Sherina and Jack met up to talk about Jack’s experience working in the David Glass Ensemble in the ground-breaking production of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’…
S: Can you tell us a little bit about the run up and the whole audition process?
J: Sure. So the first thing that happened, how I first found out about it,
was it was actually Russell Actors’ very own Robbie Taylor Hunt who got me
into the room, and that was a very important moment: a moment that I've never forgotten.
So for the audition I read two scenes. I performed with the director, and we had a little bit of a chat about what we thought about Samuel Beckett, which was a scary moment as well, because you don't quite know what they what they wanna hear.
S: And did you know much about Samuel Beckett? Had you read many of his plays?
J: Not really! I kind of did a bit of research into the playwright before I went into the audition, because I thought it would be a good idea. Yeah, just have a little bit of background knowledge- I think goes quite a long way. It gives you something to kick off of
and bounce off, even if you're not an expert, just have a reference point.
S: Did you leave feeling like you'd done a good job?
J: I felt like I’d given it my best shot. It's a very interesting thing with auditions that you can never quite know for sure. Sometimes in my experience, it's the auditions that I think I absolutely nailed that I don't get. It's kind of the ones that you leave a little bit, not sure if I fully gave it everything, but because you held something back, maybe that's why it was a good audition. I don't know. It's not an exact science.
S: And did David redirect you?
J: No actually. Because it was quite a physical company, I think that they just wanted to see how available you were as an actor. So I got the sense that they really wanted somebody to come in and make very bold offers. Which is what I did.
And you pick up those clues from reading about the company:
A part of your craft as an actor isn't just about focusing on ‘ba ba ba ba-
my process’, ‘ba ba ba-my idea of theatre’ and ‘ba ba-This is what I do’.
It's more bespoke than that.
And as a crafts-person, you have to look at your audition, you have to look at the company that you're auditioning for, and you have to think: what would be an appropriate
approach to this?
My approach to an audition for Eastenders would be very different to this ensemble theatre production for example.
But that's because in your actor’s toolbox, you've got a whole spectrum of things that you can play and things you can use when you're auditioning.
S: So you say they asked for you to be off-book for your first rehearsal two weeks after getting the job. Did that feel doable?
J: Well, ‘Waiting for Godot’ is so open to the point where you just despair for these two guys in this world. And there's a relationship between that and how difficult the lines are to learn. There’s no logic as such. There's no sort of, well, ‘this is the narrative through line that I'm holding on to’. Cause every time the audience and the actors think: ‘Ah! Finally the play is about to begin. Thank God!’- it gets robbed from you in some way!!
And that is the tension that you play. And that's the tension that we grappled with all the way through rehearsal for this.
S: And so how was that rehearsal process? How did it feel going in the first day?
Working with well known, very experienced actors?
J: Yeah, it was terrifying, actually, but also affirming at the same time.
As a young actor, I'm sure a lot of people can relate to this,
you have this dream that one day you're gonna end up in
this rehearsal space or that show, and even though you believe it,
and you manifest it, of course there’s a part of your brain that's insecure,
and you think: ‘I'm not sure if that's ever gonna happen for me’.
But it will. If you want it enough: it just will.
It was amazing to be in the room with these people and for them to treat you like you're on the same level as them, but also scary, because, you know that for an experienced actor, they want somebody to play off of as well. It's a balance.
So as a new actor, you can't go in there thinking that you rule the roost and you’re a big cheese, cause you have a lot to learn! But at the same time, you can't give way entirely to their status, because they're not interested in that.
They want someone to have a play with, to have fun with, who's gonna challenge them in the scene as well.
S: And did you find yourself ruminating on that after rehearsals? Thinking, ‘Did I get the balance right today?’
J: Very, very much. But the thing to remember is: it's not all about you.
This Olivier award-winning actor has got a part in this as well, and he might be struggling with that just as much as you are with your part.
S: That's such an important thing to remember- the humanness of everybody in the room.
I read a review that quoted Beckett, saying, ‘It's a game. Everything is a game.’ I love that and I immediately thought: that's just Jack through and through!
J: Ha! Yeah, that sort of manifested within rehearsals. There was a lot of room for experimentation and discovery in that way. There really was. And with it being an ensemble- the definition of an ensemble is that everyone has a role to play- so actually the job titles begin to blur a little bit. Which is something that David very much believes, and that's now a belief that he's instilled in me. It's this thing of, actually, even though you're an actor, you're actually a person who works in the theatre, really. And so everyone's got an equal responsibility and a creative voice. I believe that very passionately.
So for ‘Godot’, it's so bleak and so dark and it's that thing of, ‘I have to laugh, or I'll just cry!’, that is the cathartic feeling that we were after!
