Welcome to the second in our series of company profiles. In this post OOC actor Sam talks about playing Hamlet, the importance of listening and the transformative power of being in a community.
Describe yourself in 3 words: Driven, sensitive and compassionate.
What other creative projects are you involved in?
I work for my brother’s company WMP, Wave Media Productions, and we write music for films, TV adverts…lots of different mediums. Composing music is a big project that I’m into at the moment. Also, I do little bits of acting outside of Out Of Character. I’ve done stuff with Michael Lambourne at York Theatre Royal, and auditioning for some local things that have been happening around York.
How does working on your music help you and how is that different from your theatre work?
I can think of similarities that they have in terms of telling stories. I especially love telling stories through music. I think that’s really powerful - creating different moods. But it differs in that you’re not expressing yourself as a person, you’re expressing yourself through the music. Music often reflects how I feel. I’m writing an E.P. at the moment which is going to be released next year and that has definitely reflected how I have felt at certain times. It’s lifted when my mood’s lifted, when there’s hopeand when there doesn’t seem to as much hope, my mood changes and therefore the music changes. So, there are similarities and there are differences but they both two different ways of expressing yourself.
How long have you been in OOC?
I’ve been involved in OOC for about a year and half now, I think. A year and a bit. And it’s been great for me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. There have been moments when I’ve felt a bit shy, a bit kind of scared, but my confidence has boosted dramatically in this year and a half. I’d like to thank OOC and, Paul Birch, for that.
Thank you! So, what led you to join the company?
I’d lost a lot of confidence leaving drama school. I left and I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know about this illness that I had. I didn’t know anything about what was going on and how it would affect my life or even if I would ever do drama again. This has given me a great outlet to express myself and to meet other people who have gone through similar things. To get together and really work together as a team. I think that’s extremely powerful. To know that I’m not alone in this and that we can help each other out and really encourage each other. It’s been fantastic for me in that way, really, really helpful and I don’t know what I’d have done without it. It’s been a foundation for me to come to every week to express myself.
But it’s also been a place of brokenness. You can be broken in this place, not quite right, and feel you are just as accepted as when you have it all together. That intimacy with that brokenness is really important. OOC does that really well.
That’s a very eloquent and generous way to describe the company, thank you. Tell us about your first production?
My first production was Kafka. More Tales from Kafka which was a really great experience working with Juliet. She was fantastic. She worked us really hard but was also very patient with us in terms of what we were going through. It was a really good show to be a part of. Quite dark in places but also extremely fun, you know, to mess around with Kafka’s stories. Some of them are very abstract and to bring them to stage was a challenge but also a great gift to be able to put then onstage.
What have been your favourite roles?
I got to play Hamlet. I was really blessed to have that role. No matter what the scale is, Hamlet is Hamlet and it was amazing to explore that part for a little bit. He’s one of my favourite…probably my favourite fictional character. I felt very blessed to be able to do that. I’m very thankful that I had the chance to bring a little bit of that to the stage.
And that was in Disturbing Shakespeare…
It was, yeah.
And presumably you’d like to play the whole of that role sometime?
It would be a massive task but, if it came my way, I’d love to. Because…I feel like a lot of what I’ve been through has been Hamlet’s journey. There is a parallel there. So, I can bring what I’ve been through and the passion and the energy to that role because I’ve been through similar things as to what he’s been through. Experiencing that range of emotions in such a small amount of time. During a monologue his emotions will switch and there’s so much expression there.
How has being in the company affected your recovery?
It’s given me, especially socially…when you’re going through something like this, socially you can feel a bit out of it. You can feel a little bit distant. It’s given me a community to come to. One which has welcomed me with open arms. It was never really about the drama for me it was about linking up with people who had been through similar things and who are going through similar things. The thing with mental health is that it’s ongoing. It can be so difficult to get our point across to doctors. In a professional capacity they often don’t listen but we will all listen to each other and understand each other and that’s massively powerful, I think.
You were involved in the delivery of the University Workshops. Tell us about your experience of them.
It’s been a really good experience of having a voice or feeling you have a voice when you’ve been through something like this. It’s been great watching each member of OOC voice their opinions about this stuff and not be afraid to say ‘we know what we’re talking about’. There’s a learning experience there for the doctors, for the medical team if they’re listening to what we’re saying. People do need to listen and talk more in an open and compassionate way and not just say ‘I’ve got this hour slot’ or ‘I’ve got this 15 minute slot’ and then go on to the next patient. People need time, they need to be listened to. When I was in hospital that was what I craved…to be listened to.
Perhaps we can change some perspectives? Are we just another numbered patient or are we a human being? Valuable human beings, unique human beings who have been through stuff, a lot of which is not our fault. It’s just happened to us. We have these labels but what does it actually mean to be Bi-Polar? What does it mean to be Schizophrenic? That’s something I’ve been working at for three years now. What is this thing? I don’t think labelling it really helps. We need to get rid of the stigma because you can grow through this. I think it can make you who you are but also I want to see these illness gone, for people to be healed, and for there to be more support…
Speaking of support what do you think of Bootham closing?
It happened so quickly. I was so surprised. One day it’s there and the next day it’s not. I didn’t get told about that I just heard it through the grapevine, through other people. It’s not a good thing…I’m actually quite speechless as to how difficult it is for people with mental illness, people who don’t have anywhere to go, people who are finding it difficult to have a community like this…Some people are too ill to take part in a community like this. They need treatment. There is a root to these problems and I believe you get to that through listening and talking. There are different way to do it and I don’t believe medication is the ‘be all and end all’
What advice do you have for other actors?
Advice for actors? If you really want to do it, to make a living then go for it. If there’s other things you’re good at - do that. Lots of people want to be actors and a lot of people aren’t making it as actors. If it’s not working out for you, don’t be stubborn about it, try something else. Acting is great, sure, but there are other things, perhaps better thingsfor some people. Not to discourage everyone from going into acting if that’s what they want to do but we’re all on this planet for a reason and there’s different things we can be doing.
A whole world of opportunities?
Huge opportunities. I don’t particularly want to be a actor at this moment in time and I did a professional degree in it. My mind has changed completely. I want to help people now. That’s how my mindset has changed.
Any final thoughts?
No. it’s been good to have this conversation and it’s good to get people’s voices out there and I’m very proud to be part of this company.
And we’re very grateful to have you.
You will be able to see Sam perform in Retail Therapy in the spring of 2016 and we will post details of his E.P. when it is released.