Just monkeying around

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The Oxford drama scene is teeming with arts undergrads hoping to make it in the acting world after they graduate. However, the prospect of paying yet more money on yet another potentially pointless qualification can be more than a little off-putting. Former Oxford thesp Liam Stewart-George talks about his involvement with the Fourth Monkey Theatre Company and what taking your first steps as a professional actor is like.

How did you get involved with Fourth Monkey?
I didn’t want to go to drama school straight away having just done three years of a degree, but I was also daunted by the prospect of just attempting
to dive in to the career. So when I heard about this company it sounded like the ideal mixture of training and actually working in the industry.

What is Fourth Monkey?
It’s a repertory theatre company, part of which means they do intensive seasons of shows. A lot of famous actors who started off in repertory theatre swear by it; it teaches you the physical and mental stamina required and gets you learning on the job. This season, Fourth Monkey is doing a new play, adapted from a Kafka short story called In The Penal Colony, which we are devising ourselves. Fourth Monkey is a place where skills can be honed and developed, but also seeks to push boundaries and create bold, professional work.

What was your involvement with student theatre in Oxford?
I covered most bases, and would encourage aspiring thesps to do likewise.
Principally I acted, doing musicals such as The Dummy Tree, Sweeney Todd, and plays including Orphans and Tamburlaine, playing everything from an ageing Jewish man to Bottom as a ballet dancer turned street dancer. Icannot stress enough how you will never again have as much opportunity at your fingertips to perform as you do at Oxford. Get involved as much as possible.

What are you best and worst memories of being in Oxford theatre?
I have a couple of contenders for worst, the first being Much Ado About Nothing which I directed: my Don John decided to tell me the Sunday before opening that he couldn’t do the Friday performance, so on top of directing and producing the show I had to learn his part in four days. I was also involved in a production where a safety bar in the theatre fell down and almost killed a few audience members. My best memory is the production of Peter Pan I put on: we had limited resources but were bold in how we developed it and it got a superb reception.

What advice would you give to any budding thesps hoping to continue acting after Oxford?
I feel a bit of a charlatan offering advice to budding thesps, as I have barely scratched the surface of the industry myself! You have to have a thick skin and persevere; it is one of the few careers where you will undoubtedly get rejected repeatedly, often through no fault of your own. It’s tough but if you can enjoy the steps of the process then it will be a fulfilling career.However, clichéd as it may sound, if you truly love acting and can’t imagine doing anything else then do it.

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