What attracts you to projects as an actor?
I think at an early stage of an actor’s journey it’s important to be completely open. This isn’t advised just because work is extremely hard to come by. I still feel it’s the best way to truly learn who you are as an actor. How you best work with other performers, what makes a quality show but also what it takes to maintain your sanity. You see, the hardest part of acting, is that you allow unearned proximity to the deepest parts of your soul and hidden emotions. Weather it’s a short run in a small theatre, a tour, or even a film, an actor is repeatedly beaten down emotionally and this can be very taxing on your mental stability. On any project you will normally get a small room. You’ll be changing with multiple people you’ve just met and you’ll bare witness to all types of underwear and that’s just the stage crew. What I mean to say is. You need to find a role that suits your character but with a company of people that will protect you. You must divorce yourself from going too deep and hurting your own personal growth. No one wants to deal with an emotional breakdown opening night. No matter how much a director will tell you its raw talent.
When looking at roles I always think about my favorite Constantin Stanislavski quote “Remember: there are no small parts, only small actors”. Whenever reading a script, making a character choice, even writing my own work. I think about this quote and it grounds me to make choices based on my progression and growth as an actor. There are so many companies out there that have a vision and allow little room for actors to actually play. For me the ability to play is how all truly great performances start out. You can refine and perfect later on in the rehearsal process but at the beginning the character should be open to the actors interpretation. If most young actors take this mentality into all roles not only would they be a joy to work with but would be open to finding new skills in each role. This applies weather you’re a principle actor in the west end or playing Cornelius from Hamlet in a pub on train strike day.
Tell us a bit about the play?
“If I Go” tells the story of a modern struggle between Love, Life and work. The play centers around Matt and Becky (played by the wonderful Catrin Keeler) who have lived together forever. In a parallel universe they’re probably married, except Matt’s going out with Danny (played by Daniel Kewn). Then of course there’s Will (Paris Bailey), who’s been in love with Becky for the longest time, if only she’d be nice to him long enough to notice. The play follows Matt along a journey that sees him try and make the biggest decision of his life, and in turn, change things for all involved forever? This play also has its comic relief through an array of amazing one liners, hilarious characterizations and comic timing you could set your watch too. This provided by Camilla and Charlie Matts PA (Harriet Lambert / Ian Casey). The new recruit Amira (Roshni O’Riordan) and the boss from hell, or at least Texas, Jerri Anne (Christine Walters).
The amazing company behind this project is Proforça Creative. The play is written by James Lewis and directed by the amazing David Brady. To sum up this play quoting David himself – “this play has more a feel of Love Actually than a deep dark Ibsen”
Tickets for this new production are on general sale – http://www.proforca.co.uk/buy-tickets
What is your character? How do you connect?
I play the character of Matt – a 29 year old, project manager for a consultancy firm. He has a boyfriend called Danny, a best friend called Becky, an enemy called Jerri Anne and in one version of the script a mother called “to be confirmed” but she was Irish. Now the only way you could get any closer to my actual life is by changing Matt’s name to Flannan Hassett. That said it is always important to use as many techniques as possible to help connect. Of course with any role I will always pick key events in the play that I can use emotional memory to connect. This gives a wonderful grounding for the character and helps place inflections in the script. This is key for the audience when believing what’s happening on stage. However we cant use this technique of raw emotion throughout the whole play. As I outlined at the beginning this would wear you down and make you a nightmare to work with. Following my training I’ve always enjoyed the technique of LABAN. I find using physical efforts help channel emotion through your delivery to make it as true as the raw emotions themself. I also like to use Alexander technique merged with character imagery before any rehearsal. This helps puts me in the characters head space for the play. I feel this technique helps me walk the scene and play around with the picture. It’s like a form of meditation to remove Flannan’s influence on the character. That may be a bit wacky but I assure you that the results will out weight any laughter from your supporting cast members.
As an actor in today’s industry, what struggles do you face?
I think the biggest struggle comes from the changing face of its landscape. Acting was once only considered by the working class as a form of paying the bills if you had a flare for it. There wasn’t a need for training or qualifications it was all based on talent and experience. I feel its now gone the other way and only in the last 5 or so years. There is a wonderful article by Jimmy McGovern in The Guardian. He wrote that due to rising costs in drama schools there is a lack of working class actors in the industry. With the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tim Huddleston paving the way out of Cambridge theatre associations. There is no longer room for the working class. Acting is now actually seen as a genuine career path not riddled with rejection and pain but paved with gold. That said I grew up with Dimitri Leonidas (star of Monument Men) and he has gone from strength to strength with his career coming straight out of secondary school. He has spent years working his way up through the industry and it’s truly paid off. This from an actor who has learned from doing and not by paying for drama school. That said he still remains the exception rather than the rule to my knowledge.
