AYT caught up with Martin Bassindale and Lindsay Dukes, the 2013 recipients of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s Patrons’ Prize, as they embark on their first performance as professional company members at the Bristol Old Vic.
What is the Patrons’ Prize?
Lindsay Dukes: The Patrons’ Prize is a wonderful scheme whereby two actors from the graduating year of Bristol Old Vic Theatre School are given – through the kindness of the Patrons – a sixth month contract as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic. We’re doing three months with Great Expectations, and then while we’re performing that we will be starting rehearsals for The Little Mermaid, which is the Bristol Old Vic’s Christmas show this year.
Martin Bassindale: Siobhan Bracke, who’s the casting director of Great Expectations, came to our final year showcase. From that, 10-12 people (including Lindsay and me) were short-listed, and we auditioned for Neil Bartlett, the director of Great Expectations. We also took part in a workshop in London where we met Simon Godwin, the director of The Little Mermaid.
LD: It’s great because Bristol has been home for me for the last two years, and now I can transfer to a wonderful theatre that I’ve seen several productions at.
How are rehearsals for Great Expectations going?
MD: We’ve just moved out of the rehearsal room and began technical rehearsals on Monday September 23rd. We open on Friday 27th! Lindsay and I have both performed there before in our graduate show so the auditorium and the stage are familiar. I’m excited, but not too nervous as I feel like I’m in very good hands.
Could you tell me a little bit about the production?
LD: The show is a wonderful adaptation of a very big and complicated book. It’s Neil Bartlett’s adaptation, and he’s managed to condense a very detailed story into something shorter, and accessible to everyone. Obviously he has had to cut certain elements, but he’s managed to remain true to the essence of the story. It’s quite simply staged, and there aren’t any massive set pieces; it’s very much nine actors working very, very hard to put across this story.
How would you compare training at drama school to working professionally?
LD: There are elements that are similar and I’m deeply grateful to the school for having prepared us so well. You learn professionalism to a very, very high degree at Bristol. You approach acting like you would any other job: you turn up on time, and you do the job to the absolute best of your ability. They work you very hard, but, because of the nature of where it’s located, and the nature of the teaching staff, you feel incredibly looked after and part of a family. Subsequently, the structure of rehearsals and the general attitude in rehearsals are things I feel very prepped for by the school.
MB: It’s felt very natural so far. The biggest change has been in casting; in drama school the older characters in plays are performed by your class mates putting on old voices or limping, whereas now the people playing those parts are the right age.
LD: We’re working with people who have a huge amount of experience, which is nerve wracking! A lot of it has been overcoming the fact that you are essentially a baby again in this industry. And of course, every director you work with is different, but Neil is quite something – he brings a very special atmosphere into the room. He listens to actors and indulges them in a way that I haven’t experienced before, which is wonderful.
What are your long term goals?
LD: Just to stay in this caliber of work, really! I feel incredibly lucky to have gone straight from drama school into one of the most incredible working theatres – and the oldest – in the country. I’m working with top directors, top actors, and I’m being challenged – I’m playing three to four parts, all of which are very different, and straight after that I’m jumping into another job with the same theatre. I feel very lucky to be where I am now and if I could just stay at this level for the rest of my career I’d be very happy.
MB: I’d love to work at The Globe, The RSC (again), The National, The Royal Court… a world tour of something would be great!
What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
MB: Keep as active as possible. See as much as you can, and when you do see something, don’t just watch the show, find out who made it, directed it, designed it, where the actors came from. You should build up a strong knowledge of theatre in the current climate.
LD: I think quite a few people go into acting not understanding how much work it is – not just in terms of reading the script and learning your lines, but the emotional work that it takes to audition and audition, and the psychological strength you need to deal with the amount of rejection that you have to handle as an actor. I would say: make sure that you want it, and that you really want it, and that you are therefore prepared to put in the work it requires.
Great Expectations runs from 27 September – 2 November at the Bristol Old Vic. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.bristololdvic.org.