For the past few months I’ve been sitting at my computer, watching the number of people coming to this blog to read my reviews grow and grow. The response has been fantastic, and I’m so excited that my little project is getting some recognition from the theatre world on Twitter too! Wondering how I can make Theatre Focus even more diverse, and how I can offer something more than reviews and countdowns of songs, the thought hit me: why not do interviews?!
So here I am with my first ever interview on Theatre Focus as part of a double feature on my first interviewee, and who better to be answering my questions than actor and director Luke Clarke? 22 years old and originally from Nottingham, England, Luke has spent the last four years training at East 15 Acting school for a BA Hons Acting and Contemporary Theatre. The road has been a long and interesting one, and now Luke has taken the time out of his busy schedule to kindly give this exclusive interview. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed preparing it!
Abby: First of all Luke, congratulations on completing your final year of Contemporary Theatre training at East 15 Acting School. How has the experience of training at a formal drama school helped you to grow as a performer?
Luke: It has given me the chance to explore and experiment with what kind of a performer and artist I want to be, and given me the skills to create my own work and approach the industry not just as a performer but also as a creator. Mainly though it has served as a safe place to fail, fail and fail again!
Abby: Last December you were over in Georgia performing the National Theatre Studio project ‘Touch Me’ at the Georgian National Theatre in Tbilisi. How did acting in another country compare to Britain?
Luke: Theatre in Georgia is extremely traditional, so performing in a wildly experimental show over there was very interesting. We decided not to alter the process of the show for their tastes, and to stay true to what we wanted to make. The reception was very varied…some hated it out right, others loved it! In The Idiots Theatre Company we explore the idea of playing ourselves and tweaking and heightening parts of our own personalities to explore a theme. The decision not to play a “character” was something I think audiences over there had a hard time getting their head around.
Abby: Can you tell us what ‘Touch Me’ is about and what your role was?
Luke: Touch Me was a show we wanted to make that explores the idea of what it means to grow up and become an adult. Most of our research lead us to the idea of people actively wanting connection with other humans, whether than be through sex, love, family or friends. The battles we win or lose trying to gain these connections are ultimately what lead to our emotional development into adulthood. The show follows six young adults as they progress through memories of their lives. My role was that of a young man seeking to find his place in the world by covering up his issues with ego and confidence, but this ultimately leads to the unravelling of those barriers.
Abby: Are there any plans for another run of the show? Would you like to reprise your role?
Luke: The show attracted a lot of media attention over its content and the challenging issue we tackled. The show’s future is being discussed at the moment, but I would love to reprise my role and make further progress with the show we made.
As a teenager, you were a member of The Nottingham Youth Theatre. Did being a member of such a company teach you anything before you applied to drama schools?
Luke: My time there taught me the importance of the ensemble. Working together for the benefit of the ensemble and not your own is the most important lesson an actor can learn. The Youth Theatre never had much money, so we all wrote, choreographed and created the shows ourselves. I couldn’t have asked for a better preparation for the industry I’m going into.
Abby: You’ve also been back in recent years to help direct and choreograph their summer productions. How important has this been to your journey so far, and is directing something that you might consider doing more of?
Luke: My time directing at the Youth Theatre has been very helpful. Working with young people is always a challenge and you learn on your feet very quickly the approach you need to control and direct a show the right way. Directing and writing is developing more and more into a passion of mine. I’ve always sort creative input even when just acting, and I am now hopefully moving out into the industry with the skills and tools I need to create my own theatre.
Abby: You’re a pretty busy person at the moment! You recently wrote and directed ‘SEALAND’ which is a completely new play, and has been recognised by winning the Scottish Daily Mail Commendation Award and the East 15 Acting School Alumni Award. Can you talk a little about the plot and its conception?
Luke: The story follows Ted and his son who have left “Broken Britain”behind them. They’ve had enough of the corrupt government, the poor health service and the greedy banks. They start a simpler, happier life in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They create the new nation of ‘SEALAND’ and their first new members arrive: Gary, Liz and their daughter Sarah. The two families work on turning their newly inhabited sea-fort into a peaceful utopia…but not everyone’s happy. A perfect nation needs perfect people, and as problems arise we find out just what Ted is willing to do to preserve his slice of paradise.
Abby: An interesting concept…
Luke: The show is based on a true story and from me wanting to explore the idea of utopia. I was interested if anyone could actually escape the current economic crisis and what would happen if they did. It also examines human behaviour in extreme isolation and the strength of family.
Abby: I saw the play at the East 15 Debut Festival earlier this year and I absolutely loved it! Is it reassuring to get such a positive response before you take the play up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this August?
Luke: It’s always reassuring to receive praise for the work you create, but there is always more work to be done. I was very critical when it came to revising the show for the Fringe. I stripped the plot back to its core, and re-wrote the play with a more focused look at the story I was trying to tell. You may find it very different from the last time you saw it, and hopefully you’ll think it’s improved!
Abby: What are the dates and venue for the show? And where can Theatre Focus readers heading up to the festival find the link for tickets?
Luke: It runs from the 3rd to the 27th August. It’s in ZOO venues Monkey House and starts at 5.15pm. You can book through the Fringe website. http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/sealand
Abby: If you could act in your dream role, what would it be and why?
Luke: My focus at the moment is on writing new and experimental theatre and I have to say that I find it so much more interesting creating new characters than inhabiting old ones. Saying that…I would never pass up the opportunity to play Doctor Who or Sherlock Holmes. I’m an avid fan of both series.
Abby: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?
Luke: It has to be taking SEALAND up to the Fringe. Nothing beats seeing something you have written and developed over two years finally be able to reach a real audience. It makes all the cups of coffee and sleepless nights worth it!
Abby: As a recent drama school graduate, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt so far? And what advice can you give to any aspiring actors reading this interview?
Luke: The most important lesson I have learned is to never give up. Projects only fail when you let them, and there is no problem that can’t be solved through hard work. My advice is if you can find anything that gives you the same satisfaction that acting does then go and do that! It is a seriously hard profession not only to train in but also to make a career out of. To do it you need an undying passion for the arts and to be at least a little be mental or stupid…or both!!!
Abby: Finally, you’ve obviously got a long and successful career ahead of you, but what are your immediate plans and career goals?
Luke: Hopefully a tour of SEALAND, and the development of the theatre company I have founded with Anthony Springhall, The Alchemist. I also have some projects lined up with The Idiots Theatre Company. Beyond that I hope to write a new show for next year’s Fringe Festival, based on Time Travel.
A massive thank you to Luke Clarke for taking the time out to give this interview! If you’re interested in seeing SEALAND, written and directed by Luke, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival between the 3rd and the 27th August, you can find information on the show and booking at http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/sealand
Alternatively you can catch a preview performance of the show before it heads up to Edinburgh, at the Wilde Theatre in South Hill Park Arts Centre, Berkshire on Tuesday 24th July at 8pm. Information and booking at http://www.southhillpark.org.uk/?lid=6581
If you want to know more about the show or Luke’s Theatre Company The Alchemist, you can find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/TheAlchemistTheatreCompany
You can read the second part of this double feature on Luke Clarke, my review of SEALAND, next week!
Pictures provided by Luke Clarke and The Alchemist Theatre Company