Reality TV is also playing its part to stub out true talent breaking through. Audiences are now favoring the comfort of escapism TV; that feeling of life not being as bad as what they see on screen. You will see the Geordie shores and the Towies of the world taking up space on the TV schedule and plastered all over west end billboards helping put bums on seats. This is the industry not risking a penny on finding true talent but maintaining a flow of mindless embarrassment and flash in the pan fame. That said there is some success to be said for reality TV through an old friend Stephanie Fearon. She was discovered via the TV show “Over The Rainbow” and now plays Lisa in the west end production of Mamma Mia.
I suppose the hardest thing in this industry, as you can probably tell, is that there isn’t just one way to do it. There is luck, there is timing, there is talent, its not what you know but who you know e.g. the Radcliffe story. My only advice to the struggle actor is only do this job if you love it. For me I cherish the lows as much as the high because it reminds me why I love this game so much.
What advise do you give other actors?
The best advice I’ve ever got regarding my acting career was from my elder brother John. I was in a low place regarding my acting career and couldn’t decide if I should go to drama school, give up on acting or just see what happened with my agent.
My brother took me to one side and said “if you truly love what you do, you’ll always find a way to make it work. Even if a man love’s cleaning the street he will work to his core to one day start up his own street cleaning company. He will ensure he makes enough money to do the thing he loves most in the world. If you don’t love acting enough to sacrifice it all to make it work; you know what you have to do”.
You see for me acting isn’t about the qualifications or the big audience. For me it’s reading a script for the first time and putting my stamp on the character. Every actor wants their work seen and to be recognized. There are however the rare few actors in this world that even performing in front of the mirror, nailing that last line, with enough emotion that draws a single tear. That’s what keeps them thinking one day their dream will become a hard earned reality.
Actor awareness is about diversity and opportunity, how do you feels the industry stands at current in regards to this?
As outlined above I think the scales have definitely tipped in favor of the rich and powerful. If the media is to be believed there is a clear lack of attention being given to black actors at present on the silver screen. This is causing much debate around the industry awards this year. I unfortunately don’t know enough to comment on how the current apparatus is supporting diversity but I am definitely pro change for a farer industry. I do believe there has to be a strong emphasis on the writers and producers as they hold all the power. If there is to be true change made it needs to come from them. There definitely isn’t a lack of talent in the industry to support such a movement.
Why do you feel theatre, film, tv is important?
If stone wall painting were first form of story telling, tv and film will one day tell our story to future generations. I’ve always favored theatre as a form of entertainment but I do feel now it is treated as a luxury and a special treat. TV and film is so much more accessible. Especially with the Internet making downloadable data so easily obtained. That said I’m very much ante theatre shows being displayed in cinemas. This takes away from the performance and the spent months training regarding projection and inflection from the actor. Even there positioning of their body to address the whole theatre would be effected. I feel the little things, only considered by actors, would be lost if contained to a cinema screen and sound system. TV and film will always remain a medium vital to our social development. The devices it’s streamed on may change but the core values will never waver. I hope for the opposite with theatre. I do believe that even in thousands of years people will still make that exciting trip into town to see the latest adaptation of Hamlet or even the much loved panto staring Barber Windsor. Oh yes she is definitely still alive and kicking. “oh no she isn’t”
How do you feel about often doing free work as an actor?
As long as the project develops my skills and betters me as a performer I am happy to do it. I subscribe to the thinking its more important to be out working in the industry in every way possible than sitting at home cursing the world that my talent has gone unseen another day.
Back to the fun stuff, how has it been working for profoca. Is it a relationship that has worked?
100%. My initial thoughts when David contacted me was slightly skeptical. There are so many theatre companies out there getting the whole process very wrong. Proforca are a wonderful group of theatre lovers that want to create work of a high quality for a low ticket price. As mentioned at the beginning an actor must be given the freedom to play and discover moments within a scene and traits within a character. David and the stage crew all allow the actors space to put their spin on the characters while maintaining a focus in each rehearsal that makes it all flow nicely.
I’d hope if anyone has read this far they would still interested in the play. I shall do a shameless plug and say that its out 4th -7th May 2016 – Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Walthamstow – http://www.proforca.co.uk/.
Thank you so much Hannan and SEE you there!