Hi-diddle-dee (an Actor's Life For Me)

We have partnered with ALRA (The Academy of Live and Recorded Arts) to gain an understanding of a young actors perception of the West End.

And to get a view from an ALRA alumni who’s been there and done it, we arranged an interview with Robert Lonsdale, famous for his work in Coronation Street and lead role in the critically acclaimed West End musical “From Here to Eternity”.

Hi Robert – great to meet you! We wanted to kick off by asking about ALRA and how it influenced your career...

“Sure: ALRA is an outstanding foundation for an actor’s life. It provides the technical training that every drama school does but it also gives you the requisite skills for the industry. It has always struck me that many actors don't understand the mechanics of the arts. Before I went to ALRA I didn't understand how to generate job opportunities - I assumed I would just make a CV and begin auditioning. Obviously that isn't the case. ALRA fills in the blank areas; from how to market you as a new actor to approaching the casting process. Above all it provides actors with an attitude and professional approach that I believe is absolutely vital.”

What inspired you to get into acting?

“I got into acting when I was very young. About eight years old. I think initially it was a matter of watching films with friends and then making films ourselves. I always wanted to do heroic things but was a little too cowardly to do them for real so felt the best way forward was to pretend!”

What are you currently working on/ have planned for 2015?

“Every year I try to do a bit of everything (TV/theatre/film) and I always endeavour to do a role that is in some way more challenging than anything I've done before. Having said that - the truth is I just want to get paid to act. A lot of actors have a huge array of skills at their disposal which I don't. I only really feel confident as an actor. I can honestly say after ten years of this career, the novelty of getting paid to act still hasn't worn off.”

As you can probably tell, we’ve got a bit of a thing for the West End! If you could pick a role, which would it be?

“Patrick Marber's play Closer is on at the Donmar Warehouse at the moment. I feel both the men's roles in that piece are pretty uncompromising. There is nothing to hide behind like accents or theatrical character; it's just a brutal look at relationships and people's emotional vulnerabilities. There's also a play called Pomona by Alistair McDowall that's about to transfer to the national theatre. This is just the most superb example of modern writing.”

What, from an actor's point of view, makes the West End so special?

“The West end is special because it continues to create some of the best theatre around. It attracts people from all over the world and has such depth of history that walking on any of those stages makes you very proud to become a part of it.

But it’s important to say that equally brilliant work is produced throughout the UK and I would always encourage people to see things at regional theatre because the quality is just as good.”

We're looking to inspire visitors to London who may be wanting to take up an acting career. Can you let us know what it’s like to be an actor in London – how do you prepare for shows?

“Actor’s personalities vary dramatically and they can be as introverted as – and sometimes even more so – than people who don't perform. Their preparation is often very different. Some people have an arduous warm-up and a range of devices to get into character – others don't do a single thing and wander onto stage giving an equally brilliant performance.

In London, you will find actors everywhere as they are so abundant. There are actor’s bars but they are often populated with people from all walks of life, not just actors.

My preparation has always varied depending on the job I’m doing. For most stage work I will make sure my voice is suitably relaxed and do exercises to adjust it – this is especially important if I am singing during the performance. Generally it’s as simple as making sure I’ve eaten a bit of food and left any personal problems at stage door - the latter is often easier said than done but it’s important not to let your own problems manifest in your professional life. Having said that - sometimes an experience from earlier in the day can really impact the way your character responds to a situation in the play – this can be a very positive outcome from a stressful day.”