The Last 5 Years and tick…tick…Boom!
This summer Notes From New York is running it’s first ever summer school, Taking Notes – is it important that new work is made a part of drama training?
Absolutely, and because Notes From New York is so known for new musical theatre it’s perfect for people struggling to get their work shown. If we discover people from Taking Notes then fantastic! We never know what’s going to happen next, that’s the thing with Notes From New York, it’s just fun. Neil and Paul keep having new ideas, and we get things from the fans as well.
You’re a very busy person – how do you balance performing with ‘real life’?
You get Sundays off, but generally they get booked up very quickly! I have so many friends and family to see that I kind of have to book them in – every Sunday this month is full!
advice would you give to people wanting to enter the industry?
You’ve got to really know that you want it badly enough. Times will get really hard and you need to know you can handle that and think it’s worth it. You can’t be one of those people from X Factor who just think they’ve got it but in the audition make a complete fool of themselves and all because they can’t see that they’re not talented. You’ve got to really listen to people. It’s very, very important to be able to take all the criticism you can and turn it into something positive. Don’t think people are just insulting you or putting you down – they’re trying to make you better.
And what can we expect of you in the future?
Photo: Dan Wooller
I’m going to try to do some TV, but it’s really difficult when another musical you like comes along! I’d love to do a sitcom or something like that, but it’s easier said than done! But maybe I’ll never do TV and always do theatre – I just don’t know, which is what makes it so exciting. Very scary, but very exciting! ● Julie Atherton is currently appearing in Avenue Q at the Gielgud Theatre. Her debut album, ‘A Girl Of Few Words’ is out now.
I wish to go to the
festival into the profession
As the Edinburgh Festival 2009 approaches, Daniella Gibb recounts her experiences performing in the renowned Fringe Festival. Where can you watch a piece of theatre, see a famous comedian in a pub, do a show, drink a shot of tequila, walk past Superman in the street, have another shot, go to a book reading, hear the bagpipes, have yet another shot and then dance till dawn? At the Edinburgh Festival of course! I took part in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006. I had worked in Edinburgh before and loved it for all its culture and history so I was excited to see this classy and beautiful city in its festive glory! If a bird’s eye photo were to be taken of Edinburgh during the Festival I like to imagine that it would be a blur of colour. The city is just so vibrant with not a corner left untouched by the energy of performance. It is no wonder that many performers make an annual pilgrimage here, not only to take part but to soak up the atmosphere. You can mingle with singers, comedians, musicians, actors, writers and dancers from all over the world. The city becomes entirely devoted to every aspect of the arts and it is a wonderful opportunity to socialise or network with like-minded people. There are hoards of tourists trundling through the streets. My overriding memory is of hundreds of tourists separated into groups by the colour of their waterproof capes (like the ones you get at theme parks before you go on the log flume!) It was so comical watching blobs of blue, green and candy pink drift about, it seems that these are this festival’s catwalk must have – Forget the hunter wellies and boho dress sported by Kate Moss at Glastonbury, it’s all about the waterproof at Edinburgh! However, my mockery soon turned to envy after days of trudging through the rain although I managed not to succumb! Whilst we’re on the subject – what’s with the rain? It poured for the whole month that I was there and this often seems to be the case so I can only assume it has the same “Murphy’s Luck” as Wimbledon! With huge numbers of people it can often take more than thirty minutes to get from one end of The Royal Mile to the other. The Royal
Mile for those who don’t know, is the old “high street” that climbs up to meet the entrance to Edinburgh Castle. It is a magnificent street lined with Tudor buildings housing whisky shops, cafes, museums and the famous Witchery Hotel. It is a tourist hotspot at the best of times, so during the Festival it is positive mayhem! Every pillar, lamppost and wall is plastered with posters advertising shows. People layer new ones over-the-top at an astonishing rate (we actually followed one poor guy along The Mile covering all his posters with our own – shameful I know but hey all is fair in the arts and war). It is a battle of wills with sellotape, so by the end of the month the lampposts have quadrupled in diameter and look almost cartoon-like. Although, I imagine they can come in quite handy if one has had a wee too much whisky and is rolling back home down The Mile! As well as posters covering every available surface, The Royal Mile is awash with performers actively advertising their own shows. The amount of leaflets distributed and then discarded would make a rainforest activist weep. You are approached at every turn and by the end of your journey to Starbucks you are laden with the things. They may prove useful if your Festival budget cannot stretch to loo-roll but they mainly end up adorning the cobbles! But leafleting is a key part of the Festival experience. Unless your show is in The Edinburgh International Festival or is staged by a producer with a budget for publicity then your own marketing is up to you. Therefore the majority of companies have to get out there and create their own publicity by pounding the streets and trying to outshine rival shows. Now I admit I moaned and wailed about doing this at the time, I didn’t want to hand out leaflets all day when I could have been catching other shows or sleeping off a hangover. However, with the gift
intotheprofession of hindsight, I now see that this is the best way to really be involved in The Fringe and soak up the atmosphere. The Edinburgh Fringe is all about the hustle and bustle and flurry of leaflets as performers vie for audiences – it is truly exciting! The show I was promoting was Stephen Sondheim’s Company. It was a great show to be part of and it did really well. It has actually just enjoyed a revival at The Union Theatre, London with the director Michael Strassen. That’s the great thing about The Edinburgh Fringe, many productions get transferred to London; Jerry Springer - The Opera had its roots there as did the recent production at The Haymarket of On The Waterfront. Although I was purely a cast member and not responsible for producing or organising anything, I was interested in seeing what was involved in putting on a show at The Fringe. Money and budget play a huge factor in where and when you perform. You have to organise and budget for the venue costs, marketing, accommodation, travel and technicians, so more often than not the actors perform for nothing. As an actor the financial factor I was most aware of was time. We were performing Company at The C Venues which are part of the University. Our technical rehearsal was at 4.45am, yes AM! As we staggered from our beds we crossed paths with people staggering (but for different reasons) on their way home to bed! Our performance had to be less than one hour, so our director had to cut the script accordingly. If we ran over our allotted time the company were fined per minute so this could really mount up if someone got a bit self-indulgent on stage! The schedule was tightly packed with shows one after another. Each company had twenty minutes to set up and twenty minutes to get out after the performance and, again, if you ran over-time you were fined. By setting up I mean putting the entire set together, having use of the dressing-room and then clearing the entire thing afterwards. It was really tight; no wonder our producers were stressed! So we would get ready in the toilets beforehand (oh the glamour!) and try to warm up quietly while the preceding show was still going on. And in turn, during the last twenty minutes of our show the dressing room was overrun with American students dressed as Arabs complete with fake beards and an enormous cardboard bomb! They were doing Jihad – The Musical; only at The Fringe! Jihad – The Musical illustrates the diversity of the programme, I cannot emphasise enough the variety found at The Fringe. You could spend the entire month (if your budget allows) and never be bored or see the same show twice. Every possible space is turned into a venue, everything from restaurants to Porto cabins, to student halls to grand traditional venues such as The Assembly Rooms. In 2008 there were 2,088 different shows with 31,320 performances in 247 different venues. During my experience, despite my limited funds and time, I was able to laugh out loud at comedy in a Porto cabin, dance till my feet were burning to 1920s music at The Spiegel Tent, (this is just the best, so make sure you go if you get the chance,) be shocked at how close to the mark Jihad - The Musical was and be utterly awestruck and moved to tears by The Soweto Gospel Choir at The Assembly Hall. I saw a production of Romeo and Juliet where the audience picked which actor was playing which role out of a hat before the show. Seeing the Nurse as a fat man with a beard and Lord Capulet as a 24 year old blonde girl put the story in a whole new light. I also saw a magnificent one woman dance piece in an old courthouse where she performed the whole thing using a wheelchair. It became like another limb, her instrument and an impediment and it was breathtaking. How can a budding performer miss out on such an experience? To meet other performers, be inspired and encouraged by them is a great way to spend a summer! I would advise to save as much money as you can beforehand because watching all these shows can put stress on the purse strings, but there are numerous free events to experience too. And if you do get the chance to visit do make the most of it because as a reporter rightly said in The Spectator “You can sleep in September!” ● Daniella is currently in Les Miserables in the West End.
WolfboY The Diary
TDS accesses director Russell Labey’s diary as he plans a production for the Edinburgh Fringe.
Premiere of the movie Milk at the Castro Cinema. The first time me and 95% of the actors and crew have seen the final cut. None of us leave our seats at the end. Tears and hugs. But will America get it? At the party in City Hall everyone asks me what I’m doing next. I give up trying to explain what a pantomime is, who Cannon and Ball are and how giant beanstalks grow. It’s a good question though…what am I doing next, after Christmas?
It’s 4.00am and I have my usual East Coast jet-lag insomnia. I work at the computer in the dead of night till the Californian sun rises over the yard of Keanu Reeves who lives next door. This morning I receive MP3’s of music I’ve commissioned for another Christmas show, Stig of the Dump. The music from composer, Leon Parris is incredible.
Rehearsals for Stig begin. The music is an instant hit with everyone. Hmmm, I should write a musical with this guy.
We get the beanstalk working. It’s huge and ascends impressively. The most satisfying erection we’ll see this Christmas, someone says, well it is Panto. Back to Chiswick for the first night of Stig, it’s a delight; I e-mail Leon Parris in Barcelona; ‘Would you write a musical with me?’
It’s a big ‘yes’ from Leon. Now, what to write? There’s a play I read years ago, Wolfboy by Canadian playwright Brad Fraser. I love his work and this one has always stuck with me. I can’t find my old copy, thank God for Amazon.
Warhorse at the National. Utterly sublime. Nothing to do with Edinburgh but thought you should know. Go see it.
Design meeting at Trafalgar Studio’s for my play, New Boy which is confirmed for March. Excellent! Then what? Curse Amazon - where the hell is my Brad Fraser play? I’m thinking about Edinburgh. Leon’s writing is so funky it could be the place to launch it, whatever ‘it’ turns out to be. Wolves are hot right now and timing is everything.
Script arrives, love it, love Amazon, love discounting the other ideas I’ve discussed with Leon. I send him the play. If he likes it too, we’ve got two and a half months to get the rights, an embryonic product and the promise of money all in place by April 1st otherwise, forget
Edinburgh. You can’t do the Fringe spontaneously. Print deadlines rule everything and will ruin everything. You pay a fortune for a classified ad of a few words in the official Fringe Brochure they call ‘The Bible’. Yeah because it’s impenetrable, largely unread and half of it is fiction. There must be a better way, online only and published later? Make it free to advertise in and charge readers for it - they might not throw it away as often.
A producer takes me to a musical-theatre showcase at Soho Theatre. The students have chosen badly, songs that are either too hard or unsuitable. Leon texts during this car crash, ‘read the play, love it’. Now to secure the rights. I practice my ‘pitch’ to the producer at The Ivy. Hollywood has taught me the importance of the ‘pitch’. Selling shaving cream or a musical, find the USP, Unique Selling Point, convey it succinctly with irresistible thrust.
Compose my pitch to Brad Fraser. It takes all day to write 600 words, trickier than the adaptation itself! Eventually I press ‘send’, and pray. I learn Wolfboy was the first play for a young actor called Keanu Reeves. My Hollywood neighbour! It’s an omen.
I transpose the whole script of the play Wolfboy onto the computer so that I have an electronic copy. I could hire someone to do this but writing it out myself gives me a real grip on the piece.
Message in my intray from Brad Fraser. Here goes! He’s very casual, very nice, tells me he has a new play on in Manchester at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Oh, and that he likes the idea of Wolfboy - The Musical why don’t I send him a couple of songs and a treatment? Get In! Result.
On the train I text Brad after seeing his play, True Love Lies. He won’t see it and wants to know what I thought. Fortunately I truly love it. The man’s a genius.
Meeting with a producer for another musical project I’ve been asked if I’m interested in directing. I am but it’s a long way off so I seize the moment and pitch my Wolfboy / Edinburgh idea to him. Getting money for musicals is tough, they’re expensive and 95% fail. Getting money for Edinburgh musicals is even tougher for this reason; you can not make money in Edinburgh, lucky if you cover costs. Anyone who tells you otherwise is insane or a crook. Not the most inviting prospect for an investor. So why would they do it? In case it has ‘legs’ and gets picked up but these Cinderella scenarios are as rare as bellboys called Buttons. It can happen, if you capture the zeitgeist with a pro product.
New Boy rehearsals have started and so has the writing of Wolfboy. My collaborator lives in Spain but even if he lived next door the process is the same. We flip the script backwards and forwards via e-mail. I give him free reign. I like him to tell me where he finds inspiration for music rather than me dictating where I see the songs – I don’t have to write them. Ideas, lyrics, structure changes are swapped and the master script takes shape. Leon has an idea for a song in the middle so we start there and work outwards.
I listen to the Oscars on the radio, in bed, in the dark, in the middle of the night. Milk wins two! I guess America got it.
That producer, remember, from the Bradford meeting? He has read the play and my treatment and is on board! We have the money. Bingo! I make it sound easy. It’s not. I first did Edinburgh when I was 18 so I’ve had nearly 20 years experience and what’s more… contacts. But I lucked out here, for sure.
Andy offers us a slot at GST. I’ve asked for a late afternoon one, in the evenings you’re competing with the comics. The deal with the theatre is pretty standard and non-negotiable, but try. Edinburgh venues operate a cartel. They’re all in on it. Something like a 60/40 split in your favour but you have to pay a guarantee even if no one turns up. The risk’s on you. The Pleasance and others, to be fair, have great websites with loads of info and they are very honest about what your expectations should be.
Arenys de Mar
Pre-arranged trip to Spain with my designer Jason Denvir to see Leon. As I’ve not heard from Brad I’m beginning to wonder if it’s worth it. Oh well, we’ll holiday instead. You won’t have time to put up much of a set in Edinburgh but have a design ‘concept’ nonetheless. Even if your set is one chair, make it the right chair, not something you find at the venue. I check my e-mails every hour on the half hour and finally at 10.30pm, it’s there in my intray, an e-mail from Brad. “Hi Russell, listened to the songs over the weekend and read your ideas, really enjoyed them. My agent will contact your agent. Good luck, Brad.” ●
Some songs are finished and recorded. Now I can send Brad a brief treatment and attach MP3’s and wait for the green light, except I’ll carry on writing and planning.
