Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Bloggings (Part 1)

Well its Christmas time, so firstly if you are reading this Merry Christmas! I have always been a firm believer that Christmas is a good time to look back and reflect over the year gone by, and to take a minute to remember all the people who made it so great, and indeed plot vendetta's against those who were nasty. Just kidding... we all know karma will come and bite them in the arse when Santa doesn't give them any presents in the morning. Santa is real right? So that is what this latest series of blogs will be about, all the awesome people and things that have inspired me over the last year.

I think it goes without saying the first person who has to be mentioned is Fox Jackson-Keen, better known as one of the boys who plays Billy in the West End hit show Billy Elliot The Musical. For those who read one of my very first blogs titled "the inspiration" you will know that he is probably the person who has inspired me most on the drama front. There is something in the way that Fox plays the role of Billy that I really connect with, and a certain level of energy and passion that draws me in to his performances. Its amazing, that every time I see him, I somehow feel even more inspired than I did before when it comes to acting. Despite my numerous writings, I still find it hard to put into words how inspirational and indeed motivational I find Fox's performances...but what can I say? That kid is special, and honestly I don't think i would have pursued drama had it not have seen him, so thanks Fox!

In seeing Billy 30 times, I have met some great people and made some new friends. Today I received a really nice message from one of them. Her name is Becky Chapman, she is part of a Billy obsessed family, comprising of her little sister and mum who all seem really cool people too. (By the way being Billy obsessed is perfectly fine, us crazy people stick together!) Anyhow the message... every year I send people a Christmas message... well a lot of people anyway. She has decided to do the very same thing. Its really nice getting a Christmas message back from someone. Its amazing the power words can convey. So that was a nice surprise for me today! Though before I move on, I think a huge shout out to Bex, Jonas, Justin, Karen, Louis, Lucia & Nicola is due. They are all people I have got to know through the show and they are all such awesome people! I am racking my brain hoping that I haven't missed any of my Billy friends, but inevitably I will have... so if I have, I'm truly sorry!!!

Of course in doing all the drama work I have told you of, I have made some great friends there too. Vikas is probably the most memorable, having done 2 drama courses with him, not to mention the numerous drinking hours in which we have become close friends. All be it we have our differences in opinion, but thats what fuels our drunken conversations. Well not so much drunken, we are far too old and mature for that... well maybe not... That aside, I know that I am always right so never feel threatened by him! Wow I sound big headed sometimes... but honestly he's Scottish, don't believe a word he says. On a serious note however, he is a great guy, really generous and a fantastic friend! I really hope to work with him again in 2010.

This year I have also seen some great shows that have inspired me so much. Asides from Billy I think the most moving show I have seen is War Horse. Its a show that can make grown men cry, it is so real, it rips your heart out and has you on the edge of your seat from start to end. Tied in with some fantastic drama techniques they really make you feel closer to all the action the show really did blow me away. Its a fantastic show, which if you haven't seen I strongly recommend that you do. Its on at the New London Theatre and to the best of my knowledge is booking well into the new year. I also saw La Cage Aux Folles a few weeks back. That too is an amazing show, but more about that in a forthcoming blog! Though I will say now, if you plan to see that it closes in a week or so, so get your tickets now!

So there we have it part one is over and done with, look out for the second part in a day or so, who knows, you may even get a mention!

Have an awesome Christmas!

G xxx

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Connor Doyle Legacy

I won't lie, if somebody asked me to name my top 5 actors, I wouldn't hesitate in putting Connor Doyle right up there. Since the first time I saw him perform in the role of Michael in Billy Elliot the Musical, I knew that he was something special. For me he really stood out from the crowd. You just need to look back over the previous Billy blogs to see what high regard I held him in. So it goes without saying that I was gutted when it was announced he would be leaving after just six months in the show.

All be it he left for the right reasons and on good terms. But there, at least for me would be a huge hole left behind in the show that his performances used to dominate. I have said it so many times before. You don't have to be in the leading role to be the best performer on stage. Connor grabbed every opportunity he had to make a bold statement with his acting. He confronted the role with such determination and dedication, it was evident right from the very first performance, he had no intentions of being second best. Hell, he even learned to tap dance especially for the role, unlike most boys casted in the show who have a history in dance of some sort. Yet the amazing thing was that if you watched him you could have easily believed he had been doing it for years!

The thing with acting is that you can only be taught so much. The rest of a performance relies on what comes naturally to a performer. This is where Connor always came through. He has such a vibrant personality which always shines when on stage. He comes across as the kind of guy who loves making people laugh, and putting smiles on their faces. Such charisma made him perfect for the role of Michael. I saw him something like 13 times, and not once did he ever have a bad show.

Honestly I don't think they could have casted anyone better for the role if they tried! When Lewis Cope left the show after 2 years in the role, I thought it would be impossible to replace him. He was amazing, and left such huge shoes to fill! Then along came Connor. He was the perfect replacement, he bought to life the role in the same way Lewis had managed to over the previous two years. I guess on this occasion lightning did strike twice... there was someone just as good as Lewis. But can that happen again? I am not so sure. There will be a huge void which Connor and previously Lewis have left behind. Honestly I don't think will ever be filled, well at least not in the same way that these two talented actors had managed.