S: So, was clowning involved in the process?
J: Absolutely! Most English theatre training is about finding your centre and sticking to it.
European theatre training is about never finding your centre, I think, and being comfortable with being off balance, kind of all the time. Yeah, that's what it felt like.
It creates a genuine spontaneity and suspension in this thing.
S: How many shows did you do and how did you look after yourself?
J: 20 to 25 shows in total. And the way that I looked after myself, ok:
First rule is that, during the rehearsal period, weekends are sacred.
So your time away from the work is most certainly your time away from work.
And it can be very easy for all that sort of creative stuff in the world that Beckett created to kind of bleed into other areas of your life. So all you talk about is the play and the process
and it's actually quite fun to do for a little bit as well, because it's like, ‘I'm so excited to be part of this’.
So don't neglect your friends and family back home while you're away working on a project.
That was a big thing for me, just having a voice away from the work.
I think as an actor, when you're on a contract that's taking you away from home,
you build such strong bonds with those people that you're working with because of the nature of what theatre is. It's a very intimate and vulnerable thing.
However, at some point, while this contract becomes your world, eventually that contract will end. So then your world resets on some level. You go back to your ‘normal job’,
And you go back home.
So whilst you're away doing that, you gotta check in on people. And that for me was a big part of looking after myself.
And very obviously, just make sure that you're drinking and eating when you should be.
Make sure that you also stick up yourself. If you start standing up for what you need as a performer, actually, you'll get more respect, not less. You really will. And that's part of your craft as well.
And actually, in active training, we should be very honest about not having a super romanticized view of getting cast in a really exciting project. It's amazing when it happens, but it's exhausting to put on a play. It takes every part of you, you know.
S: Yes and 20-25 shows of something that is potentially very bleak as well- it is so important to look after yourself. And I'm so pleased you did- it sounds like you really accessed and discovered some deeper wisdom there, going through that process.
J: I wasn't good at the start, by the way. If I'm being brutally honest with myself, I think what was happening was I was trying to impress people.
Whereas the actors who have been doing this for years, they don't actually need to impress. Everyone knows that they can deliver what they need to deliver. They’re better at conserving their energy. So it was a learning process.
S: I think that wisdom that you've just shared is what will have been inside of you
already, but it had to be a felt experience for it to be embedded.
J: I think so.
S: What is your biggest take away from the experience?
J: OK, so the first thing is: it isn't you the achieves your dreams, it's actually the people around you. So if it wasn't for you, excepting me into Russell Actors, I never would have met Robbie. And if it wasn't for Robbie inviting me into the audition, I never would have been welcomed into the physical theatre circle. And without being welcomed into the physical theatre circle, I never would have met hundreds of people. So in essence, everything is a precursor to everything else.
So, you know, when you're getting all this, like amazing stuff, and people are writing articles about you, and your phone's going crazy, and you feel your head growing at an alarming rate… Just remember: it's not just you. It's also about the people that have helped you along the way. Someone saw something inside of you that they wanted to nurture.
And then you reach a certain point where you begin to think: OK, how can I return the favour? And that is the cyclical beauty of the arts.
S: Yes, yes. Not networking for networking sake, because I think that can sound really vacuous, but actually building meaningful relationships and connections, as you say, that are more heartfelt and have that similar drive of wanting to share stories.
J: 100%. You have to be grateful for the people around you, because it's great when things are going well, and you feel like you're on this roll, and your agent’s really excited and everything else. But I think it was Tom Hanks who said ‘This too shall pass.’
So at some point you won't have as much going on. And you might even feel a bit lonely.
And who are the people that you're gonna go back to in that moment?
S: Your foundation.
J: You go back to the floor all the time. David talks about that, just no matter what happens,
you always have the floor. And that's true in a literal and metaphorical sense. And your floor is your creative network. You go back to your creative network.
But you need to make sure when you're flying, when you're doing all this exciting stuff, that that network is still there for you when you come back.
S: Does it help to listen to, ‘I'm still Jenny from the Block ’ by J-Lo?
J: What’s that?
S: (sings) Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got,
I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block,
Used tp have a little now I have a lot,
No matter where I go I know where I came froooom…’
J: Ha, ha, ha. Definitely.
Actors who are truly successful in my opinion- they do it for the love, and they're still curious, they're still learning, they're still making mistakes. And those are the people that I really admire.
S: And we admire you!
S: Thanks so much for your words of wisdom, Jack. Really looking forward to having you back in the Russell Actors room soon!
J: Thanks for having me. Absolute pleasure. And yes- can’t wait.
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