Meeting with Andy Barnes who runs the venue I’m interested in, George Square Theatre. It started a new life last year as a musicals only venue and is related to one of the big three, The Pleasance, my old stomping ground where I have both succeeded and failed over the years. Musicals have a reputation for being the province of amateurs on the fringe. George Square Theatre is trying to change that. Venues have big application forms to fill out online but go see them, they’re invariably based in London. Check them out face to face. You’re about to go into business with these people. I neglect to tell Andy I haven’t actually got the rights yet. Naughty.
New Boy opens. Still no word from Brad, I find an excuse to nonchalantly prod him via e-mail.
Another meeting with producer, Laurence Taylor. We’re now in daily contact, planning. The show isn’t even written yet but we really do have to design the poster. If we get the green light the venue will want an image well before we are cast. I make up a scrap book of images and ideas online and send them to a designer. We also start looking at accommodation, this is your biggest cost, Edinburgh fleeces you. There are student flats around, Google ‘festival lets’. Still no word from Brad. The play is taking shape, though. Gregg Lowe and Paul Holowaty star in Wolfboy at George Square Theatre. For more information call the box office at 0131 651 1292
Murray Close © Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Walden Media LLC
Ben, I’m guessing you must have caught the acting bug at school? It actually sort of came through music, I was in the choir at school. When I was about 15 the National Youth Music Theatre came to do a workshop and asked if I’d like to come to their annual auditions which I consequently did, and ended up basically working with that company for the next six straight summers doing various productions, particularly in Edinburgh, the Opera House in Covent Garden and Bugsy Malone in the West End – that was my first proper job, I was working in the band.
Yeah you’re a talented musician I’ve heard.
I played drums in the band for that show, but there was such a wide variety of new shows as well, it was creative. You felt like you were part of the creative team and that’s what I really enjoyed. And then I sort of carried that on after school, when I went to university. My parents just threatened to disown me, basically, if I didn’t go to university. So I obviously decided not to go. I took a couple of years out to do various music projects and TV hosting, which I didn’t really enjoy because I didn’t think I was very good at it, particularly the TV presenting side of things. What I really wanted to do was acting, but I had no idea how to go about it. I’d been writing off hundreds of letters to agents and getting very curt one line replies. So I applied to university and went to Kingston where I studied Drama with English Literature. There was no theatre company at
university. Obviously having had a little bit of experience already, I was part of the team who formed the first drama company there and put on the first productions. So I got into directing a lot of plays there and then acted in plays obviously, and then took them up to Edinburgh.
What’s your memories of doing Edinburgh?
My first ever experience of the Edinburgh Festival was the one summer that I didn’t get into the NYMT. That year I went with my school theatre company and I did a play called Inside the Island which actually got five stars in the Scotsman and it was better received than the NYMT show. That was when I was 16, sleeping on floors with 10 other lads and doing that play. Then I went up with the NYMT several times.
I first met you there in 2003 when your were directing your own show.
Yeah absolutely. Well, it was a great learning experience for me having to deal with the people who ran the space that we used, which was the Pleasance venues. I started to get interested in how the box office worked. I remember my worst experience so far was when we had about 15 people in this play that we devised and I directed very badly. I was also in it, even worse in it than I think my directing was! And one afternoon we had two people come to see it, with 15 people in the company. And the interesting thing is, they [theatre staff] came to me and said ‘do you still
closeup A lot has happened to Ben Barnes since we were on the Edinburgh Fringe together; The History Boys, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and the soon to be released Dorian Gray, but some things never change; he’s still as funny, friendly and charming as he was when he was starting out, writes Phil Matthews.
Main image Prince Caspian; (Page 16 top) Easy Virtue, The History Boys; (bottom) Prince Caspian and Dorian Gray.
want to do it? Because you’ve only sold two tickets’ and I just looked over to the cast. They were all shaking their heads saying ‘No, we want to go to the pub’.
Isn’t there a rule that if there’s less people in the audience than on stage, you don’t actually do it.
Yeah, but I, of course being the sort of dutiful son of the university that I was, said ‘No, we are doing it’. But what I was most proud of was avoiding using the phrase ‘the show must go on’, which I didn’t use which I was pleased about. But we did do the show and about three more people turned up about 10 minutes in and then left about ten minutes later. So that was probably my worst experience of the Festival.
In hindsight, do you think your English and Drama degree was the right route for you?
I think it was because for the first few years when I was in NYMT, I was quite a small fish in a big pond. The same when I was the youngest in my years at school, so I was always catching up and I think it was nice to go there and be part of initiating something. Helping create this theatre company that still runs there now and just putting on my own two man shows, and that actually is some of the things I’m still most proud of, putting on a couple of plays I’ve always wanted to put on. And then went out and sold the tickets for it, and it was good for me to be independent
and learn. I know a lot of my friends who have been to drama school and the problems that they had with it, was they were being told how, where and why to do everything, which absolutely works for some people, but I think we had some of that experience in the NYMT already.
And you went for a different approach.
I felt what I needed at aged 21 when I went to university, having always been the youngest, was to take the initiative a little bit and be more proactive. So I think it absolutely was the right decision for me. Plus half of my degree was English Literature and a lot of that is so analytical. Now when I’m getting scripts it helps me be critically analytical and appreciate what is good about the ones that I would choose to pursue.
school graduates often get an agent from their showcase, it must have been quite tough for you to get signed?
Well, the first two times I tried, which was once when I left school when I was 17, and the next just before I went to university when I was about 21. I sent off hundreds of letters to agents, out of about 250 letters, probably two people met me. Then sent me the same response which everyone else did, which was ‘No absolutely not’. So it was very very difficult. Then when I left university, somehow one of my lecturers at university heard of an audition that was going on for directors that were leaving RADA, and they were doing their showcases, and needed actors for them. For some reason, this particular director didn’t want anybody from RADA that year. So I went to that and I got a part. It was a very small play which we did at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington. So I wrote off another set of letters and the agents came to see me in that production and signed me from there. That was the first time I really started going off to auditions being represented, about 5 and a half years ago.
How did you find those first castings?
Initially it was all theatre auditions and musicals, and I can’t dance, so I found it very disheartening. I’d get through the acting bit and then I have to dance, and then they’d tell me to bugger off. A film audition was never to be heard of and the TV audition was this sort of mystical thing almost attainable. And I went for a couple of those, and it seemed to go okay, and then Doctors, I finally got. It’s a rite of passage, you either have to do The Bill or Doctors. If you’re going to be a successful British actor, you have to do one of those things.
Or Casualty, like I did.
Or Casualty. Yeah, one of those three things. Doctors was definitely the worst thing I’ve ever done, on record anyway. But then the jobs started to get a bit better, the Royal Exchange in Manchester, which was my first job that I got that I really thought ‘things are moving forward’. It was called Sex, Chips and Rock ‘n Roll and I loved doing that. Then I did a few other little jobs here and there and basically it started to dry up again, so I just decided to take the initiative myself again, so I went over to LA.
How did that work out?
I’d met somebody who offered to introduce me to some agents when I got there. So I had those meetings and I got an agent. They sent me on this sort of trial period during pilot season and basically the deal was, if I got a job in those two months they would keep me and if I didn’t, they wouldn’t. Luckily I managed to get a pilot that was shooting up in Canada, so I went and shot that. Obviously people in England sat up and listened again. I got that pilot and then my role in Stardust in the same day. And then it just sort of escalated from there.
what stage do you think was your turning point, the moment that things started to gather momentum?
You know, everyone always talks about the concept of ‘The Big Break’ and I’m not sure how much stock I put in that. I think that if you get the ‘nearly big breaks’ a couple of times, eventually it will come. And it could come, or you feel like it is and then a year later there’s something else in a similar vein, which feels more solid. Because that day that I got that pilot and Stardust, I thought that was it. Then the day that I got The History Boys at the National, I thought that was it. And then the day I got Narnia… I mean that sort of was it, but having said that, the highlight still of the work that I’ve done, I think is doing The History Boys. I’ve been going to the National Theatre since I was very young with my dad, so it has always been my dream to work there. I still haven’t worked
Manuel Harlan www.manuelharlan.co.uk
Giles Keyes © Easy Virtue Films Ltd 2008
actually in the building [Ben was cast later in the transfer to the West End]. So I kind of achieved it at 25. To go back and work there again is still my goal.
prospect of doing four weeks of rehearsals for something is just so thrilling to me. Probably because I missed out on all that drama school stuff.
Is it true you knocked yourself out by riding a horse into a
Well I knew the first one had been really big. And I knew I was going to have a tough time living up to those expectations. I don’t suppose I really understood how huge a Disney machine was, in terms of publicity particularly, because I spent almost four months doing publicity. So that was the real shocker. And obviously when you get there the majesty and scale of all the sets and the crew and everything. It really overwhelms you. I had no idea.
And did you find the film challenging in terms of horse riding and sword fighting?
Yeah, I mean I hadn’t really done any of that stuff before, so the first three weeks we spent sword fighting, horse riding, dialect coaching, and that was the sort of training camp, while they were off filming things that I wasn’t in it, and then it just started gently chugging into motion for me.
What are you concentrating on at the moment?
Easy Virtue just came out in the States this week. It’s doing really well which I’m really pleased about. And then in September I have Dorian Gray coming out, which is the one I’ve got high hopes for. And then I start shooting the next Narnia film in July, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in Australia. And then this little project I’m starting this week filming in Boston.
Busy boy! So do you reckon you are going to stick with films at the moment?
I think you sort of have to while they’re current and in your favour really. As long as people are sending me things with interest I will definitely read them. But having said that, I have taken a few meetings on various stage things and if I’m excited enough by the idea of it, I definitely will do it.
I remember your passion for the stage.
Murray Close © Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Walden Media LLC
Yeah, I absolutely love it and it’s where I started and probably where I feel more comfortable, I would have thought. I get very nervous before starting filming something. And I love the concept of rehearsals. The
tree on Easy Virtue?
No! The director’s naughty and he was exaggerating the story. He says that I was begging him to ride the horse, that’s absolutely untrue. He was begging me to ride the horse because none of the actors would ride. He was like ‘I’m not doing it all in close-ups on CGI’ so I did it. And yes, I did fall off the very first take, but that’s because the horse ran down and into a dip.
So it was the horse’s fault?
Yeah, it was the horse’s fault! We were back on that shoot and another take in about 90 seconds. So it really wasn’t a big deal.
So you didn’t actually pass out? No.
When you were a TV presenter, did producers really make you ask questions to a tennis ball when someone else went out to do the real interviews? Yeah! They told me that my job would be flying around the world interviewing musicians, singers and pop stars, and I thought it would be really fun. Then they didn’t have enough money to do that, so I sat in this studio and asked questions to tennis balls and then they flew all around the world asking the questions.
I don’t think it was very watchable. I didn’t think it was very user friendly.
On the plus side, you worked with Holly Willoughby on that show.
I did, yeah. She was lovely. I haven’t seen her in eight years, but she was lovely.
Excellent. Well, listen, thank you very much and I’m not going to ask you about the Boy Band stuff. Please don’t. I wouldn’t tell you anyway! (Laughs) ●
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian in out now on DVD.
Giles Keyes © Dorian Gray Films Limited 2008
you found out they wanted you to play the part of Prince Caspian, did you comprehend the scale of what was to come?
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Phil Matthews heads to Marylebone to have afternoon tea with a new double-act preparing to shake up the Edinburgh Festival, and discovers a spirited duo on a creative mission. If there’s one thing audiences warm to, it’s a good double-act. For decades we’ve been exposed to the Comedy Greats such as Laurel and Hardy, Morecambe and Wise, French and Saunders; even Little and Large frequently notched up 12 million viewers during the 80s. In recent years who hasn’t been charmed by the eccentric antics of Matt Lucas and David Walliams, Mitchell and Webb, or Ant and Dec? It’s a British tradition that has continued over the years, with many great duos having carved their careers at the Edinburgh Festival. I’m on my way to meet MacKenzie and McGuire, two professional actresses set to light up the Fringe this year with their first play I’ll Always Think of You That Way. A successful premier of the production at The Canal Café last year sparked a meeting with the Artistic Director of The Pleasance Theatre, Anthony Alderson, who invited the duo to perform the piece for one night at the theatre’s Islington base. Both the play and the girls themselves were a huge hit and the Pleasance eagerly signed them up for their summer programme. I arrive at their ‘office’, a pleasant apartment in Marylebone, on a hot Friday afternoon for their first major interview. I’ve known Mackenzie (Octavia) for years having lived together whilst at Central. We greet each other with open arms and I’m beckoned in by her writing partner, Ashley McGuire. “Come in, I don’t bite.” The pair met in 2005. Octavia had been cast in an American play for the Old Red Lion in Islington and the director was looking for someone to play her Aunt. Octavia recalls the moment Ashley walked into the room. “This girl walked in with a suitcase, commanded the space and said ‘Yeah sorry I’m late, I’ve been on a night shoot’ and I was absolutely terrified,” she says. “Anyway, she was amazing and she walked out and I looked at the director and I said ‘She’s going to hate me, but we’ve got to have her because she’s brilliant’.” As it turned out, by the second day of rehearsals the pair were firm friends. “Well, she thought we were,” grins McGuire. “It took me a bit longer.” There’s a slight pause before everyone laughs. The girls begin to relax. “No, we were, straight away friends.” It was during those initial rehearsals that MacKenzie and McGuire realised they shared a similar humour, arriving early every day to “have a laugh” before getting down to work. This friendship developed after the play was over and although they began to write a couple of sketches together, nothing solid materialised. It was after a short break that Octavia approached Ashley to see if she would team up with her for the London Bites Showcase as she was looking for an agent. Ashley
promptly agreed, but there was to be one condition. “I said ‘Okay, I’m only gonna do it, if we write it’,” recalls Ashley. The pair penned an 8 minute sketch called Yakie, a feat that marked the beginning of the duo’s creative journey. “Never been so terrified,” declares Ashley, her eyes fixed, deep in thought. Well it is only to be expected. This was the writing debut from a pair who had literally no experience, not only being judged on their writing talents, but equally their performances. “She had to go on stage first,” recalls Ashley. “And I remember standing backstage, having been in the business for 18 years, and my legs were shaking. I remember thinking ‘I could leave, I could just leave’. And then thinking ‘I can’t leave her out there in a hippie outfit’.” The pair need not have worried, as the audience, including the lead singer from McFly, gave an encouraging response. “People loved the characters,” says Octavia. This reaction gave the duo a newfound confidence, but was there scope to take things further? After all, writing a scene is one thing, developing and structuring a whole play is something entirely different. “We started to write notes and one day we were cycling along the canal to work, and we went passed the Canal Café and I said ‘Look there’s a theatre there, should we go in?’ and we went in just to have a look. We walked out ten minutes later having booked the space, having written nothing, and two months till the first night.” That’s what I like to hear. Not only set the challenge, give yourself just weeks to do it. So where does one start? “We wrote then, the way that we still write now, which is that we tend to talk about something that makes us laugh, improvise around the character,” explains Ashley. “We usually tape it with a Dictaphone and then transpose everything, every single word, because then it’s more natural.” They began developing the characters’ back stories, where they might have met and the sorts of families they might have. “Because we knew these characters so well, by that stage, we were sort of working backwards in a way,” explains Octavia. “We put these characters into situations where we knew would be funny.” The result is a warm and engaging play about two unlikely friends called Alison and Savannah who meet in rehab. Alison loves cake, and needs to get over it. Savannah lives part-time in Sunnydale Rehabilitation Retreat, full-time in her head. They meet somewhere in between. We follow their adventures together, and the bizarre array of characters they meet along the way.