Ok, its true people come and people go. As it happens Connor shared his last night with about seven other cast members including Anabelle as Debbie and Stephanie as "dead mum" and various members of the ensemble. But just like the changing of the seasons, its something that happens. Most of the time you just move on forgetting the faces that once dominated the stage before you. That isn't quite true for Connor however. I've seen the show a few times since his departure and it seems to lack the big personality he had.

I only had the opportunity to talk to Connor twice during his stint in the show, both times he demonstrated what a great guy that he was. Really polite, friendly and taken back by the support his fans showed him. He wasn't afraid to give a little something back either. He would regularly spot out his fans and wave to them as the curtain fell. It makes a huge difference when you feel noticed. It was even nicer for me, seeing as he is one of my acting inspirations. I've been asked a couple of times, how can someone so young be an inspiration alongside the likes of Jon Robyns and John Barrowman. All I can say is, had you watched him perform you would understand. I just hope I can bring to the stage a personality like Connor's when I finally get onto the big stage!

So what is next for Connor? Someone close to him once told me that if Connor is determined to do something nothing will stand in his way. That tells me its not the last we have heard from him. I just hope he returns to the West End sooner rather than later. As its a much lonelier and boring place without him. He has left a mark on a fantastic show, that will be impossible to erase. I can't help but think the benchmark he has set will be difficult to even come close to for quite some time to come.

Finally a picture of me and the legend himself. Thanks Connor and good luck in whatever you go on to do in life!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Drama Stories I Never Quite Finished

Well I guess I tailed off somewhat when talking about my endless drama antics for the autumn term. I will be honest, it was becoming like writing a diary, and as I see it if I don't enjoy writing something, you wont enjoy reading it. So the drama write ups in future will be a little more generalised I think. In part it gives me an excuse to write less, but hopefully it will make a better read as a result. So this blog will summarise the courses I have completed and bring to a close the latest chapter on my quest to act.

I am currently enjoying some time off. I'm not doing much and drama right now, which in a sense is nice. I will feel much more refreshed when January comes around that way. So I guess it would be better to conclude the last stories before I start all the new ones. Though this said I still haven't quite decided what path to take in the new year. I have some ideas but in true Gareth style, I will leave it as late as possible before making a final decision.

So over the last 3 months I have been doing 2 acting courses and one specialised course on voice. They have definitely helped me a lot and built up a lot of confidence. I guess now I feel like I am on the second rung of a very long ladder! But I am also starting to feel a bit disillusioned by the height of that climb thats now before me. I know that I have to stay focused. Though some things are much easier said than done. In the down time between courses I always start to get some negative vibes, but I am sure even the best actors, and all those ones who inspire me so much have their down days too. I really need to get hold of what causes these vibes and be more positive and proactive going into 2010, not just in acting but it would be a start.

So what have I taken away from these last three courses? I learned one hell of a lot about the effective use of the human voice. There is a lot more too it than you would think. But lets take things back to basics here. An actor's voice is like a decorators paint brush. Without it they would be buggered in their trade. When you see the voice as a tool like this, you realise just how important it is to an actor, and how complex it is to use. After all a tool is only any good if it is used correctly, and in essence the same goes for our voices. I know that sounds silly, but effective breathing, posture, articulation, and projection are factors that need to be considered. I will admit this course wasn't the most enthralling at times, but it was beneficial, and that is what was important.

As for the acting courses... they were more down my street. I met some great people who have become good friends, and indeed re-united with old friends, such as Vikas my long time drama drinking buddy, whom I hope to continue drinking and acting with into 2010! The only problem with these courses are that my new friends come from different places and walks of life, and it becomes increasingly difficult to stay in touch with them! Thank god for Facebook! Never thought I would say that in a blog! It reminds me, I really must drop a few people a line over the Christmas break. But back to the blog...

One of the courses heavily featured the play "The Notebook Of Trigorin" which was a Tennessee Williams adaptation of Chekov's "The Seagull". I can honestly say that I learned a lot on this course. I really enjoyed working around that play, and being reunited with my old drama teacher Jenn was wonderful! However the play itself I hated! Its quite ironic really, how I can enjoy the course but not the play! I am more cut out for modern pieces such as "Harper Reagan" which I studied in the other acting course I was taking. In these workshops I worked with Cat Clancey who was also my voice coach. She has some different methods of teaching, and the diversity was such that I could cover the same topic with both Jenn and Cat and learn new things with each of them.

So in terms of acting I think I have revisited a lot of old things and learned some new techniques. I always take a greater interest in the more obscure methods of acting. I think its really important that you look at different ways of reaching for and expressing emotion in acting. Sometimes it isn't as clear cut as you would think. Furthermore there is much more to acting than just being on stage in from of a seated audience. With Cat we learned ways of appealing to all the human senses. It was rather spooky but a lot of fun. I say that purely because I got to freak Danielle out again!

So my pledge for 2010? Well i need to keep working hard at what I am doing if I am to succeed. I have a lot of plans in the pipeline but i think 2010 will be the make or break year for me. The only thing is I have set myself a big goal, and if I am honest achieving it may not be easy, but lets be honest set the bar too low and where will my motivation come from?

So thats the last courses summarised... I have a few blogs planned for the festive period. So make sure you check back soon. Thank you for reading and have an awesome Christmas!

G xxx