interview “You can be friends with somebody who can be your complete opposite if you have a shared experience,” explains Ashley. “Their shared experience of course is rehab, and then the fact that both of them are lost for very different reasons. The comedy comes out of the fact that they’re so different. But actually they support one another. It is a bitter sweet comedy.” This opens the conversation up to a number of questions about friendship, why we’ve got certain friends, why we love them and why people connect. They agree the play deals with these exact issues and “takes a couple of twists you don’t really expect.” The play ran for five nights and was a big success. But it was Octavia’s previous chance meeting with an eccentric man on top of a hill in Italy that helped them take things further. ‘Harry’ was on the same Yoga holiday as Octavia, but before he left to continue his travels on the Isle of White (an extended sabbatical to count Sea Horses) he made a promise to see her show back in London. “Harry loved it, and said ‘I’ve got a friend who runs a theatre, I’m going to tell him about the show’,” Octavia explains. “People say that all the time, but Harry stood by his word and told his friend who was Anthony Alderson.” Of course I know what’s coming, but I’m intrigued all the same. It wasn’t long before they were asked to perform the piece for one night to judge its suitably. Following the pitch Alderson summoned the pair to his office to close the Edinburgh deal. “We were thinking ‘well if they take us on, great – the venue is paid for’,” grins Ashley admitting they were hoping to do Edinburgh anyway as they thought it would be the perfect platform for the play, but were put off by the cost. “It was amazing. We were trying not to look at one another in shock, because he was saying ‘Well obviously we’ll pay for your accommodation and we’ll pay your publicity, any expenses’.” It is perhaps an important turning point for the pair who have worked extremely hard over the last year. It’s difficult not be inspired by their enthusiasm, yet they admit staying focused is not always easy in an industry that can be rather harsh. So what advice would they give to performers interested in creating their own work and making things happen like MacKenzie and McGuire? Ashley is quick to respond. “My advice would be write every day,” she says. “Write something down every day, because it’s practice as well. Whatever genre you’re writing for, you need to understand that genre. But you’ll read lots of books that tell you that there’s a certain way to do things and I think yes absolutely, you need to follow a structure, but you should also don’t worry about rule breaking, you know? “Go and get yourself out there, because I was 18 years in the business waiting for my agent to ring, every now and then I’d get a good job, years and years of wasting my time, when I could have been writing,” continues Ashley. “And if it wasn’t for Occy coming along and saying ‘Let’s do that,’ I’d probably still be in that same situation now.” Octavia agrees. “You’re making it happen, writing your own work, doing what you love, the way you want to do it.” Although MacKenzie and McGuire have other writing projects in the pipeline, for now they are truly focussed on making the play a success in Edinburgh and it’s not hard to see the genuine determination oozing from them, not to mention their sense of pride. Ashley looks me straight in the eye. “Somebody famous said ‘The harder I worked, the luckier I got’, and that’s true as well.” I have a suspicion this talented duo are going places.●
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MUST SEE: I’ll Always Think of You That Way is at the Pleasance Theatre in Edinburgh (Over The Road 3, opposite the Courtyard) from 5th – 31st August at 4.30pm.
Listen to the entire hilarious interview in the first of our Edinburgh podcasts now at www.thedramastudent.co.uk
Twentysomething This year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival sees an exciting new company presenting a new piece of collaborative writing, Twentysomething, about the dangers of revisiting the past and people that you thought you had left behind. The company is formed of six friends, who decided to write the play after seeing friends move on to new places. It was written under a pseudonym by members of the company, who will also star in the play. When you think you’ve left your former friends behind, what happens when you’re forced to endure an evening with people you’d rather just forget? When Kate (Rosie Marsh) returns from a 6 month trip to India, she decides to organise a reunion for her and five other college friends, all of whose lives have moved on in the intervening time. Michael (Adam Colborne), Zoe (Yasmin Shomalzadeh) and Will (Chris Wickenden) are the only three who remain in the town they grew up in and have some trepidation about the reunion itself. Returning to the town from universities, which have now become the focus of their lives, are Patrick (Jack McMahon) and Jess (Louise Trigg). Throughout the course of the evening issues which have been simmering for a long time, boil to the surface, leading to arguments, recriminations and revelations which will shake the group to the core. It’s tipped to be witty, funny and relevant. This new, contemporary and accessible piece of writing poses a question which is more and more relevant: Should some friends just be left to Facebook? College ends, people drift, but will this impromptu reunion rekindle old friendships, or put old ties to the test? The Hive on Niddry Street, from 7th - 31st August at 2.15pm with free entry.
Stand By Your Van Competition culture hits the Fringe this year with an energetic new play for the Pleasance Grand. There’s a van parked centre stage and 12 intrepid contestants are clutching on to it, refusing to let go. Whoever holds on the longest, wins the car. Welcome to the play that is sure to get the Fringe crowd revved up this August Stand By Your Van. Inspired by a true story, watch as the comical competitors battle their wits to try to win the car, fighting each other as well as their own resolve. Suspense meets comedy in this intense competition, and with a different character winning every night, the audience will never know exactly what’s coming next. One of the most anticipated shows to head to the Fringe this year, Stand By Your Van will have the audience on tender hooks as the suspense rises and the stakes get ever higher for these poor, unfortunate competition contestants. There will be characters ranging from a lapsed Buddhist, a ditzy and desperate glamour model, a woman who believes “God won’t let me lose” and an anarchistic student who lives exclusively on energy drinks. Written by the award-winning Anna Reynolds and directed by popular Fringe director Paul Bourne, Stand By Your Van is presented by Menagerie Theatre Company in co-production with the Pleasance Theatre, with endorsements from the Escalator East to Edinburgh scheme offered by the Arts Council England. Billed as the hot ticket for the Fringe this August. Pleasance Courtyard from 5 – 31 August @ 7.40 pm
edinburghhighlights Sell A Door Sell a Door Theatre Company was formed two years ago and was put together by a group of artists, at the time based at LIPA and who all had a vision: to raise the bar of excellence in the entertainment industry. Since then they have had a number of amateur and professional productions, all of which stick to their charitable aim to “advance for the public benefit to the art of drama”. Much of their work is new writing, which they promote and play alongside established works. The company have found this a very effective way of attracting audiences to new work, which famously struggle for audiences whilst not established. New plays and musicals by Sell a Door to date include The Secrets Inside at the Edinburgh Fringe 08, Planning Permission (Unity Theatre 09), Heart and Music (LIPA 08’) and So Much To Say For Myself (LIPA, 08’) The company has a core artistic team who set the vision for the company. Richard Adams, David Hutchinson, Robert Gilbert and Phillip Rowntree make up the team which steer Sell a Door and its vision artistically. Beside this, they have a team of advisors, or a board of trustees composed of artistic and non-artistic individuals who consult with the creative team on Sell a Door and its direction. They also have numerous associates who work regularly, or on occasion, with the company with all types of backgrounds from accountancy to theatre management. Sell a Door will be featuring four shows at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. The first is Falsettoland, a musical by William Finn, which is being performed in Rep with their second project Six Ways, a new musical by two acting students (David Hutchinson and Paddy Clarke) with music by Michael Bradley. The projects are being directed by students and tutors all based at LIPA. If that wasn’t enough, the team will also be producing two plays, By Order of Ignorance, a new play by 3rd year acting student Rob Gilbert, and Bollocks by Lee Hall, performed and directed by 2nd year acting students. For more information on the company with Edinburgh venue details, visit www.selladoor.com
youngvoices Richard J Loftus impressed our panel with his pitch to interview the cast of Spring Awakening. It was one of their last interviews as a company before the show finally bowed out at the Novello. Saturday 23rd May and I’ve completed my final show, of my final year on American Theatre Arts at Rose Bruford College. Game over. Neverthe-less, three days later, I’ve won a competition to interview a couple of cast members from Spring Awakening, four days before they too come to the end of their journey with the show which has had a brief run at the Novello Theatre. Spring Awakening certainly has awoken more than spring amongst the West End since its closure. The new piece of musical theatre, with its young and fresh cast sadly had to bow down against the Any Dream Will Do generation, unable to fight against the commerciality of today’s theatre. Charlotte Wakefield who played Wendla in the show points out that “Our young audiences can’t afford to pay full price tickets, therefore the production team and the producers accommodate for that by offering offers. We could have a full house with people paying £10 tickets which is brilliant for us because we’re performing to a full house but it’s not good for the weekly quota”. But fans and theatre-goer’s alike fought back against the shows closing, which Gemma O’Duffy, swing and Dance Captain, calls a “travesty,” by ensuring that the show was sold out for the rest of the run, which ended on 30 May. Spring Awakening won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical after its arrival to Broadway in December 2006, previously having performed a brief run Off-Broadway earlier that same year. After touring North America in 2008, a production finally arrived in the UK at the Lyric Hammersmith in January of this year, eventually transferring to the Novello Theatre in March. Gemma O’Duffy had been auditioning since November 2007 before rehearsals began, almost a year later, whilst Charlotte Wakefield didn’t join until three weeks before final casting. A week long workshop in this final three weeks, saw the cast working with people they were immediately up against, watching other people playing the part they too were going for. Charlotte says that during this time “everyone got so close to each other, and so close to the piece as a whole and, I think, we all share that love for the piece,” and this is certainly what comes across when talking to Gemma and Charlotte, their love for Spring Awakening. When Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked opened in London, the accents, which were American in the Broadway production, became English, which is exactly what has happened with Spring Awakening. Prior to rehearsals, the casting breakdown stipulated the use of Received Pronunciation accents. Wakefield points out “even though it did start in America, it is set in Germany, there’s something a lot more, almost, true by having our English accents because it’s more European.” Gemma O’Duffy agrees, saying how she feels the “language works better.” Wedekind’s original text is quite a departure from this new musical. Steven Sater, who wrote the modernisation’s book and lyrics, sees the female characters equally exploring the realms of sex, much more so than Wedekind who, at the time of his writing, saw this exploration associated with the male only. “They didn’t want a carbon copy of the play because that wouldn’t work in musical theatre,” feels Charlotte, “It’s more relevant to the kids nowadays to go, these people have fallen in love and yes, they don’t understand that that will cause a child, they share something that’s so important to them and passionate to them, showing how much they love each other.”
Charlotte Wakefield, 18, is only four years older than Wendla, but in this day and age it would seem more like eight years older. Wakefield created a back-story through research for the character, putting in a huge amount of work outside of rehearsals to get to know her role. She suggests Wendla’s exploration comes from her lack of guidance, but unlike her character, “With my parents we were always very open about stuff like that, and if I had a question I’d ask my parents and I wouldn’t think twice, and they’d tell me.” Gemma O’Duffy is 25, and as swing has to play most girl parts. She found the process “really interesting and fun to figure out where they’ve come from and why they are the way they are,” having been asked to do lots of research about the time period to back up their character decisions. “People in Britain have a more in-depth understanding of Victorian Times,” comments Charlotte, “and those are the kind of times it was like in Germany.” “I find Musical Theatre escapism,” states Gemma, “but, weirdly enough, on this show, for mostly all of the cast, that would be a completely false statement. Most of them don’t listen to musical theatre and I think that is quite a significant reason why the show is so different.” Asking whether the show being so different from anything seen in the West End recently was the reason for its early closure found both girls agreeing that it was a combination of lots of things: taboo subject matters like sex, child abuse, masturbation, abortion, combined with the lack of celebrities, and of course the credit-crunch. “Is that the only way you can become really successful?” queries Gemma with regards to programmes like How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? Shouldn’t Andrew Lloyd Webber be asking the general public: How can the integrity of West End theatre be saved? “Most of the guys here have had their West End debut in a fantastic show, with fantastic parts, we’ve done it together, we finish on Saturday and we’ll go out with a bang,” Gemma proudly announces. “We’ve created everything together, worked together, we’ve built this fantastic ensemble of a show, nothing in this show is about status, we’re all in this together,” continues Charlotte, “I think there’s something about going out together, and going ‘You know what we did this, we did it together and now we’re gonna go.’” A show like Spring Awakening in the West End was inspiring, it gave hope to hundreds of hopefuls fresh out of drama school, including myself, that they too could take a leading role in a new musical and succeed. However, the haunting reality I’m left with is that perhaps that is a once in a blue moon opportunity. I guess only time will tell as I head off to the cattle-call auditions I’ve highlighted in this week’s edition of The Stage. Rumours of a film have been sparked, which neither could confirm but both were encouraging, “great for everybody else to get to see it, if it’s going to show the world the show, then great.” With Nine, starring Nicole Kidman & Penelope Cruz, due to hit cinemas in November 2009, Mamma Mia! being the fastest selling DVD of all time in the UK and with these rumours spreading fast, you are left with the haunting proposition that whilst the West End becomes filled with musical versions of cult movies, is the only way for theatre to truly be heard through the medium of cinema? ●
by Michael Culkin
One of the key services Equity provides for its members is insurance cover. This includes Public Liability, Accident and Backstage plus special schemes for fire artists, dancers and stunt artists. Student members were not included in this as the cover applied to members when they were working in the industry. However, recently this has changed as part of the improvements the union has brought in to increase the cover for full members so that models are included for the first time. Now Equity student membership brings with it Public Liability insurance for up to £2million of cover. Equity’s Public Liability Insurance covers our members against claims made against them by members of the public because of an injury or damage to their property. It is especially important for artists working in live performance in cabaret, clubs, festivals, street entertainment, circus, etc. Equity student members are now insured whilst “participating in self-produced productions, rehearsals, profit share performances and occasional professional performances whilst in full time performing arts education”. This cover extends to temporary trips worldwide excluding USA and Canada provided that the student member is usually resident in Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands or Isle of Man. This is something that our student members have been asking for and we are happy we have been able to make it happen. Full information on Equity’s insurance cover for members is available from the insurance brokers - First Act Insurance. Tel: 020 8686 5050 or their website www.firstact.co.uk.
If you are not yet a student member and want to find out more go to www.equity.org.uk/howtojoin or call 020 7670 0273.
Striding back across Waterloo Bridge the other day after a matinee at the NT, I was struck by two things. The brilliant sunshine bouncing off the Thames, and the incredible energies required to give and maintain a performance. No doubt about it, this is a high-energy business. Bullet point 3 energy. The confusing thing about an actor is: that ‘the talent to amuse’, as Noel Coward put it, makes the actor the most distractible being on the planet. Our energy and talent must be trained or wasted! Training can come in many forms but without it you will find it hard to summon the energy you need: to get out of bed, to bounce into an audition despite the grey news outside, the energy to face frequent rejection, long rehearsals, and even criticism. But, and here’s the magic, not only does it cost us energy but our work refuels us also. The very work that takes it out of us, miraculously also puts it back. We are re-energised as well as exhausted by the grind of a long run. Our work invigorates us! There was I with Alan Cordunner, and Pete Pothelswaite, slogging it out at a warm up every morning at 8:30 AM, training! I’m not sure how much of my ‘training’ stuck but with summer ‘72 on the QE2 as distraction, and David Bowie and Alan Bates to look after, I sure as hell was getting experience… Why do so many employers actively seek out actors for employment in unrelated industries? Because they have come to know that when an actor commits it’s total. We are prized for that energy and commitment. But here’s the dilemma, you might make a great waiter, or a brilliant bingo caller, in fact I know you will, I made youngest Officer on the QE2, but was that what we wanted? Is distraction the best use of your energy? Years later, working with Maggie Smith I was struck by her incredible energy. A nine-month-run, and she was the driving force of The Lady in the Van. Her refuelling came from the audience’s reaction. This relationship refuelled a woman who in other professions might have long retired. Night after night, Judy Parfitt and I battled it out over the domino table in Zola’s Teresse Raquin at the NT and whilst being drained we were also refuelled by the experience, every performance, for three months. Being creative has this one huge advantage, it takes a lot out but gives a lot more. Knowing this can help with the rollercoaster ride. The downs are all too easy to spot, but also learn to recognise the ups, however subtle. The sunlight bouncing of the river in spring. You should learn to recognise and embrace refuelling as it happens, then when you need those vital reserves of energy, they’ll be there, even when you’re all at sea… ●
Photo: Ben Blackall
Monkey Business GETTING
Setting up a theatre company can be very exciting, as Manchester-based Monkeywood Theatre Company know only too well. Anything is possible with ambition, determination and 28 hours in the day to juggle other careers to help pay the bills.
Monkeywood first emerged on the scene in 2003 when three likeminded actors, Francesca Waite, Martin Gibbons and James Harris, met while working for a Theatre in Education group in the north east, touring educational plays to children. As many of you will know, TIE means you do everything; drive, get-in, perform and get-out. Though tiring, it can be great fun and gives a fantastic grounding to learn everything involved in theatre production. As the school term ended, they began thinking about the next job and a discussion about setting up their own company came up. Surely all they’d need is a play, a venue and a name? Monkeywood’s first production, Closer by Patrick Marber, was chosen because of the fantastic writing and opportunity for each actor to portray a challenging character, regardless of the copyright fee. It was produced in a disused Chapel, a rather unlikely theatre venue but one used for fringe theatre in Manchester. Since the early days of 2003 the group has developed and moved over to the north west, losing founder member James to stand up comedy and short films with his own company, Shameless Films. The group sought another member and were pleased to welcome Sarah McDonald Hughes, the new chimp on the block. Although Monkeywood are professional, like many actors they work in other jobs to help pay the bills. Francesca works as Media Relations Officer at The Lowry, the award-winning theatre and arts venue in Salford Quays. She says, “Working in a theatre allows me to see plenty of productions and my role in the press office gives me a greater understanding of how to promote my own company. I think it’s really important to encourage press to come and see your productions and write about you. It’s free publicity and their unbiased opinion will be more highly regarded than your own words.” As well as acting, Sarah began writing for the company 3 years ago. After a successful tour of Manchester’s fringe theatre with their second production, Coach G by Stephen Morris, they looked in vain for another new script but failed to find anything suitable. Sarah explains, “I decided to have a go myself and wrote A Song for the Lovers, which was selected to be part of the 24:7 Theatre Festival 2006 in Manchester.” Two years later, the play was redeveloped for The Lowry’s first ever studio season when it was named as one of What’s On Stage’s top productions of 2008, given 5 stars and described as “highly charged and engaging… packed with humour and pathos”. Sarah also writes collaboratively with Action Transport Theatre Company and has led writing projects with young people at Bury Met Theatre and the Dukes, Lancaster. Her children’s play, The Tree, was shortlisted for Theatre Centre’s Adrienne Benham Award in 2008.
Martin’s day job allows him to see the acting profession from the opposite side, working as Casting Director at Emma Stafford Casting Agency. Working as an actor definitely makes it easier for Martin to cast. “It gives me an understanding of where the actors are coming from and allows me to direct them in a way they understand. Hopefully this gives the actors the best possible chance of succeeding in the casting.” Monkeywood have learned to be resourceful with publicity, made easier these days by the advent of social networking sites. They network through a growing Facebook group which is updated regularly with news about productions and they also Twitter, which allows them the opportunity to talk and be talked about. They are also investing in a whistles and bells website that will be updated regularly, feeding their audience information. They place great importance on producing highquality flyers for each production which they hit the streets with to hand out during festivals, or at other similar theatre shows in the region. Collaboratively Monkeywood have developed and have high hopes for their future. Their day-jobs provide additional strings to their bows while giving them knowledge, enabling the company’s own progression as well as their personal development. Between them they have acquired the necessary skills to run a successful theatre production business. With Francesca’s particular experience in marketing and PR, Martin’s eye for acting talent and Sarah’s ability to write esteemed scripts, Monkeywood hope that one day the company will pay the bills by itself and those 28 hours in the day can be spent getting up to Monkey business. Could 2009 be the year of the Monkey (wood)? Their current production Maine Road, written by Sarah, was selected for this year’s 24:7 Theatre Festival and the radio version has been short listed for the BBC’s Alfred Bradley Bursary Award 2009 to be announced in July. They would like to get Maine Road seen by as many people as possible, including people who never go to the theatre. The 24:7 Theatre Festival should provide this opportunity as it represents the best new writing in Manchester and beyond and gives the writers and performers the chance to get their work seen by many. The plays are all performed in non-theatre spaces so the audiences can have a pint while they watch. After this, Monkeywood hope to tour Maine Road and have plans for a brand new project in early 2010. Plenty to keep them busy then! ● Maine Road will be performed at Funktion in Pure at the Printworks, Manchester from Mon 20 – Sat 25 July 2009. Tickets are £8/£6 available from 0870 428 0785 or www.247theatrefestival.co.uk For more information on Monkeywood go to www.monkeywoodtheatre.co.uk
“If we were told there is a magic button we can press to make us the actors we strive to be, we wouldn't believe it.
Patrons Simon Callow and The Michael Chekhov Literary Estate, USA
MICHAEL CHEKHOV STUDIO LONDON Course Facilitator - Graham Dixon
The thing is, this is the magic button.”
If I feel it, is it true? Simon Callow says: “The work of Michael Chekhov is an unique tool for finding the vocal and physical expression of an actor’s fantasy to make the inner life manifest. Anyone who feels earthbound in voice or body should attend a workshop led by Graham Dixon.” TWO WEEK SUMMER INTENSIVE FOURFOLD ACTING
July 20 to July 31 2009 Monday to Fridays: 11am to 6pm
Scott Williams' Impulse Company teaches actors to become the best they can be th through its Meisner-rooted Technique and personalized approach.
AUTUMN WEEKEND WORKSHOPS Monthly Weekend Workshops each with a theme on the Chekhov method. Please email for details.
To begin your voyage of discovery go to www.impulsecompany.co.uk or call 07525 264173
Email: email@example.com Tel: 020 8696 7372
French’s Theatre Bookshop World Wide Mail Order Service
Playscripts * Libretti * * Speech Training Resources * * Audition Material * Accent CDs * * Free Theatre Books Lists * * 10% Student Discount * *
Open Mon - Fri 9.30 - 5.30, Sat 11.00 - 5.00 www.samuelfrench-london.co.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 52 Fitzroy St London W1T 5JR Tel: 020 7255 4300 Fax: 020 7387 2161
PPA is the only college of its kind in the country that solely concentrates on the training of students between GCSE’s and Degree level. TDS discovers a school that is going from strength to strength. Performance Preparation Academy (PPA) opened in September 2008 in The Ebbisham Centre, Epsom, Surrey. Founded by Louise Glarvey and Rachel Crouch, it is going from strength to strength and in a very short time they have established themselves as a college that takes its training and ethos very seriously. They offer their students all the tools and training they need to have a successful, realistic career, with academic qualifications behind them. Their mission is to provide students with a nurturing yet pragmatic training to prepare them for the competitive, rewarding career ahead of them. They provide students with first class training after completing their GCSE’s and slotting into the gap before moving on to Higher Education. Designed within a two year course that is equivalent to 3 A Levels and a Diploma (up to 300 UCAS points) all of the exams taken at PPA are QCA accredited through London College of Music, Trinity Guildhall and LAMDA and range from Drama, Classical Singing through to Musical Theatre. The course has been equally divided into Dance, Drama and Singing training. Sights are set high for students to work hard and prepare them to gain places in the best Colleges and Universities in the country for Performing Arts. Over the past year PPA have secured excellent links with colleges such as GSA, Mountview, Arts Educational Schools London, London Studio Centre and Middlesex University where they have received Bursaries and Easter School awards for their student’s hard work. Also due to the high standard of the students they take and the impression the college has left on these establishments, all of these colleges will be holding private auditions for places on their BA Hons Performance courses at PPA and taking audition workshops with their own tutors to give PPA students the best possible chance of gaining a sort after place. PPA is the only college of its kind in the country that solely concentrates on the training of students between GCSE’s and Degree level, and sees their journey through from GSCE to gaining entry two years later. They believe that this is the crucial time to prepare any child for the rigorous training of a career in the arts. With this in mind they wanted to set up a course that would give students the academic qualifications to continue their training and more importantly the vocational training needed to further their talents and hone their techniques. Teaching qualifications are offered to students in their second year in Musical Theatre, Dance and Drama to enable them to enhance their future career options and more importantly to cover all bases so they have every option available to them after their training is completed. Class sizes at PPA are small so all students get a chance to be seen and made to feel that their talent is important and recognised. Training is tailor made to each student’s needs which in turn will produce superior trained individuals and increase their chances in gaining DADA or HEFCE awards (fees paid for by the government) for their future training. PPA is going into its second year very soon and has achieved so much in such a short time. They have received excellent results in all of their exams so far and together with Danica Pickett from Williamson and Holmes Agency and their tutors hard work, are quickly establishing careers for their students with jobs in Walkers Crisps ads, The Bill, A Touch of Frost and Disney to name but a few. They are now recruiting for September and invite all talented students from across the country that are looking for the best place to train after GCSE’s to give them all the tools they will need for the future! ● Visit www.ppacademy.co.uk to find out more.
PPA is a young, dynamic and focused academy. The students are being well prepared for auditions for full time vocational musical theatre training. I look forward to developing closer links with PPA. Chris Hocking Director of Musical Theatre, Arts Educational School
Your link to a career in the performing arts The world of the Arts is notoriously fickle as well as exciting so itâ€™s vital to be prepared for when and if an opportunity comes your way. PPA is a great stepping stone from school and dance school to the big and tough world of college and then employment. In a nurturing, challenging and encouraging environment, students can grow as people as well as performers and learn the disciplines of the industry. I wish all the students much success and applaud everyone involved with PPA. Very best of luck, Bonnie Langford.
2 year Musical Theatre Preparation Course equal to 3 A levels 1 year Intensive Musical Theatre Course ATCL Qualification Teaching Qualifications through Trinity Guildhall Outreach programs with many top accredited theatre schools
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Audition Speeches So you’ve carefully selected a good range of speeches for your drama school auditions - and checked the audition requirements of each of the schools that you’re applying to. What’s the best way to prepare them? Simon Dunmore proposes the following strategy for each speech, before you begin to learn it. Who are you? You must bring your character’s life history (gleaned from the play and supplemented by your imagination) into your performance. Most of what you ‘bring’ won’t be obvious to your auditioners. However, it will be immediately obvious if that ‘life history’ is not present. Just as 90% of an iceberg is underwater, a similar proportion of a good performance is also hidden — but must be there, underneath, to support that performance. Tip Carry a small notebook around with you so that you can jot down new ideas as they occur to you. As the character (i.e. in the first person) write notes of all the bits of information (big and small) that you find in order to build his/her life. Your invisible partner(s) If you choose a speech addressing another character, then it is vital that that other person (and how they are reacting through the speech) is clear to you. It is generally better to imagine an adaptation of someone you know rather than ‘borrow’ someone you’ve only seen on a flat screen — there can be a huge difference in how we perceive others between two- and three-dimensions. It’s not just them (and how they are reacting); it’s also important to be clear about your relationship. As well as imagining what your character’s lover looks like (for instance), you must also know the feel of their touch, their smell, and so forth — and many more personal aspects. It is also important that any other people, places and events mentioned in the speech are similarly ‘clear’ in your imagination. Your invisible circumstances You should also bring the setting, clothes and practical items with you — in your imagination. (NB I could have written ‘set, costumes and props’, but I believe that it’s important to think of everything being ‘real’ and not items constructed for a production). I believe that actors neglecting these is the cause of a high proportion of failed and indifferent speeches. It’s not just the visual images, it is also what the other senses give you — the ‘brush’ of a summer breeze across your face, for instance. Plays are not performed in ‘real’ rooms (there will be at least one wall missing) and every play has at least one non-appearing character mentioned — these absences are filled by the actors’ imaginations. Do the same with these ‘absences’ in the audition circumstances. It isn’t just the major features that you should think about, but
also the apparently minor details — for instance, that mark on a wall that suddenly catches your character’s eye. It can be a good idea to draw a map (or groundplan) so that the whole ‘geography’ of your ‘circumstances’ is clear for you — and fill out your imaginary location with as much detail as possible. Interpretation As you are creating a ‘mini-production’ of a ‘mini-play’ (the ‘child’ of its ‘parent-play’), I believe that it’s legitimate to make changes to the circumstances of the speech when it occurs in the play — especially if such changes enhance your audition performance. (After all, a ‘child’ can never lose the genetic code of its ‘parents’, but he/she will evolve their own personality — which will be different). However, be prepared to justify it — and don’t get defensive. There’s usually no harm in honest disagreement. Beginnings It is particularly important to be clear about what actually provokes the character to start speaking — the ‘ignition’ that kicks your ‘engine’ into life. Try running a brief ‘film’ in your imagination culminating in the event (for instance, a statement or a gesture from someone else) that is your cue. Tip It can also be very useful to incorporate a simple movement to start a speech — a turn of the head, for instance. That voyage of discovery Be aware of the ‘voyage of discovery’ that shapes your speech. Don’t anticipate the end at the beginning. This is a common fault in rehearsal, which is easily corrected — but a remarkable number of people fall into this trap when performing their audition speeches. It can be very useful to write out a speech with each sentence (or even each phrase) on a separate line — it then appears less of a ‘block’ of words on the page and more a series of separate, but connected, thoughts and ideas. It is also a good idea to leave sufficient space between each line to write notes on what the impulse is to go on to say the next thing, and the next, and... Endings It’s also important to be clear as to why a character stops speaking — after talking for two minutes. You need to be clear what your character’s final thought is — crucially stopping his/her flow.
studentsupport Once you’ve spent sufficient time on the above, start to say the words out loud — sentence by sentence — as your character, with your ‘invisible partner(s)’ and in your ‘invisible circumstances’. If you’ve done the above research properly, you’ll find that you’ll absorb the words without much rote learning. Then you can start to consider some of the practicalities of auditioning. Staging You need to think carefully about how you stage each piece. Too many people seem inclined to put in extraneous moves either to compensate for the lack of the other character(s), or because they think the speech is boring if it doesn’t contain enough movement. If you are properly ‘connecting’ to character and ‘circumstances’, the moves will follow naturally from each ‘impulse’. However, much of the effect of your performance will be dissipated if your auditioners don’t 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 the audition circumstances. 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 map (or groundplan) 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 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)’ — they should be clearly lodged in your imagination so that the interviewer 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. Chairs A warning about chairs. There is a common variety of chair, as familiar as the bollard is to the motorway, that inhabits many audition venues. It can serve all kinds of functions as well as the simple one of being sat upon. 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’. Props Avoid using props. 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 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. With far more people applying than there are places available, auditioning can be a dispiriting process as you travel round the audition circuit. If you are to have any chance of success it’s essential to keep buoyant and ensure that your speeches have that freshness, that need to communicate and that willingness to give blood that personifies a first night. A secondnight performance — travelling along the same old ‘railway lines’ — will not do. If you do feel a speech going stale, try changing something about the character and/or circumstances. It is amazing how a tiny tweak in the character’s history (for instance) can instantly refresh your acting. ● Simon has been directing productions for over 30 years, as well as teaching acting and audition technique and working in many drama schools. He has written several books: An Actor’s Guide to Getting Work and Alternative Shakespeare Auditions and is the Consultant Editor for Actors’ Yearbook. He’s also been very involved with the work of Equity & the National Council for Drama Training. www.simon.dunmore.btinternet.co.uk
firstname.lastname@example.org Graduation is in July and I have been offered an acting job in a fringe venue in the summer. The role is pretty good but it is “profit share” which I have been told means I won’t get paid a penny!!! My agent wants me to do it – she says it will give me my first ‘professional credit’ – the company is pretty well known. Is fringe good for your CV? Tilly Cook Hi Tilly – have you seen any fringe productions? Trust me there is some really good fringe work – and it attracts many experienced actors because it can be an opportunity to do something really exciting. Profit share means exactly that – you get a share of any profit after costs are covered and yes, there is a strong possibility that you will get nothing – or very little. However you (and other cast members) have to try and encourage your friends and family to see the show – the more money taken at the box office, the more possibility you will get a little cash. But you don’t do fringe for money, you do it for experience, to work on exciting projects, with good companies, and to get your work seen. Your agent is right (of course) the main reason for doing this is to give you a professional credit on your CV. In these early days do be guided by your agent – she is there to help you and she has your best interests at heart. Enjoy!
I graduated from drama school three years ago and was looking into a refresher course at the Actor’s Centre when I picked up this magazine! I got a lot of work in my first year, but it seems to have dried up! I rarely get through to my agent, who is too busy getting work for the Jude Law’s of this world, my last audition was three months ago for a commercial where I was asked to play ‘a peanut’, and my passion is slowly burning out! I’m not bitter, just seeking some inspiration. Tom (name has been changed by request and email shortened due to its length) Oh Tom, you reminded me of that wonderful scene in Tootsie when Dustin Hoffman had to play a Tomato! However on a serious note I feel there are lots of issues here and sadly the editor will not give me enough space to tackle them fully. First let’s look at the agent situation – perhaps you need to arrange to go in and have a chat and see if there is anything else you should be doing. An agent cannot work miracles and they may feel you need to be more proactive. It is a little unfair to assume they are just promoting their bigger or more successful clients. So go in and have a chat rather than brood about it. Also you must take in to consideration that we are in the middle of a recession. Everyone is talking about how quiet the business is and this is going to reflect on the number of auditions around. It will get better but until then you have to hold tight and remain positive – remember no-one is owed a living. Finally enrolling on a course (or courses) at the Actor’s Centre is a brilliant idea. The Actor’s Centre is the perfect place to network and hear about things going on, and you have the opportunity to brush up your skills or learn new ones. I think it is very easy to get a little lazy as an actor especially if you are not working and so anything to get you off the sofa and doing something creative is good. Hopefully it will also reignite your passion, which is essential. I am glad you are not bitter because that is so destructive – so come on Tom pick yourself up and get ready for the unknown and exciting journey ahead.
Yvonne I’Anson is Head of Marketing & Development at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts
student support Applying to drama school is a fraught business. To start with, it’s hugely competitive with more than 30,000 students every year trying to win a place – almost as tough as trying to get into medical school, writes Hilary Strong. Many students are baffled by the options; do they go for a straight acting course or a contemporary drama programme? Musical Theatre or Acting for Musical Stage? One year, two years or three years? The National Council for Drama Training is here to help. We aim to provide impartial and informed advice to students, their parents and teachers from the first stage of expressing interest down to the agonising choice between one or two offers. NCDT accredits 52 courses across 19 different institutions. It’s important to stress that accreditation is a pass or fail business so there are no grades awarded and NCDT does not categorise courses or advise on the ‘best’ school. But we will always recommend applying to an accredited course rather than one of the many non-accredited courses if a student is serious about wanting to pursue an acting career. Vocational training on a course accredited by the National Council for Drama Training will stand you in good stead professionally, physically and mentally. Over 1,500 students enter NCDT accredited training each year. These courses will give you the opportunity to showcase to agents and casting directors - crucial if you’re to secure your first few jobs, and find a place in the profession. Untrained people can and do become actors. There are no formal entry requirements. But without a chance break, it’s very difficult to begin acting professionally. Training will give you the exposure you need to begin, and more importantly, the physical rigor and self-discipline you’ll need to continue Many students take two or more years to win a place and it’s important to stress that drama schools will be happy to re-audition a candidate they may have rejected the previous year. Often the student is just too immature at 18 for what is a rigorous and demanding programme. Also, a lot of students simply haven’t prepared properly; they’ve chosen the wrong monologue or not rehearsed their song properly. Sometimes, they may appear unfit. It’s vital to audition for at least 3 schools, preferably more, to maximise the chances of being
selected. There’s a lot you can do to get in match-fit condition for what will be a tough round of auditions. Make sure you really know the speeches you select – that means reading the whole play and if possible, seeing it performed. You need several monologues as recall auditions will often require another set plus some schools list the monologues they don’t want to see! The earlier you get organised the better. Students that apply late in the process are usually at a disadvantage as schools make offers from the start because they don’t want to lose exceptional candidates. People often wonder why they get rejected right at the final recall stages and it may be because the school has already selected one or two people of a similar type and they want more diversity in the company of students. After all, when it comes to the final year, they need to cast the group in a range of roles and would be in trouble if everyone looked the same! For younger students thinking about applying in a few years’ time we recommend getting involved in drama as early as possible. There’s no excuse not to join a youth theatre or amateur company now there are so many of them offering a range of activities. It’s true that the most popular can be over-subscribed but a bit of internet research should throw up something close to home. Most professional theatres offer workshops and youth projects and there are several national companies offering summer holiday projects. Check out the NCDT website for further information. Acting is good for everyone. But not everyone will have a successful career because there simply isn’t enough work to go around. It’s important to weigh up the cost of full-time training against the likelihood of achieving a sustained career, and maybe opt for a university course instead. NCDT aims to support your decision-making whatever direction you finally take! ● Hilary Strong is Director of the National Council for Drama Training. For more information call 020 7407 3686 or email email@example.com www.ncdt.co.uk
The Lilian Baylis Awards One of the highlights of my year is the annual Lilian Baylis Awards, held at the famous Old Vic Theatre. This year I accompanied second year acting student Carla Kingham, who had been nominated for this award by Mountview. We were joined by Poppy Meadows (East 15), Josh Hayes (Arts Ed), Chris Macdonald (Drama Centre), Josh Pharo (Rose Bruford), Ashley Zhangazha (Guildhall), Danny Horn (Central), Katie Meekison (LAMDA), Jerome Ngonadi (ALRA), Susan Wokoma (RADA) and Neil Allen (Italia Conti). From the minute you arrive, with a warm welcome by Chair of the Royal Victoria Foundation Valerie Colgan and Clerk to the Trustees Carol Cooper, you know you are in the company of friends. The Guest of Honour playwright Roy Williams OBE then presented each student with a cheque for £1500 to help support their final year Pictured (left to right), are Poppy Meadows, Josh Hayes, Chris Macdonald, Josh of study. As he spoke of a writer’s indescribable fulfilment in finding Pharo, Ashley Zhangazha, Danny Horn, Katie Meekison, Jerome Ngonadi, Susan the right actor for a role, Williams assured the students of the special Wokoma, Neil Allen, Carla Kingham, with Roy William (centre) nature of their chosen career and encouraged them to enjoy it. The awards are presented in memory of Lilian Mary Baylis CH who was born on 9 May 1874. In 1898 she started to work with her Aunt Emma Cons who had bought the Royal Victoria Theatre in Waterloo and re-opened it as the Royal Victoria Hall. The venue provided entertainment and education to people who were excluded from proper schooling. When Emma Cons died in 1912 Lilian took over complete managerial control. By this time the theatre was officially known by its pet name, the “Old Vic”. Not only did Lilian Baylis develop a successful theatre company which evolved in to the National Theatre Company, she re-opened the derelict Sadler’s Wells Theatre, ran an opera company - English National Opera, and a ballet company which eventually became the Royal Ballet. Like her aunt, she was also passionate about improving the quality of life for people living in the London slums, and she made theatre, opera and dance accessible for them. To this day the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells offer a number of cheaper seats, to ensure that the work can be seen by as many people as possible. Lilian Baylis died on 25 November 1937 and although there is no memorial, her name lives on. The Lilian Baylis Awards are presented by The Royal Victoria Hall Foundation. It is funded principally from the invested proceeds of the sale of The Old Vic Theatre in 1982 plus subsequent gifts and bequests. In addition to the Lilian Baylis Awards, the Foundation also helps professional productions. Kevin Spacey, who is Patron of the Foundation, kindly allows the awards to take place at the Old Vic. Mountview student Carla Kingham said “I am so grateful to the trustees for this amazing and generous award which will make a big difference to me in my final year. It has been a really memorable event. Absolutely brilliant!” ● Yvonne I’Anson
Photo: Steve Porter
GUILDFORD SCHOOL OF ACTING
Courses offered: 1 Year MA Courses – still auditioning for 2009 entry • MA Acting • MA Musical Theatre • MA Practice of Voice and Singing
3 Year BA Courses – 2010 entry auditions from Autumn 2009 • BA Hons Acting • BA Hons Musical Theatre • BA Hons Professional Production Skills
for details of all courses www.gsauk.org For an application form/further details contact:Guildford School of Acting, Millmead Terrace, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4YT t: 01483 734806 | f: 01483 535431 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Skill UP Photo: ArtsEd
It’s the time of year when many young people discover that they haven’t got into drama school, but, argues Gill Foreman, Arts Educational Head of Outreach, this can be an opportunity - not a door closing. There are now a wide range of alternative performing arts courses on offer by Conservatoires and Colleges across the UK specifically designed for those trying to boost their skills levels as working theatre professionals, or for students looking to get into full time training at drama school. If you weren’t successful getting into drama school this year, it means that for whatever reason, those who auditioned you didn’t feel that you were either ready or skilled enough for full time training. Perhaps you already know that there’s an area of your skills that’s weaker than the rest. If you’re determined, you’re going to apply again, so why not use the intervening time to improve your abilities, acquire new ones and increase your confidence at the same time? Schools such as Arts Educational run Evening Courses in all sorts of Performing Arts subjects from Acting, Scriptwriting and Song and Dance, to Audition Technique, Musical Theatre technique, Voice and Stage Combat. Many of these courses run for just one evening a week for a term, or a year, allowing students to choose classes that suit their needs and interests. These courses are taught by professionals working in the industry, so they have an additional relevance. Foundation Courses require more commitment and are specifically designed to help those considering applying to drama school. They’re still part-time courses, but often take place over two or three evenings or at weekends. Arts Educational’s Foundation Course in Performance in Acting or Musical Theatre focuses on continuously developing those core abilities that full time courses demand through weekly classes, as well as improving performance technique via regular termly showings. For some looking to deepen their existing professional career as a performer, say as a teacher, there are ‘conversion’ courses, programmes that offer those with drama school diplomas the chance to convert them into Bachelor of Arts degrees. Arts Educational’s PDBA is very popular and taken by a high proportion of working actors. On the other hand, not everyone wants to train full time, and the Conservatoire environment doesn’t suit every student. Alternative courses offer a way to build performance skill incrementally built over a year or a number of years. At Arts Educational, as at other drama schools, courses are offered at differing levels, from beginners to advanced, and programmed so that across a year a beginner can gradually develop their abilities up to the point they’re comfortable with. Such a vast array of alternative courses means that whether you’re interest is as a hobby, or whether your focus is full time drama training, there’s something out there for you. ●
Behind the lens Whether you have dreams of becoming the next Robert Redford and turning Oscarwinning actor-director or whether you simply want to learn more about what goes on behind the camera to complement your acting craft, London Film Academy, a non-profit making trust providing a high standard of up-to-date practical film training, offers value-for-money courses aimed at actors to enhance their understanding of filmmaking. All LFA tutors are working film & TV professionals, who bring with them insider expertise and contacts. Filmmaking Foundations (six Saturdays or six consecutive days- Monday to Saturday) These general courses suitable for those with no prior experience who wish to develop their hands-on filmmaking skills and add a short fiction film to their portfolios. They offer an overview of the filmmaking basics - scriptwriting, lighting, sound, camerawork and direction - as well as pre-production, producing, editing and post-production, using both film and digital formats, with a final shoot on Super 16mm. Previous actors who have attended the Foundation courses include: Tom Burke (‘Cheri’), Alex Kelly (‘Vera Drake’) and James Larkin (‘The Government Inspector’). Upcoming course dates: • 11 July 2009 - 15 August 2009 – Foundation Weekend • 3 August 2009 - 9 August 2009 – Foundation Week • Directors Workshop (one-day) Ideal for anyone interested in how directing works for film & TV, this course advises students on working with actors and crew and taking films from script to screen. It explains expectations for new directors, the realities of getting a break and how to tackle financial constraints, by focusing on: understanding film language; casting; getting the best performances from actors and post-production. Upcoming course date: 6 September 2009 To check availability and the full range of LFA courses available, from specialised short courses, such as Editing and Airbrush Make-up, to unique one-year courses, including the brand-new Advanced Screenwriting Diploma, please visit www.londonfilmacademy.com or call 020 7386 7711 or email email@example.com
Ralph Richardson Memorial Studios, Kingfisher Place, Clarendon Road, Wood Green, London N22 6XF
l Musica Theatre
l a c i n h c Te Theatre
c Constru • n g Desi nd • u o S • ighting
t • L
en anagem M e g a t S
Undergraduate & Postgraduate Courses Plus an exciting programme of Part-time and Summer Courses
Mountview is committed to equal opportunities.
Tel: 020 8881 2201 Fax: 020 8829 0034 firstname.lastname@example.org www.mountview.org.uk
GSA’s Production graduates enjoy a 90% success rate in gaining employment in the profession. They have worked or are working on West End productions/major tours such as Cats, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Oklahoma, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and in numerous regional theatres, in lighting and sound hire companies, in major venues in London & the regions, in corporate & conference work, and in television including most recently on BBC 1’s Strictly Come Dancing. GSA are looking for people who are committed to a career in the live entertainment industry, and are willing to work very hard! After an initial period of teaching on the foundational skills of stage management, technical theatre and design, the majority of learning will be through projects and public productions. GSA aims, as far as possible, to replicate professional theatre practice, working to a high standard with working professional directors, designers, lighting designers and sound designers. The teaching staff also have a wealth of professional experience and will be there to mentor and support students every step of the way. In the second year there is a period of work experience within your chosen field; GSA will advise you of where you would thrive professionally, and assist you to organise this. To work behind the scenes in production you must have a passion for the theatre, aim to create the best possible production, love working with other people and always retain your sense of humour! All the information you need about GSA’s courses can be found on their website www.gsauk.org
A Year in the Life of A Trainee Techie From beginning to end, this year has been extremely busy and hard work. The first 6 weeks of the course are classroom/teaching based, going through all areas of technical theatre. Something that really hit me was the time period. At the end of the teaching that is 6 weeks of your time at GSA gone, so quickly. It was good to get classroom work done and to then be able to concentrate on practical show work. My first position was as carpentry crew on 2 shows, Hot Mikado and Napoli Milionaria, both with varying building techniques within the sets. My first major allocation was as Deputy Stage Manager on Man of La Mancha, the big intermediate show in the Electric Theatre in Guildford. This was a wonderful production with such a talented cast and a very experienced and large crew. Seeing a production going from a read through to a fully fledged show was so satisfying and calling the show is the most brilliant feeling. As stage management is my major and specifically DSMing, I was very happy to get this position on a big show. Moving on from DSMing I crossed over to Sound, operating effects, band and mics for the production. As an area that I did not have really any experience in I found this challenging and it stretched my abilities to the full. I was given the freedom to push ahead with work using what I had learnt in the initial 6 weeks teaching and then if I reached a point when I couldn’t work out how to proceed, I was able to call on the Sound tutor at any time. It was wonderful to be given the space to work on my own as it gave me huge confidence, which in an area I was less sure on was invaluable; but knowing that if I did reach a wall there would be help at hand was so helpful. I moved back to stage management for my next show, working with the MA actors on Machinal which I stage managed. On this allocation I was given so much support, especially from my fellow students in all areas. I was pleased to be able to take on the responsibility of such a senior role and found that the trust I put in my crew was repaid by them, especially in the tech week. I am currently Production Manager of the 2nd Year Musical Theatre shows The Fix and Carnival. This was quite a shock to be given such a responsible role, but a welcome shock! To think that I had started off as a member of a carpentry crew and a few months later I am production managing two shows fills me with confidence at my abilities but is also a great credit to the staff that they feel I can cope with such a role. It has been a real learning curve through all allocations, especially from concentrating on one specific department and role, to spreading wings and taking an overall view of every aspect of the show, knowing what it going on everywhere. It has been an incredible experience to work with people who have years of experience in the industry but the most rewarding part is working with fellow students, all of whom have a passion for the theatre and who all pull together in their mutual interest to create not only a hugely professional team but also friendships that will last for a lifetime. Leaving GSA I am moving on to work as Stage Manager with the National Youth Ballet, the first 2 venues being the Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, and Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. Coming out into the industry after just a year with a responsible position in a national company performing in major venues, who could ask for more?! Ben Stevens, APL Student, GSA
Production and Cultural Management
Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh The subject area of Production & Cultural Management at QMU operates within the School of Drama & Creative Industries providing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the areas of theatre production and cultural management. The School offers a dynamic programme of training geared towards professional work in the arts and entertainment industries and a lively and inquisitive practical study of contemporary theatre and links with the industry are strong. www.qmu.ac.uk
BA World Performance East 15 Acting School
BA World Performance offers a hybrid practicebased and theoretical study that explores historical, theoretical and skill-centred approaches to performance forms across the world. It deals with selected aspects of performance forms, traditions and styles from Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America. The course looks at theatre, dancedrama, masks, music and dance within different cultural environments. Graduating students will have performance skills, analytical abilities, knowledge of global performances and developed creative approaches to making performance. www.east15.ac.uk
Theatre Design RADA
The two year set and costume design course covers the extensive process of designing for performance. Training also includes technical theatre stagecraft, construction, scenic art, prop making, wardrobe, lighting, sign writing, fabric treatment and health & safety. The student’s final year expands creative identity through design for production. Graduates from this course have gone on to become set and costume designers in theatre and film, and a recent graduate has gained the coveted position of assistant to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s set and costume designers. www.rada.org
Photo: Rob Davis
ARTS EDUCATIONAL SCHOOLS LONDON
PART - TIME COURSES STARTING SEPTEMBER 2009 EVENING AND WEEKEND COURSES IN DRAMA - DANCE - SINGING
FOUNDATION COURSE IN PERFORMANCE ACTING OR MUSICAL THEATRE
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION VISIT WWW.ARTSED.CO.UK or email SCPDO@ARTSED.CO.UK
takecontrol Your main marketing tool as a performer is by far your headshot photograph. A busy agent or casting director will take literally seconds to decide whether they want to call you in for a meeting, therefore it is vitally important to present them with a quality image that is a true likeness, yet capturing you at your very best. The industry standard size is 10x8 inches and is traditionally black and white, although more and more performers are using colour in their additional options on Spotlight and Casting Call Pro. Every photographer is different, and in this Special Feature you’ll read about each one’s style and approach with reference to their advert and examples of their work, in order for you to make an informed choice about who you feel would be the right one for you.
Photography Nick Gregan
Nick Gregan is a sought after theatrical photographer in London, photographing actors, children and performers. TDS catches up with him at his studio in East London. How did you get into photography?
It happened completely by chance. I always fancied myself as a photographer. I used to be doorman at The Four Season’s on Park Lane, in Top Hat and Tails. I had a my mate who was a model and he said to me one day ‘do you want to come down to this photographic studio?’ I thought ‘oh this is great’ and started hanging around, just watching and learning, asking questions. One day I thought, ‘you know what, I could do this’ and that was it. All the boys at the time in the studio were fashion photographers and doing model test shoots. I picked up a Canon camera and I’ve stayed with a Canon ever since. I started shooting headshots about 15 years ago. I was in the studio one day and somebody said ‘Look, I need an actor’s headshot, can you do it?’ I did a bit of research, had a look what they were like and I thought ‘Yeah, I can do that’, and it just snowballed quite quickly.
Do you prefer natural or studio lighting?
The majority of my shots are in studio lighting. I’m lucky I’m close to a park and I’ve got a back garden at my place, so a session will probably be two or three different looks. A headshot with tungsten light, the main shot with flash light, and then something else outside with daylight.
What can someone expect from a photo shoot with you?
First of all they should expect to enjoy it! Because I know a lot of actors don’t enjoy having their photographs taken, and are afraid, so they’ll actually enjoy it with me and have a bit of a laugh. Most people say afterwards, ‘was that it? It was dead easy that!’ We’ll do an hour and a half, two hour session and they’ll get a load of shots. They’ll get a chance to look at the pictures on the computer screen as we go. I offer them to comment, they might say ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I do like that, let’s do some more like that’, you know?
What’s included in the session?
Obviously me and my wit and charm! We’ll take as many pictures as I need to take. What I tend to do with my clients is spend the time editing them down with them, so they don’t walk away with like 200 shots on a CD that they’ve got to look at themselves. I’ll whittle them down to about 20 or 30 shots, so it makes it much easier at a later date. They’ll get two 10x8’s prints included. I email the images to them in colour straight away and I also upload a black and white contact sheet on the internet as well, for anyone to look at whoever we give the address to.
handy for their agent or college. What would you advise someone to wear for the shoot?
I always say, stay away from jazzy patterns and stripes. Stay away from big jewelled earrings. Fairly plain tops. Personally I don’t mind neck lines, I don’t mind if it’s a V-neck or a roll neck. Strappy tops are fine for the girls. An image is very important. You’ve only got a three or four seconds for your headshot to make an impression on somebody, so nice neutral colours I say, plain colours, let your face do the talking.
What else are you working on at the moment?
There’s a company called Stagecoach, which is the biggest kids theatre school in the country, and I’m the main photographer for them.
What advice would you give to someone seeking headshots?
Once you’ve had a look at somebody’s work and you like it, take a few minutes to ring and speak to them, to see if you like them or not. And if you do, go down and see them. And don’t be afraid to go down and see them first, to have a look at their work. Choose your photographer carefully, because even though you’ve done your three years training at drama school, or university, the first thing people see is your headshot. So my main advice really would be don’t get your boyfriend to take a headshot in the back garden. Go to a specialist headshot photographer and take their advice. Spend the money to get a really good headshot done. If you don’t, you’re not even gonna get your foot in the door. It’s your main marketing tool. You could go to my website and download “The Seven Secrets of a Great Headshot.” It just gives a bit more detailed information about how to approach a headshot, what to expect, and how to prepare for it.
You sound like you love your job.
I do! I’m a service provider. I love the buzz of someone coming back to me three or four months along the line saying ‘You know I’m having a great result with your pictures’, especially if they’d had pictures done elsewhere in the past and not got anywhere. I love that buzz. ● You can also view a video of Nick doing a photo shoot on his website www.nickgregan.com
- 020 8857 6920 or 07597 946252
Christopher Parker, Zoe Heyes, Charlie Clements, Debra Stephenson, Matthew Newtion David Anderson, John Judd, Liz Fraser, Chris Jarvis, Bella Emberg Matthew Wren, Gabrielle Bradshaw, Mat Pinckney, Mia McKenna-Bruce, Lee Forskitt
Special price for DRAMA STUDENTS - £80 (Normally £120) **The whole shoot can be put onto cd for £10 – this normally costs an extra £20**
The price above is per person being photographed, although up to 4 students can come together, but you’d be photographed individually and without an audience! The work is digital, enabling you to view your work instantly, although the final prints are still of darkroom quality The session is very relaxed and comfortable, on a one-to-one basis, in my own studio in South London For more info check out my website - www.rosiestillphotography.com or read the testimonials on my Castingcallpro.com website
David Levine £140 standard
Studio / Outdoors: Both. “As David Bailey once said ‘I like to use available light’, and some bloke said, ‘what, daylight?’ and he said ‘no, whatever’s available.’ He put an expletive in there, but I left that out,” laughs David. What’s included: Based in Hove and London, David also travels around to photograph his subjects. The 1 hour session (usually £90 to students but with an extra £10 off to TDS readers) includes four changes of top with no limit on the amount of images taken. A secure online image library with a light box feature that you can email to your agent. Final four image selection get retouched with digital file of them in black and white, and colour. Background: David has been a photographer “for a very long time”. He started at school, then assisted a photographer. In the 80s he photographed many famous figures in music, including the many gorgeous faces of Boy George, as well as ABC, The Cure, Susie Suh, “you name them I did them”, he states. He did his stint in the music business and then started to do fashion work and is published in countless leading magazines. The Shoot: David explains that his shoots are extremely relaxed and he likes to have fun. “It’s very important, you need to get a response and a reaction from your subjects, so yeah it’s having fun. Nothings a problem,” he says. “But obviously in my mind, I’m aiming towards the particular type of image that we’re going for. If it’s a headshot then obviously it’s very much a picture of you, rather than you being a character.” Top Advice: David says that it’s an expensive process and if you make a mistake with your choice, you’re placed in a difficult position because you have to either live with that mistake or “put your hand in your pocket again”. He advises calling to the speak to the photographer and take a good look at their work. David says he is happy to travel to do drama school group sessions, whereby a group each pay about £30, rather than commit to a full session. Finally David sums up his work. “This has got to be the best job in the world from my point of view,” he says. “I’m good at it. I’ve never been shy in that area.” Ad Contact: 07886 571 329 www.davidlevinephotography.com
Maggie Davidson £160 standard
Studio / Outdoors: Maggie prefers natural light as it is kinder to skin quality and eyes. Her studio has grounds with a garden for outdoor shots. “However if the weather is against us I can take natural light shots in the studio thanks to large Victorian windows,” she says. What’s included: Maggie is originally from the north east of England and for the past four years she’s been based in west London. Her standard rate includes 1 and a half to 2hrs and opportunity to change outfits. Also 15 chosen photos on CD and three 10x8 b/w photos posted either direct to the client or their agent. Student rate includes 1 and a half hours, outfit change, ten chosen photos on CD and one 10x8 b/w photo posted direct to them. Background: Maggie has been a photographer for over 20 years. She started photography with landscape photos due to “my love of the countryside, as well as seascape and architecture. A few actor friends asked me to do their photos and I added that genre to my portfolio three years ago,” she explains. The Shoot: Maggie has a very high professional approach for all her clients but encourages a relaxing and calm atmosphere. “Tension and nerves show easily in photos so it’s important my clients feel confident with me,” she explains. She always advises her clients to bring at least three changes of outfit, e.g. business/formal, smart/casual, whatever roles the actor wants to play. “This offers casting directors a variety of different character shots,” she says. Top Advice: Maggie would always advise actors to look natural and be yourself. The idea is to be photographed as you will appear at auditions, so when you walk through the door the casting director is satisfied when you look like your 10x8. She also advises keeping your headshots updated regularly. Contact: 07917 758 754 www.davisonpictures.co.uk
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VINCENZO PHOTOGRAPHY London headshot casting photographer Telephone 0208 372 0488 Mobile 07962 338 289 email@example.com www.vincenzophotography.com
Vincenzo Photography standard £125standard students £125 £185 student | £185 Studio / Outdoors: Both What’s included: Two 10x8 prints with corresponding digital files, retouching, online gallery for proofing/ ordering, Studio/ natural light sessions Background: Vincenzo has been a photographer for 10 years and is based in Enfield Town in North London and also in Nottinghill. His Uncle was a great photographer and when he was small he taught Vincenzo the basics of photography & dark room techniques, back in the days of film. This kicked off a real passion for photography that has lasted a life time. Vincenzo is also a trained actor having attended Mountview. Recent roles include: Mamma Mia the Movie, Nine, A View From The Bridge and Law and Order. He tells TDS: “I have been blessed to work on some fantastic productions. On set I became known for always having my camera over my shoulder, and to this day I am always asked to shoot headshots, or capture the cast and crew at work, which is a dream as I get to work on both sides of the lens!” The Shoot: Vincenzo likes to shoot headshots in a studio and outdoors, preferring all types of lighting situations. He offers a relaxed approach. He explains: “When we begin a session I want the client to feel as if they are at a friend’s apartment having a good conversation. I have a great passion for my work & my unique approach ensures that I capture not just the image but character and atmosphere of my subject ensuring a portrait that will be sure to set the actor apart from the crowd.” Top Advice: He advises checking out photographers websites first and foremost to ensure they have good working actors on their portfolios with good agents attached. He believes you should avoid a photographer who wants to over-glamorise you. “You need to know that you have a photographer that is going to excite you to get that important headshot that really brings the best out of you,” he explains. “Be sure to speak to them before making a booking, you’ll know if they are right for you!” Finally, Vincenzo believes casting directors want to see the actor that they requested from the headshot, and you should always visit a professional reproduction house who will hand print your 10x8. Ad Ad Contact: 07962 338 289 www.vincenzophotography.com
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Pete Le May
£175 standard £140 students Studio / Outdoors: Both, using natural light. What’s included: Pete has been a professional photographer for 7 years and is based in Limehouse, London. His shoot includes around 200 pictures lasting about 2 hours, a disc to keep with print-quality images, and retouching on your favourite six photographs, which you can select during the session or at a later date. Prints are additional, with price depending on quantity. Background: Pete began taking photographs when his father (himself a commercial and wedding photographer) gave him a basic camera, lots of film and plenty of expert advice. When he was managing student productions on the Fringe, Pete quickly understood the importance of having strong photographs of performers to attract attention. “I began photographing shows and rehearsals and also my friends who were looking for agents as they began their acting careers,” he says. “My photographs were published in newspapers, I was recommended to other actors, and ten years on I still enjoy finding photographs that make people look and get performers work.” The Shoot: For a successful headshot, Pete believes clients should feel confident and relaxed, so the whole session is very informal. “I’ll discuss the photographs on-screen with the client at regular intervals during the session, so we can identify what works best,” he says. “I don’t put a limit on the number of photographs taken: the session is over when we are both happy that there are plenty of good photographs from which to select a shortlist.” He is happy for clients to bring a variety of clothes with different necklines and shades. Top Advice: “Make sure you know what you are getting for your money before you make a booking,” he explains. “The photographer is working for you, so make sure you are happy with the work they are providing.” Finally in the week before you have photographs taken, Pete advises that you eat properly, drink enough water and get enough sleep. This will help you look your brightest and most alert for the session. “Getting headshots can be an expensive commitment, so don’t waste it by looking like a malnourished, dehydrated, bleary-eyed wreck.” Ad Contact: 07703 649 246 www.petelemay.co.uk Page
harriet barrow / daniel francis
luke varley / photo
www.lukevarley.com +44 (0) 7711 183 631
Rosie Still £120 standard
Studio / Outdoors: Own studio. The lighting is very flattering and better than natural lighting. “Also you don’t have to worry about the weather, nasty shadows or squinting at the sun!” says Rosie. What’s included: The price includes the session, 1 or 2 proof sheets and two 10x8 black & white glossy prints, cropped, enhanced and airbrushed as necessary. The final prints are then saved as new JPEGS – full size for Spotlight use, and web size JPEGS for emailing. The whole shoot can be put onto CD for an extra £10. Background: A photographer for 36 years, starting as a photo-journalist, interviewing and photographing pop stars and TV celebrities for teenage magazines. She worked with all the famous ‘Glam rock’ legends of the 70s, including The Jacksons, Queen and Marc Bolan. Read her book ‘Still Photographing the rich… the famous… and the wannabes!’ Rosie says “In 1984 I met Humphrey Lyttelton, the jazz trumpeter and chairman of Radio 4s ‘I’m Sorry I haven’t a clue’, when I was asked to do an album cover of him. I continued to be Humph’s photographer for the next 24 years until he died in April 2008.” She now feels “actors and drama student sessions are my speciality.” The Shoot: When Rosie’s clients come by train she prefers to walk her little dog (Nikki) to the station to meet them. “That way they don’t get lost and Nikki gets a walk!” explains Rosie. “Most actors are very nervous, whether it’s their first session or they’ve been in the business for years,” she says, believing that a photo session should be fun and relaxed. “The results reflect that this is something that I’ve become very successful at, as so many of my clients come back time and time again,” she explains. Rosie says “I believe that my clients should look as natural as possible, but with that extra sparkle!” Top Advice: Rosie suggests checking out the websites and look at the acting shots that are on there. “Agents don’t want arty farty shadowy pictures,” she says. “They want to see exactly what you look like, not what clever effects the photographer can produce.” Ad Contact: 07597 946 252 www.rosiestillphotography.com
Robert workman £250 standard
Studio / Outdoors: Both. In pleasant studio in West Ken and in nearby park. What’s included: Robert has been a professional photographer for 30 years and is based in West Kensington. His price includes the session, a set of contact sheets, three superb neutral 10”x8” prints, and a CD of the chosen images optimized for Spotlight. Background: “Two friends of mine were amateur actors in large amateur group in Paddington,” says Bob. “I used to photograph their shows.” That ultimately introduced Bob to the world of theatre and acting and he’s been doing Spotlight photos, theatre productions and theatre posters ever since. He regularly works at the National Theatre, the RSC, English National Opera, and several different drama schools. People like David Tennant, Simon Russell Beale, Jude Law, Fiona Shaw and Juliet Stevenson have visited his studio. The Shoot: Cheerful, friendly, professional shoot with bright, clean, neat, good-looking photos. “People say I’m good with eyes,” Bob says. “But I think I’m good with cheek bones too. I like to take a face for a walk. That is vary the lighting styles and background and shoot indoors and outdoors if possible. After all Spotlight gives you the possibility of five different images. It makes sense to use them.” Top Advice: Bob advises an actor to use simple tops. No patterns. Dark t-shirt, v-shaped top. If you are blonde and 18 you can wear a white top with thin straps. He also advises on choosing a professional photographer who is experienced at headshots, well-liked and can provide a bit of variety. His studio is very conveniently located only a few hundred yards from West Kensington Tube station, with a park nearby. Contact: 020 7385 5442 www.robertworkman.demon.co.uk
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£190 standard £125 students Studio / Outdoors: Natural light working from an old Victorian factory using soft flattering light that comes through the windows. A second setup outdoors in a quiet spot with lots of trees. What’s included: Based in Angel, her shoots are normally 2 hours. She puts the best 60 to 100 shots onto CD and posts this within a day or so of the shoot. The favourite 4 shots are then retouched once the actor has had time to review all the photographs with their agent/tutor. “I will remove any blemishes, brighten up eyes, remove any shadows or stray hairs etc.” Background: Studied photography at the University of Westminster, graduating in 1998. Began working as a production photographer for various theatres including the New End, Hampstead and the Nuffield in Southampton meeting actors who needed headshots. She now works for a variety of theatres and drama schools, including Mountview and LSMT, Open Air Theatre, Regents Park, Notes from New York series and the National Theatre Education department. “I also work behind the scenes on commercials and as a stills photographer for several films,” she explains. The Shoot: Gemma’s shoots are relaxed, preferring to take a little time to get to know each actor as “this brings out their personality in their headshots,” she says. “I like to find out the kind of roles they are going for.” Gemma likes to take some shots showing them how they look on camera. This means they will see makeup and hair as they go and can make sure they are totally happy. “This really helps when I give directions to change expression. The photographs I take are very natural and people often comment on how they really capture an actor’s personality,” explains Gemma. Top Advice: Gemma suggests researching styles of headshots and asking around to find out what you can about who your friends have used as you need to find a photographer you feel comfortable with and a style you think will suit you. “Think about your casting and what you want your headshot to convey about you and try not to worry about the shoot as any tension shows in your face. Try to have a night in before your shoot so you feel focused and allow enough time to get there so you don’t arrive stressed.” Ad Contact: 07976 824 923 www.gemmamountphotography.com Page
£175 standard £145 students Studio / Outdoors: Both to achieve many different lighting styles. What’s included: A session lasts a relaxed hour or two at Pete’s studio in Notting Hill. He shoots at least 150 shots and includes at least 100 final shots on disc. He retouches two further images after you have consulted with your agent. He doesn’t believe in keeping the (digital) negatives which mean no repeat fees for prints, just the cost of the session. “I’m open to any questions so welcome any calls,” he says. “I’m very friendly!” Background: Pete worked in the film industry before becoming a professional photographer five years ago. It was during that time that he began photographing actors. “I’d taken an Art degree on which I’d specialised in photography, so I had a fair bit of experience behind a camera,” he explains. As well as actor headshots he now does editorial portrait photography for magazines as well as travel. The Shoot: Pete aims to have fun during a session but he is very serious about getting what you want. “I know how important these shots are for the client and I’ll do my best to get the picture which will grab the attention of those that matter in the few seconds they’ll have to do it,” he says. He works with a lot of newcomers and realises how daunting a headshot session can be so he keeps it as relaxed as possible. Tea/coffee and a chat beforehand, with no real time constraints. “I email out a bit of homework in the week beforehand,” explains Pete. “Tips on how to get the best out of the session. As I said, I’m aware how unnatural if not downright terrifying it can feel to be in front of a stills camera so it usually proves useful to be prepared and have some things to draw on.” Top Advice: Pete always advises young actors that it’s useful to view themselves as a company, and that their acting talent is the product. “The product needs to be effectively marketed and a good headshot is a big part of that,” he says. He suggests speaking to people in the industry and find out what people think constitutes a ‘good’ headshot, and then look through lots of headshots and see which photographers are taking the shots that they think work best within those parameters. Ad Contact: 07971 653 994 www.petebartettheadshots.co.uk Page
Jon Campling £125 standard
20% off students
Studio / Outdoors: A loft Studio with mixture of constant (not flash) studio lighting and natural light. What’s included: 2hr relaxed shoot, 150+ Shots with full hand retouching of 5 images. CD of all shots taken plus final 5 in print/email format. Background: Jon set up his first darkroom in the summer of `89 while waiting to start drama school in the September. At drama school he continued his darkroom work and soon began shooting the 3rd years and providing 10x8 prints for “beer money and the thrill of seeing my work in Spotlight,” he says. Jon continued to take his own and a few close actor friends headshots for many years, but it was when Digital came of age in 2002 that he decided as an actor himself, taking headshots would be a great `other job` and so officially started Jon Campling Headshots. As an actor, he fully understands the unique importance of a headshot as an actor’s first impression to a casting director. The Shoot: Jon believes it is the responsibility of the photographer to guide an actor as much as they require through the shoot, therefore he places no expectation on the actor at all. “I then guide, help and direct as much/little as is required in each case,” he explains. “My main emphasis is on relaxation, so I don’t rush you, I spend at least 20 minutes just chatting before a single shot is taken. I don’t charge until 3 days after the shoot to let you decide if the shots work for you, if not you don’t have to buy them.” Jon uses light to enhance a look or a mood never to overpower it or become the focus, with simple and clear direction and with constant option for full size (10x8) review and discussion. Finally he suggests bringing a variety of tops with different necklines, preferably dark or black. Top Advice: “Be true to yourself,” he says. “Above all get shots that look like you, don’t let flattery lead you astray. Listen to other people’s comments they `see you` all the time you only see yourself in a mirror (it’s a different you) ignore price and self recommendation.” He goes on to suggest looking at a photographers work that will tell you how good they are, not their fee be it high or low. Ad Contact: 07941 421 101 www.actorsheadshot.co.uk Page
MAD Photography £185 standard
Studio / Outdoors: Studio & natural light in all sessions (weather permitting) What’s included: MAD is based in North London (nearest station is Enfield Chase 15minutes overground from Finsbury Park) and a session includes a studio and location shoot with 75 proofs and two 10 x 8 prints or disc. They also offer a student shared deal £85.00 each which includes studio and location 50 proofs and two 10 x 8 prints or disc each. In addition, they also do college group sessions £65.00 each and this includes a studio shoot 25 proofs and one 10 x 8 print each (this is based on a minimum of 10 students and can take place at their college). Background: Mark trained at Arts Educational School in musical theatre back in the 70’s. He worked in the West End for eleven years as a performer in shows: Pirates of Penzance, Starlight Express and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. “I have always taken pictures of actors even when I was studying at Arts,” he explains. “I became a professional photographer when I started working for Galloway’s agency in 1996.” The Shoot: MAD offers a superior digital service in a relaxed and comfortable location. “I want actors to feel relaxed and enjoy their studio,” Mark says. “It’s their personality I want not mine in the photos.” He suggests that actors should bring at least 4 different neck lines and he believes makeup and hair should be natural. All images from the shoot are emailed in contact sheets to clients in black & white and colour on the same day. All his studio sessions are followed by a 30 minute digital viewing. Top Advice: MAD recommend looking around to find photos “that you like, see what’s out there and stick to your budget.” Mark believes you don’t always get what you pay for in photography. He is also on hand to talk to any acting or musical theatre students needing advice. “I will always give them my time,” he explains. If students would like to book a studio, I‘m offering a £10 discount to The Drama Student readers until the 1st September so there is no excuse to go back to college with bad headshots! Ad Contact: 07949 581 909 www.mad-photography.co.uk
Headshot OR WHAT? visualeyes
Since the turn of the century, the advance of digital technology into the commercial photographic arena has been signified by fantastic improvements in image quality, but with a marked and continuing decline in the demand for images to be reproduced as photographic prints. When drama students are about to take their leap of faith and present themselves to their prospective agents at a definitive showcase, their tutors will expect them to provide suitable B&W 10x8 headshots for the invited agents coming from traditional theatre and casting arenas. Thereafter the requirement for printed headshots recedes as the marketing strategies of agents and the convenience of the internet take control. This may present a problem for the actor. After the worry of finding a photographer who can shoot straight and in focus, the actor’s resulting digital images may become diminished in their presentation. The issue lies with how an image is viewed on a computer screen rather than as a photograph. Most monitors are not always of a suitable quality to display an image effectively and some will flatten and change the contrast in the picture when displayed at lower resolutions. This is more noticeable with colour images and nothing can be more frustrating than to discover that your main picture hosted on Spotlight depicts you as someone who looks “washed out” because of the loss of detail when the image is converted to a lower resolution. Also emailing digital images may be received as spam and another opportunity may be lost. Picture libraries who supply images to magazine and newspaper picture desks usually provide their images as retouched digital files on a disc for examination by a picture editor. Some also provide photographic prints to accompany the disc making more of an impact and hopefully a sale! Casting the actor is really all about whether the face fits – it’s assumed that they can do the rest - so it would seem imperative to present the headshot in the best light possible using the best available medium! When you hold a 10x8 headshot at arms length it more or less presents the image in a life-size perspective. The thumbnail on a screen will never accomplish that level of presentation. And what ever happened to the promise of colour? In USA they still value the photographically based portfolio; it’s all in colour with a variety of shots on show. Perhaps now’s the time to restore our faith in the printed image and move on to dynamic colour formats, whilst preserving the strength of the traditional B&W 10x8 promotional repro. In the end as an aspiring actor you may have spent serious money on a good headshot, so you need to support your investment. It may prove risky to have your prints reproduced cheaply by holiday-snap outlets, digital kiosks or online services, which are short on both guidance and professional service options. Remember, it’s your face and your future. John Ayton is the director of Visualeyes PhotoRepro Services in London and is available for visits to Drama Schools to discuss photographic issues with students Contact: 020 7323 7430 www.visphoto.co.uk
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Discount rates shown may be
readers so make sure you mention the magazine when you book! 45
ROBERT WORKMAN superb casting portraits
indoors AND outdoors special student session includes 75 exposures, a set of contact sheets, 3 perfect neutral black and white 10â€? x 8â€? prints, and a CD with 3 high res optimized jpegs ready to submit to Spotlight and Casting Directors
020 7385 5442 firstname.lastname@example.org www.robertworkman.demon.co.uk
studio only 300 yards from West Kensington tube station on the District Line!
£140 standard £99 students Studio / Outdoors: Both What’s included: Graham is based in Muswell Hill and his session lasts for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, with both studio lighting and natural or outdoor light. All shots supplied as contact sheets and on disc, 6 final selected images as colour or black and white prints, and on disc. Time to change hair, make-up and clothes. Pick up and drop back to the nearest tube and “loads of freshly brewed coffee!” Background: Graham has been a photographer since the swinging 60s. He started photographing his fellow performers when he was in a musical in the West End in 1980. His career as a Theatre Manager and Producer intervened but during that time he saw so many dreadful headshots, that when he retired, he decided, with his experience, to offer a unique headshot service. He’s a photographer who actually knew what a theatre producer wants – having been one! He also does a lot of travel photography and an exhibition of this work will be at Chorak in Muswell Hill in July and August. The Shoot: Graham believes you will only get good shots if you are relaxed and well prepared (and didn’t party the night before!). His shoots are easygoing and calm. “I only ever do one shoot a day, so we have loads of time. I want to know about the actor, what kind of skills they have and what kind of roles they want to play.” But most important, Graham really wants the actor to get a job with his shots, so the aim is for a wide range of looks to maximise casting opportunities. Top Advice: “A producer is faced with hundreds of headshots a day when casting,” says Graham. “Yours has to stand out from the crowd. It has maybe 5 seconds to do that!!” He believes the actor must brief the photographer clearly and show what kind of actor you are – “musical theatre, comedy, alternative, intense, edgy.” Graham finally advises to constantly check what images your agent is sending out. “You would not believe what ends up on a producer’s desk. Bad photocopies (sorry we ran out of pictures) Out-of-date pictures (my agent shouldn’t have sent that one out, it’s years old!) and so on. Half the pictures submitted are dreadful – guess where they end up? Ad Contact: 07810 697 267 www.grahambennett.biz Page
Luke Varley £210 standard
Studio / Outdoors: Both What’s included: Luke is based in Brixton (south west London) and has recently reduced the price of his headshots. In order to give the best deal possible he now offers one price of £210. You’ll get around 130 lo-res images on a disc, from which to choose four prints and digital files for uploading to Spotlight. Background: Luke has been a photographer for 5 years. He first picked up a camera as an actor during tech rehearsals for a show at the Donmar. “I’d shoot backstage and from the stalls when I wasn’t on and gave the photos to the cast as first night gifts,” he says. “I became interested in how to suggest something about a person just by placing them within a frame and began shooting headshots for friends.” The Shoot: Luke’s sessions last between 3 - 4 hours. For the first hour or so you should expect to just chat so that he can get an idea of the type of person you are and how best to bring out your personality in the constraints of a headshot. “I try not to disappear behind the camera for too long,” explains Luke. “It’s easy to get bored looking into a lens and a gaze soon becomes a stare. I encourage clients to bring music they like because it helps to keep them engaged and the mood ‘active’.” Luke believes there is nothing more boring to look at than a passive headshot. He strongly feels texture is important in all black and white photography. “People often bring plain shirts or T-shirts but they can look very dull and anonymous,” he says. “You shouldn’t be afraid to wear clothes you like and which make you feel good - just no bold patterns or huge logos!” Top Advice: Luke asks you to remember that as an actor, your headshot should look like you at your best, not an unrealistic version of you. “Apart from temporary blemishes, give re-touching a wide birth.” Finally, he believes the most important aspect of a headshot is the eyes. “They must engage the person looking at your headshot as if you’re looking directly back at them” he says. “Like acting it requires focus and concentration during the shoot, so get plenty of rest beforehand.” Ad Contact: 07711 183 631 www.lukevarley.com Page
DORIAN GRAY LEICESTER SQUARE THEATRE 6 Leicester Place London, WC2H 7BX Box Office: 08448 472 475 www.leicestersquaretheatre.com
Dorian Gray descends into the depths of Victorian London’s secret underworld on his quest to seek the ‘ultimate sensation’. But at what cost? Away from the opera houses, the salons and the gentlemen’s clubs; there lies a darker, murkier underbelly: tawdry theatres, burlesque bars, cabaret clubs and opium dens: the world of Dorian Gray. Following the successful sold out run of Oscar Wilde’s classic novel, the production is returning to the Leicester Square Theatre this summer, starring Matthew James Thomas of ITV’s Britannia high. Runs from 23rd June until 2nd August.
Becoming Barbara Becoming Barbra is a one-woman show following the journey of Dulcie Lewis, a young Jewish actress endeavouring to understand herself through the words of Barbra Streisand, and some thoughts of her own! It could be said that Dulcie is trying to find her creative oasis through the medium of Barbra Streisand; trying to be a funny girl by emulating the ultimate funny girl. This 45min piece explores different mediums of live theatrical sound bites, and aspects of multi media. Sounds fabulous! Two shows only: Sunday 5th, & Monday 6th July at 7.30pm THE WHITE BEAR 138 Kennington Park Road London, SE11 4DJ Box Office: 020 7793 9193
Photo: Jon Appleyard
The pioneering, award-winning Latitude Festival returns to Englandâ€™s Sunrise Coast for another spectacular year. Taking place this July near Suffolkâ€™s stunning seaside town of Southwold, organisers Festival Republic are promising Latitude will be the perfect British summer destination. The Festival offers the very best from the worlds of music, film, comedy, theatre, cabaret, dance, poetry, literature and art. With stunning individual performance spaces dedicated to each of the arts, the arenas are treasure troves of talent, with open doors and inviting atmospheres. Runs from 16th to 19th July.
Tess, Bristol Old Vic Company. Photographer: Desmond Tripp
Copyright: University of Bristol Theatre Collection
For full ticket and event information visit www.latitudefestival.co.uk
ONLINE THEATRE COLLECTION Since its foundation in 1951, the University of Bristol Theatre Collection has expanded to become a Fully Accredited Museum and theatrical research centre. It also continues to serve its original purpose as a research resource for the members of the Department of Drama at the University of Bristol, and the Bristol community. Their Acquisition Policy focuses on British theatre history, with particular strengths of theatre in the South West, Victorian theatre, Post-World War II theatre, Live and Performance Art, scenery and costume design and other related artwork. A major cataloguing programme has computerised information of over 100,000 items. The Theatre Collection has also been involved in Backstage, a collaborative project to provide a theatre gateway on the internet, and the digitisation of images for online access. For more information visit www.bristol.ac.uk/theatrecollection/
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The UK is ablaze with fresh young talent. Gone are the days of the customary ‘agent-guided actor’, as performers across the country are taki...
Published on Jul 14, 2009
The UK is ablaze with fresh young talent. Gone are the days of the customary ‘agent-guided actor’, as performers across the country are taki...